When I was about 8 years old I spent all of the paper-route money that I’d saved up on a red wiener-dog puppy. We named the dachshund Cassie, and she quickly became part of the family. She was everything a wiener-dog is. She was loyal and strong-willed, loud, and heat-seeking. She would wake up every morning at about 7:30, just 5 minutes before the pool equipment came on, begging to be let outside. She would then spend the next hour chasing the automatic sweeper around the pool barking. The neighbors must have hated us and we’d tell her to shut up, but she didn’t care. It was her game, but truly she did despise that thing. But this little essay isn’t about Cassie.
As I entered high school it was one of the most difficult periods in my life, and we’d moved to a new house out in the country. The nearest neighbors were a 5 minute walk from our door. They had a small male half schnauzer-half poodle that occasionally got out of their yard. He was wiry and skittish. I never really knew him at all, but he clearly had an interest in Cassie.
In the country it is easier for mischief, probably because of a combination of boredom and isolation from prying eyes. But regardless of the reason, something illicit happened in the cover of the olive grove, and several weeks later we noticed that Cassie was growing quite a belly.
She delivered her three puppies one evening before we’d returned from visiting my Great Aunt Ruby on her birthday. Two of the puppies were larger than I thought would have even fit inside of Cassie, coal black, and stillborn. The only one that survived was the runt of the litter, a truly odd looking animal. She was pretty in a unique way, but developed 3 different types of fur in layers, a tail that never matched the rest of her color, and intense light-brown eyes.
Cassie didn’t appear that interested in the new pup, which we named Ruby as our own sort of tribute. I picked Ruby up in my hands and marveled at the little helpless creature. I’ll never forget her little ears which were just tiny tabs on the sides of her head, like small extended folds. Most mother dogs will growl if their puppies are touched, but Cassie didn’t care. In my mind, she was stressed from the birth, so removed from most animal instinct, and really just sad that 2 of her babies had died. So she just didn’t care that I was touching her puppy. I know this is anthropomorphizing, but that is what I thought, and I’m still inclined to believe that was true…Ryan