Sunday, May 11, 2014

Good Boy

A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

-- Josh Billings

David Naismith went to school on Monday morning with a heavy heart. His Border Collie, Shep, had been lethargic for weeks, and on Saturday David's parents took the dog to the vet, where he was diagnosed with bone cancer. The vet said that Shep, only six, would likely have fewer than three months to live.

David spent the rest of the weekend comforting his best friend. Shep had a little energy, and they played in the backyard for short periods of time, but eventually he'd get tired and lie on the grass with his head on his forepaws. Then they'd go inside and David would sit next to Shep on the living room floor, in front of the television. Shep would lie on his side, and David would stroke his majestic black-and-white coat.

On Sunday evening, David's mother called him from the living room for dinner. Shep, staring everywhere and nowhere in that pensive way particular to dogs, was still stretched out on the floor.

David got up and tried to get Shep to accompany him to the kitchen table, but the dog didn't move. The Naismith's had a strict policy about having Shep away from the table during mealtimes, but David thought, given the circumstances, that his parents would make an exception. They might have, but it didn't matter; Shep was going to stay where he was.

Sunday dinner was boiled ham and mashed potatoes, string beans, and cauliflower with hollandaise sauce. David put a large helping of yellow mustard on his ham (he liked the saltiness of the ham combined with the tang of the mustard), but he found he wasn't very hungry. He ate less than half his plate and solemnly scraped crisscross lines on its remaining mustard.

"May I please be excused?" he asked his mother.

Mary Naismith normally would have chastised her son for eating so little, but she knew the turmoil her ten-year-old was going through, and so she said, "Okay, Skipper. But how about a bowl of Neapolitan ice cream for dessert? You can have it in the living room and watch the Muppet Show with Shep."

"Thanks, Mom," David said as he left the table.

The guest that night was Wonder Woman herself, Lynda Carter. David thought she was the prettiest woman he had ever seen. He sat cross-legged on the floor with his ice cream in his lap as the sun went down. Occasionally, he gave Shep licks of his spoon, always careful to make sure that there was no chocolate.

The evening turned to night, the Muppet Show turned to the nightly news broadcast, and David got drowsier and drowsier. Just as he was nodding off, hs mother softly shook his shoulder and told him to go brush his teeth and put on his pajamas.

"Can I sleep downstairs with Shep tonight, Mom? he asked as he got up and rubbed his tired eyes.

"Of course you can," she said.

"Thanks," he said. Then, "Is Shep really going to die?"

Mary Naismith had to control herself from bursting into tears. "Yes, dear," she said, her voice wavering.

David went over to his mother and hugged her waist. "I knew it. I just wanted it to be later. I wanted there to be more time."

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