As many of you know, I’ve been trying to work through the writing process with a small piece about losing my childhood dog. I had to put it aside for a while as I really didn’t know where to go with it. What was I trying to say? What was the “heart” of the story? Who was my audience? After the holidays I pulled it out again and did some revision work. I’m still not quite sure where I’m heading with this, but here’s where we are now. If you have any feedback, I’m interested! I’m really struggling with the ending (as you will surely see).
No Tears for Pogo
Until the age of ten, life had treated me well. My parents, sister, dog, and I lived in a nice house with a nice yard on a nice street in the same town where my parents had been raised and my grandparents still lived. My sister and I walked to the nearby elementary school, had Sunday lunches with one set of grandparents and Thursday dinners with the other. Then Pogo went missing and life changed.
Pogo had never gone missing before. In fact, he never moved much at all! Pogo was a ten year old basset hound, and big for his breed. My parents had purchased him the year I was born, so I considered him to be my dog. His days followed a predictable routine. Pogo started the day with breakfast and then headed to his favorite spot; laying in the middle of the road where the sunshine warmed the pavement. Pogo would sleep there until he felt the vibration of a car that was coming down the hill. He would get up, stretch his long body, and lumber to the side of the road, dragging his long ears and sagging belly with him. Once the car had passed, Pogo would return to his original spot on the road. In those days, there were no leashes or invisible fences, and nobody seemed to care whether or not dogs were wandering around the neighborhood. In the evenings, Pogo would eat again and then, in the winter, spread himself out in front of the fireplace so that Christina and I could lay our heads on his long belly and rest by the fire. He was, without question, the best dog ever. And then, one day, he just didn’t come home.
For days, we looked for Pogo. We walked to and from school, searching along the route and calling out Pogo’s name. Like a group of carolers, the gang of kids we walked home with would sing out, “Pogo…Come here you big little puppy! Come on, pup. Come out wherever you are! Pogo…Come here you big little puppy…..” But to no avail. Pogo didn’t appear. We walked up and down our street, through the woods to the neighbor’s house, knocked on doors, put up flyers. Still nothing.
It was on the fifth day that I heard the words I never wanted to hear. Dad was driving. My sister was in the front seat, and I was in the back. We were on our regular evening trip to the train station to pick up mom. It was quiet in the car. Too quiet. My dad cleared his throat.
“Girls…….about Pogo. He was an old dog, you know. Ten is a pretty good age for a dog.”
“I hate to tell you this, but Pogo died. I found him today. In the woods. Across the street. You know animals wander off when they get old. They know how to handle things. He must have known he was dying and wandered off to find a place to die gracefully and without upsetting you girls too much. I know how you loved Pogo. I loved him too (Here dad’s voice cracked for a minute. I looked in the rear view mirror and could see the pain in his eyes.).
As dad was talking, I just stared out the car window watching the trees and cars and houses rush by. Everything felt blurry and somehow unreal. Then I heard my sister start to sob. She was crying and I could see her back shaking. My dad reached over and touched her shoulder. She cried louder.
But not me. There were no tears. I just stared and stared. I wanted desperately to cry, to sob, to wail. I wanted to yell out, “Nooooo! Not Pogo. Not my dog. My best friend in the whole wide world! No!” But nothing came. Not even a gentle tear. My eyes weren’t even red or wet. I just kept staring. What is wrong with me? Why can’t I cry? I tried to make myself cry. I tried to push tears out of my eyes. I tried to hunch over and curl up in a ball like my sister had done. But nothing.
The days passed, the weeks, even months. Still, no tears. Then it just got to be too late to cry hysterically about a dog I had lost so long ago. I know I loved Pogo. Losing him was my first experience with loss. It was my first recognition that life was not always going to have the easy ebb and flow I had experienced for my first ten years. I know I cared. I just don’t understand why there were no tears for Pogo.