His family hadn’t gone to the Winterfest Celebration looking for a puppy, but the second Robbie laid eyes on the young dog, he knew he had to have him. And it wasn’t just a matter of wanting; this dog belonged to Robbie. The boy knew it in his heart. He felt it in his soul.
The puppy’s eyes mirrored what Robbie sensed. The other dogs were friendly as they casually licked hands, nuzzled legs, and inevitably stuck their noses where they didn’t belong. This puppy, already weaned and ready to go, approached Robbie as if to say, “Here I am. I’ve been waiting for you.”
How to express this to his parents? That was the true dilemma. There had been so many things in the past that he had wanted, some obtained, some not, but so help him God this was different. To own this puppy, to be owned by it, was simply meant to be. Unlike the four-wheeler, the canoe, and his attempt at keeping chickens, Robbie’s very existence, his future peace of mind, was wrapped up in this dog.
He could hear his mother now. “We already have a dog. What are you going to do about ole Rusty? How’s he going to feel when you bring home a new pup?”
Rusty belonged to his parents before Robbie had been born. It was learning to walk while holding handfuls of Rusty’s wiry fur that instilled a love of animals, of dogs specifically, making Robbie even surer this puppy was meant for him and him alone.
Besides, Rusty was on his way out. Robbie felt no guilt at this thought. He and the ancient Airedale had already discussed this matter while curled up on the couch. They had said their goodbyes, made their plans. Robbie knew Rusty would approve of this puppy. It would be a bridge across the gap of his grief on the day Rusty didn’t come when he called.
All day the boy stayed with the husky pup, guarding it. His intense look of ownership, one of pure possession, caused even the adults to skirt this particular animal. Until finally…
“You know this dog ain’t for sale.”
“I know it.”
“I’ve already started working with this one. He’s begun his training, you know.”
“I said I know it.”
“He’s on display to show what sledding dogs are like.”
What more could Robbie say?
“The puppies for sale are over there with my wife. There’s three nice bitches left if you’re interested.”
“I don’t want a bitch.”
Robbie’s tongue tingled with the semi-forbidden word. He saw his parents milling their way back through the crowd. They hadn’t spotted him yet, still sitting with his puppy. Probably figured he had spent the day with his friends watching the men with chainsaws carve ice sculptures.
“What do you expect me to do?”
The breeder’s question placed Robbie on the precipice between hope and despair. He had only moments to formulate the correct answer. His parents, with visible head shaking and exchanged looks, spied him kneeling on the straw, the husky pup straddling his legs.
“Damn kid,” the breeder muttered.
“You’re gonna teach me how to train this dog. Okay? I’m gonna learn from you, and he’s gonna learn from me. That’s what you’re gonna do.”
The breeder ran his hand across his stubbly chin, ending at the base of his throat where he scratched long and leisurely. His eyes cast heavenward.
“I know it.”
There are times in the lives of children when they experience the raw desire to possess something wonderful (a horse, an electric guitar) or do something fabulous (ballet lessons, white water rafting). More often than should occur, children must bypass these opportunities. Perhaps there’s no time, or worse, no money. Sometimes they’ve used up all their credit with the dreams they want to pursue. Parents insist that children exercise logic and reason in these circumstances. They probably say this in an effort to assuage their guilt especially when their own resources don’t allow for childhood dreams to be fulfilled.
For Robbie Freeman, today was not that day.
Thank you to HBSmithPhotography for the lovely picture of the young boy with the husky pup.