Out in our back yard, my dog Bullet was largely ignored. The television was pure magic. Weekdays after school Howdy Doody and Pinky Lee cavorted until godawful country music and boring weather reports. Saturday mornings, Boston Blackie, Superman, and Winky Dink paraded in sequence.
Bullet, whose heart beat with love, was forgotten.
I am making no excuse. I have none.
When we’d moved into our little house in the north of town, my mother bought aluminum siding in a pale green. I see Bullet against that green, nosing about the back yard, peering through the fence. Laundry day was big for Bullet, because I helped my mother hang clothes on the clothesline. Lots of company, for a while.
I was in charge of feeding Bullet, and in my minds eye can still see my mother doing it. I made a rope for a Cub Scout merit badge. Then Bullet helped me test the rope. I wonder now: was there any other time in my life that I played with him?
Eventually, I talked my mom into letting Bullet run loose around the neighborhood. Or maybe I just left the gate open. This gave him more to do; he could roam around.
When my mother the nurse married Doctor Strickland, we moved to larger quarters, and Bullet retired to a new, larger, fenced back yard. He helped me to build a trapeze. He helped me attempt to throw knives to stick into a tree. He visited while I read Dracula, old gun catalogs, and Rosicrucian literature in the back yard.
At fourteen and a half, I got my license and bought a green 1951 Chevrolet. I used to take Bullet riding with me. He loved sticking his head out the window, and didn’t mind waiting if I went into the stores downtown. That is, until one day at school, when Marie Spikes commented on my habit of including Bullet, “What’s the matter?” she said. “Can’t you find a girlfriend?”
It shames me to say it, but that was the end of the rides for Bullet.
I did get a girlfriend, and later another car, and in due time drove that car to college. A couple of years later, on a visit, I asked my mother why Bullet was walking so stiffly.
“He’s old,” she said. “He’s got arthritus.”
I petted him, and he looked at me with his eternal, loving brown eyes. Always a constant. My mother said he had lots of pain. Since Doctor Strickland had a drug cabinet, now and then she gave Bullet shots of morphine, or something like that.
“Sometimes he comes and asks for a shot,” my mother told me.
I just stared at her.
Two weeks later, after finals at school, I visited again.
Bullet was gone.
He’d grown ill, and they’d put him down. I hadn’t even known it. I was hurt, and angry that I’d not been told. He was my dog, I thought, in spite of eternal neglect throughout my entire life. I fussed and complained. Then I went back to school, and, caught up again in my new life, again forgot about Bullet, my dog.
Forgot about him? Then why, forty years later, do I miss him so?