I grew up with dogs – mutts always. The first one I remember was Pirula. She was a white mutt, with curly, creamy hair that covered her entire body. I had her since she was a puppy, small enough to fit within the empty space between my four-year-old palms. I have pictures of me in my pink Barbie tricycle, carrying Pirula in the back compartment as if she were just another luggage item in my young traveler’s mind. Other pictures show a more grown-up Pirula licking my father’s feet as he lay on the couch, recovering from his broken fingers that had been caught in a garage door.
After that I remember Princess, my black, shiny coated Labrador mutt. She has short, straight black hair and a skinny tale. She ran with me in the backyard of my Westchester home, and became part of my make-believe games. She was there by my side whenever I had to clean up in the backyard – there’s a picture of me at about seven years old, wearing a mustard yellow and black handkerchief on my hair, picking up what I can only imagine to be dog excrements from the recently cut grass. Princess is right there beside me as if guarding me, protecting me, as if she sensed that I needed that extra companion. She accompanied me when I wanted to lay on our cream and brown lawn chairs to catch some rays of sun – she lay curled in a small, black ball, reflecting the sunlight off her coat.
Then there was Lucky. I have never had a dog so hyper, although there are pictures of me in my early years with an exact duplicate of Lucky. I don’t remember that one, but I remember Lucky’s energy that transferred some of the recklessness to my small child’s body. I had a long, colorful Colombian skirt, del traje tipico, that someone had brought for me, but it was much too big – an adult size. I loved to play dress up with it, but soon, I discovered that it could serve as a circus act with Lucky. Playfully, I would slither the rust-colored skirt in front of Lucky who would then gleefully bite at it, clenching his teeth over the soft cotton fabric, until I began swinging the skirt, and the attached Lucky, around and around until the imaginary crowed roared with laughter at the sight of Lucky the Flying Dog! He was the last dog I had while I was still living in that Westchester home.
After that we moved to an apartment, so it was no more dogs for me – until we moved temporarily to a small townhome in another section of town. That’s when my two “little” cousins, C + J, decided to give me a little black blur that they named Tomate. I don’t think that ended up his real name, but it’s the only one I remember. Tomate came to us at a time we were renting, and we never informed the owner of our newest acquisition. He was a feisty puppy, with energy slightly lower than Lucky’s, but a lovable one nonetheless. Then, one day, our landlady found out about Tomate, and we had to part ways with him.
All the dogs of my childhood had to be given up. I never had to go through the death of a dog because they were never around long enough. Most of the times, they had to be given up because we moved; but sometimes, they just had to be given up because. I wonder many times what happened to them – comforters of my childhood, friends in my need of time (which, as a child with an over-active imagination and strict parents, they’re many!).