Memoir · Reflections

That Old Dog

elsaeditedI was three when I committed my first act of theft. Fortunately, this first act didn’t blossom into kleptomania. I knew it was wrong when I did it, what I did, but I did it nonetheless.

We lay there, him and I. He snuggled in the bunk above me and I lay on my back below him. We talked, as we so often did in those days. We were children, my brother and I, and there were things to talk about. Big and small things, good and bad things.

He had a new stuffed animal. A puppy with the markings of a beagle. He already had Nightcap the blue-ish green puppy that he carried with him day and night, so why should he get two?

I began first by making my requests, “Please can I hold that little puppy?”

“No.”

“I’ll trade my bunny for the puppy.”

My trade request must have been convincing, or maybe he’d had his eye on my bunny for a while. Whatever the motivation, the little puppy came flying down between our bunks and into my arms.

“Now throw your bunny up.”

“No.”

I’d conned him. Flat-out lied to him. I stole from him. I’d no intention of giving up my bunny. I laid there clinging to both bunny and puppy fully expecting a battle. He could have jumped down and ripped both out of my arms and it would have been over right then and there. But he didn’t. He sighed out, rolled over and went to sleep.

Thirty years later, I have no idea what became of bunny. The puppy, which I named Elsa after my Aunt’s spaniel, has traveled the world over with me. My little girl arms held it tight as my parents rushed all the children to safety during the L.A. Riots. When our home burnt to the ground I wept over its loss, and somehow it was miraculously saved even though all of my 10th birthday gifts were lost. When I was bullied at my elementary school it comforted me. The day my Dad and brother didn’t come home I cried and cried into it’s little stuffed body.

If that old dog could talk the stories she’d tell. She’s been there through it all. Her stuffing holds whispers and tears, dreams and wishes. Her fur is worn now from all the love she received other the years. So much love, which has made her real, in a Velvatine Rabbit sort of way.

These days she’s retired her position from my childish arms and rests comfortably from chair to chair. Occasionally a child will pick her up and drag her around for a while, but somehow she always makes her way back to a comfy chair. It’s like these little people know that there is something extra special about her. She’s special to me like Raffi the giraffe pillow pet is special to my boy  and the horde of stuffed bunnies that seem to multiply is special to my girl.

There are things in our lives, memory holders, reminders, for some it’s an album of pictures, journals, a special piece of clothing or textile. While I admit to having most of these there is just none other than this raggedy old dog.

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