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Rescue Dog

I AM WALKING THE DOG. Afternoon. Summer. School is out for the year. The neighborhood is more alive with people out, doing things, making noise.

As we walk northward and start down the gentle hill, a young boy is riding his scooter southward, up the hill toward us. At about twenty feet from us, he calls out, cheerfully, that lesson we were never taught as children, “Can I pet your dog?”

“Oh, she would love that,” I reply, and already the dog is sitting, ears up, tail sweeping the sidewalk clean behind her, anticipating.

We wait, and the boy approaches. He is maybe seven years old, biracial, skin the color of café au lait, his hair light, dusty brown, and curly. His eyes are green and his gap-toothed smile radiant.

By now, the dog is lying down, sphinx-like, barely able to contain her joy at the thought of childish attention.

He drops his scooter to the sidewalk and, leaning forward, comes down to her level before I can even tell him that. To do so will keep her from jumping all over him. She rolls onto her back, tilts her head to him and he immediately begins the caressing that her posture invites.

The whole process makes me smile.

“She really likes you,” I say.

He is intent on sharing this pleasure with her.

“What’s her name?” he asks. I answer.

“Is she a poodle?” he asks.

“Part poodle,” I say, thinking how knowledgeable he is.

“Is she a rescue dog?” he asks and looks at me directly, his hands continuing their appreciated caress and his green eyes sparkling.

I laugh slightly—more a vocal smile—and reply, “No. We’ve had her since she was a puppy.” I have decided immediately that explaining about dog breeders, that she was my sixtieth birthday present, that I had to wait for her to be born and that she was chosen just for me because I wanted to make sure, for my grandchildren and my cats, that her response to other creatures would be just what I am watching now—that all this information is probably more of an explanation than this young soul needs right now.

He pets her while she licks his face and ears.

And then he looks at me with that trusting intensity that children show when they really want to know, and fully expect, the truth.

“What is a rescue dog?” he asks with a green-eyed laser focus on my face.

“Ah,” I say, “sometimes dogs are living in places where they are not well taken care of. They are hurt or don’t get what they need. These dogs get rescued and then are put in homes where they will be loved and looked after.”

“Oh,” he says and breaks his gaze, looks at the dog, never having broken his hand-and-heart-felt attention to her. “I thought they were dogs who saved people.”

“Well, that’s a different kind of rescue dog,” I answer. “And she did save me.”

The gaze is back to my face. “How did she do that?” and I know I am not going to get away with the previous simple reply and no explanation.

“Lots of ways and every day,” I say. “She makes me take her for walks and that keeps me healthy. She shows me every day she loves me. She makes me happy. Those are some of the ways.”

“Oh,” he acknowledges, then directs all his attention to her once again.

And watching, smiling, happy to my core, I realize, once again, that there are many ways we can be saved.

Poem: BETSY LEACH has been living and writing in Saint Paul since her last year of junior high school. She has worked in higher education and as a community organizer on Saint Paul’s East Side for most of her adult life.


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