July 08, 2006


There was a new dog, and then there wasn’t.

It was Wednesday, and I -along with my father-in-law and brother-in-law- was on the way to the Angels-Mariners game. My wife called when I had just got off the freeway.

“You shouldn’t let the dogs out into the backyard when you get home” she says.

“Why not?”

“Because there’s a stray dog back there.”

My wife, her mother, sister and my mother were on the way to dinner when they saw him. A giant puppy, they said. Bernese Mountain Dog maybe, mixed with Australian Shepard or something. My sister-in-law, 14 and weighing at least 10 pounds less than this giant, managed to coax him into the backyard. He didn’t have a collar. He was big and he was goofy and he wasn’t scared. My wife called the local animal control. She didn’t speak to a person, just left a message saying we had a stray dog in our backyard. They might come today or tomorrow she said.

That would be the end of it, right?

I met her later at the in-law’s hotel. Ensie hadn’t been home, didn’t have any way of knowing if our giant visitor had been picked up. He would end up at the Humane Society she said, and he was too big and goofy and cute not to find a home.

“You probably shouldn’t see him, if he is still there.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“Because he’s big and goofy and cute and you’d fall in love with him and we can’t keep him.”

She’s probably right.

He was still back there. Of course he was still back there. It’s never that easy, now is it? Ensie checked up on him and asked me to join her. He was just as she told me: Big and goofy and friendly.

“What do you think his name is?” She asked me this, after we’d been petting the dog for about a half-hour, every few minutes solemnly swearing that we wouldn’t fall in love with him, or try to keep him or even consider either.

“I dunno” I said, “Something like a Buster… something goofy and fun I think.”

“Herky” she said.

“Herky? Like short for Hercules or Herky-Jerky?”

Ensie shook her head and scrunched her brow together. “No, just… Herky.”

Herky it is then.

But we’re not naming him or keeping him or nothing like that. We either let him sleep in the backyard or we set him free, so we wanted to make him as comfy as we could. Ensie moved the junk on the deck around to give him some semblance of shelter. I got one of Jeffrey’s blankets and set it out for him to sleep on. We gave him some dog food and refilled his water bowl. He was heartbroken as we left him out there.

We’ve been watching the Dog Whisperer just about whenever its on, and one of his tricks is to take a dog for a walk before training. It drains whatever nervous energy the dog could have. Nothing could be more draining than the 2-hour car ride and 5-mile hike through the Olympic National Forest. Both Jeffrey and Matchbox would be carrying a pack throughout the day. “You know, tomorrow after the hike would be the best possible day to introduce Jeffrey to a new dog.” I mused as we lay in bed.


But we’re not falling in love or trying to keep him or nothing, right?

The next morning I fed him outside as our dogs ate. He was, as expected, completely overjoyed to see me. He would only eat after I’d gone back inside. Later, before we left, both Ensie and I spent some time with him… with Herky. The animal control people should come today, we thought, come today and take him away. I looked at my wife and she looked at me. I grabbed the lock from the front gate. I locked it shut and she nodded. He wasn’t going anywhere now. At least, not like that.

More tomorrow…

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