"Dad, I want a pet of my own."
Emily had asked me a dozen times, and I had answered no, the same amount of times. "My apartment is too small. I am hardly ever home when you are at your mom's. I am already watching Kimi's puppy and kitty."
"Dad, I want a pet of my own, I will watch him and take care of him, and clean up after him. I promise!"
"Hun, I don't know. Remember what happened to your hermit crabs?" Ah yes, hermit crabs. The easiest pet in the world to watch. "Great interactive fun for kids age 8 to 88." They just needed a damp sponge and a pinch of food a day. They stay happy inside their crab cage and make no noise. In fact, MJ, the first, was not vocal enough to say: "Hey, don't leave me in the car in the Louisiana sun."
Emily's grief at her first pet dying and my subsequent "this crabs eternal shell," words at a burial spot in the corner of my fiance's flower garden slightly diminished my fervor for allowing her another pet.
Two weeks later, her replacement crab, Dakota, fell out of its painted shell in a wad of stilled legs and motionless tentacles. A pet. Live? "Hmm, this is going to be tricky."
"Well, what do you have in mind?" How easy I wavered whenever Emily wanted anything. No begging, no pleading, just repeating herself was usually enough.
"I want a puppy of my own. Kimi is going to get hers back after she has her baby. You said."
"A puppy? Puppies are expensive."
"What if I find one?"
"Find one? People don't just find puppies."
"I found one daddy. He is on the steps eating milk and cereal."
I bounded over and pulled open the front door. There sitting on the front deck was a brown handful of dirty fur and baleful eyes lapping Cheerios out of one of my Disney soup mugs.
"Hun, he has to be someone's pet. Where did you find him?" I asked, sure that he belonged to one of the neighbors, who had a tendency to let children and pets run free.
"I saw him up by the highway when I was coming home from the store."
"Were you up by the highway Emily?" I asked, worried.
"No dad, he was by the store road." An independent seven year old, I sometimes let her walk the two blocks to the country store. I was beginning to regret it.
"He was hungry and all alone, and I thought if I were hungry and all alone, I would want a friend and home."
How could I argue with that logic? "Well, let me look at him and see if he has a tag."
"Cheltenham. That's a different name." 701-623-6623...hmmmm.... "Hun, he has a name and telephone number on his tag!"
"Dad, I know where that is."
"Where what is? The phone number?"
"No Cheltenham. I know where it is."
"In North Dakota? Never heard of it."
"No. It is in England. Remember? My friend Maisie and her mom live there."
"Ems, sweetie, this dog is not from England."
"How do you know dad?"
"It would bark with an accent."
"Dad!" Exasperation was evident in her tone.
"Grab my cell phone for me baby."
"I am going to call the owners and tell them they lost their puppy."
"But dad... I bet they didn't want it, or they were mean and he ran away. Does your cell go all the way to England? What if he's Maisie's puppy?"
Ring. Ring. "This number has been temporarily disconnected."
No problem. I can do a Google search and it should tell me where they live, the number can't have been disconnected for long.
Your search - 701-623-6623 - did not match any documents.
- Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
Suggestions? Suggestions. Maybe we should take him inside and let him warm up, then give him a bath while I think of how to get him reunited with his family.
"Hun don't pet him and play with him too much or you won't want him to leave."
I spent two days half heartedly calling friends, asking them what I should do. Then I made the kind of decision only a dad can make.
Under Emily's guidance, I took off the puppy's blue collar and bought him a red one with a tag that said "Cheltie," then bought him his own bowl and a sweater, just in case he got cold.
Now boy puppy, girl puppy, kitty and me, sit and snuggle on the sofa. We wait for Christmas, when Emily will return to visit.