*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
When my husband and I were newlyweds, he worked at a grocery store in the city. One day, he told me a sad story about a puppy. It was a stray dog, and it had wandered into the grocery store, begging for something to eat.
He described the puppy, with soft fur and soft feet, and big brown pleading eyes. It was a puppy in need of a loving home and enough food to keep from starving on the street.
My heart ached.
Days went by, and my husband’s stories were all, “the puppy this” and “the puppy that.” The store manager yelled at the puppy and threw him out of the door. Some kids in the parking lot put the puppy in a shopping cart and rolled him down the hill.
It was heartbreaking.
“Why don’t you just bring him home?” I asked. I didn’t even care that our apartment building didn’t allow pets. Just bring him home.
Twenty-four hours later, we had a brand new puppy. He was just as advertised, soft and fluffy, with soulful eyes and a sweet personality. We named him Harley, after the motorcycle that my husband drove.
Harley was the best dog in the world. He slept with his head on my pillow and his paws in my face. He overturned the garbage and ate potato peels before upchucking them all over the kitchen.
When we left Harley home alone, he jumped onto the kitchen table and got stuck there until we returned. To keep himself busy in our absence, he ate an entire loaf of bread, the placemats, and the salt and pepper shakers. Once he urinated on me while I slept. I woke up while he was mid-stream to catch him smiling at me.
Harley was the highlight of my life during tough times. He chewed up the antique wingback chairs with the carved wooden claw feet that my father had given me and my husband when we got our first apartment. He chewed the doorframes. He chewed the couch. He was awesome.
That dog was made of love and sunshine.
When I was lovingly scratching Harley’s neck one day, I found a lump. I dug my fingers into his fur. There was a matching lump on the other side. His lymph nodes were swollen. A trip to the vet revealed that he had cancer.
The vet prescribed medication, and Harley rallied. His swollen lymph nodes shrank back to normal size. He was the same sweet fluffy peach of a dog whom I’d carried atop the clothes in my laundry basket when he was a puppy, only now he weighed more than a hundred pounds. I never had the heart to tell him he wasn’t really a lapdog. He was close enough.
When he got sick again, it was quick. One day, he was there taking his medicine hidden in a ball of soft cheese, and the next day he was gone.
“I’m glad I stole Harley from that guy’s yard,” my husband told me. “He was a good dog.”
“Stole?” I asked. “Yard? I thought he was a stray.”
He laughed. “I told you that so you’d tell me to bring him home. He was in somebody’s yard, and I wanted him. So I took him.”
“You stole a puppy from someone’s yard?” I asked in disbelief.
He nodded his head and smiled. “Yeah,” he said. “Aren’t you glad I did?”
To Harley’s original owner: I’m sorry that my husband stole your dog, but I promise I gave him the best life I could.