We had no pets growing up. Wait, strike that, we had a bird. When I was eight we took over a parakeet from a neighbor and I named him Nicki. It was the only pet we could have besides fish because my mom is horribly allergic to all animals with fur, and I wasn’t that great at keeping goldfish won at my elementary school’s fundraising fair alive. So when my mom found a stray dog wandering in the road I thought this was my chance to befriend a dog for real.
Hold up, let me back up for a moment. I was in fifth grade, and my favorite book was Where the Red Fern Grows. I thought that if I could only get around the whole ‘my mom will die if we get a dog’ thing, that the lucky canine would be the best friend I’d never had. I would read him books and dress him in my little sister’s clothes, and he would sleep at my feet like a living stuffed animal and lick my ice cream cones like that dog in Beethoven. My grandma had a dog, but by that time he was old and was not interested in listening to my books, much less being dressed up, and I only saw him once a week or so anyway, so he didn’t qualify as a doggie bff. So when this scraggly mutt wandered in front of our house and my tender-hearted mother took him in (and promptly locked him outside in the backyard) all I could think was, “This is it. My chance to have a real dog best friend.”
I totally ignored the fact that the dog had tags and my mom called the owners, who said they’d be by to pick him up in a few hours. It mattered not; this dog and I had a date with destiny.
Mom made dinner with chocolate chip cookies for desert, and we must have had people over because I remember there being a lot of talking and her not paying much attention to me. I only had eyes for that mangy dog, so the details about who was over are fuzzy. But I definitely remember the cookies. Dinner took forever because I couldn’t wait to get back to my doggie friend. I wasn’t allowed to open the steel-gated door (to say the street we lived on in SoCal was sketchy would be an understatement) to pet the “strange” (according to mom) dog, much less go outside and play with it, so I sat at the door talking to the pooch through the metal. To his credit, he was a great listener, though I didn’t want to take my eyes off him long enough to run and get a book to try reading him stories. I appreciated his attention, and wanted to find a way to show him how much I loved him. Yes, we had only just met, but I was convinced that we had a special bond with all the conviction an 9-year-old struck with puppy love is capable of mustering, and I wanted to do something nice for dog as a token of my friendship. So I gave him the second half of my cookie.
Yes, I broke the “don’t open the door or else” rule, but I was quick, and only opened it enough to stick the proffered cookie through the crack. Harmless, right? Just as Fido finished licking his chops, my mom came around the corner.
“Finished your cookie already?” she asked.
“No, I gave it to Dog,” I said proudly, hoping she would overlook my flouting of the door rule and praise my selfless generosity, offering me another cookie (or two) as reward for making the dog feel so at home.
So not what happened.
“You did WHAT?!?” shrieked my mom as she rushed to my side and peered tentatively out the door at the mutt.
“What’s wrong? He’s okay, he liked it!” I insisted, but mom kept looking at Pooch like he was a bomb waiting to explode.
“Christine Marie!” She scolded, “You can’t give chocolate chip cookies to a dog! It’s really bad for them, and makes them sick. Chocolate is doggie poison!”
My eyes filled with tears when she said this. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t mean to hurt the dog, I’d thought I was being nice. But as in so many tales from the Brothers Grimm, my token of friendship and undying love had turned out to be poison to the object of my affections. She watched the dog for a few minutes. Looking back, I’m sure she was trying to figure out how much to tell the (at that point, very tardy) owners, but I thought she was on a death watch. When she turned around with a big sigh to go back into the living room, I thought she’d given up hope. In reality I’m sure she was just being a good hostess and going back to her guests, but in my impressionistic young mind her melancholy parting said it was all over for my friend.
So I sat back on my haunches and waited for the dog to die.
~ The End ~