By Gale Acuff
I love my dog. I think about him when
I'm at school. Does he know what I'm doing,
how I have to be away though I don't
want to? I'm at school seven hours a day,
sometimes eight when I have to stay-after
(spitballs, wrong answers, cutting up, fighting).
If one year for me is seven or eight
for him, then how long lasts one school day? I
can't figure it--math isn't my subject.
But each day when I get off the bus, there
he is, at the top of the hill, our house
behind him as if the past's made of bricks.
His head's up and his tail's wagging and he
can't even see me yet. He's learned by rote,
I guess, that I always return, except
on weekends. And then we play like puppies,
and stay up late, Fridays and Saturdays,
lie on my bed, watch TV in the dark,
relax. So if one dog year is seven
then eight hours must be like weeks, even months.
That's a mighty long time to be faithful.
And he can't tell time so he must feel it.
That's pretty smart. I make it up to him
on weekends and holidays, and summer
vacations, or try. No one likes to be
lonely. At school I look out the window
and see the future, at least afternoon,
when we'll be together on the front porch,
having a snack, sharing milk and cookies.
Good boy, I say. You want some more cookie?
I drink half the milk, then hold up the glass
for him--he doesn't have real hands that work
--and he laps up the rest. Good boy, again.
He hasn't done anything to earn praise
but I like to think he knows I'm grateful
that he's been home when I'm away and that love,
if that's what that is, is worth waiting for.
I mean, I've heard somewhere that animals
don't really love but I think it's people
is what. Not all people, but most. Many.
Some, anyway. He may be just a mutt
but when I come home and he meets me halfway
down the driveway to welcome me back, well,
I get that feeling that there is a God
and he loves all dumb animals the same
and I don't mind being on his level,
my dog's, I mean, if it's okay with him.
I'm pretty sure it is, deep down below.
And Church is just one half-day more of school.