It was love at first sight. He was ambling alongside the road with a McDonald’s French fry box in his mouth, and something about those big sorrowful eyes, copper brown and pleading, tugged at my heart, and the steering wheel, forcing me to pull over and offer him a ride.
The scene was straight from a chic flick movie. I called out. He turned. He dropped the box and ran to me, his tongue outstretched, his tail wagging, rushing into my arms and delivering a big, slobbery kiss right on the lips. I was his heroine, his savior, and he gladly jumped into the truck and sat beside me as though we were destined to be together.
The stretch of road south of my home is flat and desolate, with acres of sandy fields running along White River. The area is a common dump site for the unwanted, and judging by the visible outline of his ribcage and sunken eyes, my new pet had seen better days. Raised around coon dogs, I knew the gangly creature to be a blue tick hound, probably about four or five months old. Bluish-black in color, with white spots, or ticking, spread over his body, he is an animated replica of one of my youngest son’s splotchy artworks hanging on the refrigerator. One ear and eye are completely black, giving him a half pirate, half Little Rascals comical appearance that makes him even more pitiful and endearing.
I call ahead to tell the kids we have a new member of the family, and they meet me at the truck with “ohhh”s, “ahhh”s, and “poor thing.” My 13-year-old feeds him a leftover hamburger from the fridge, while my 4-year-old offers French fries and hugs. I retrieve a bowl of water and a scoop of Purina from the house, and our scrawny friend happily gorges everything offered, burps, then laps up his water and licks the bowl. We stare in wonder at our appreciative guest, unaccustomed to company of any sort in our rural setting. The boys point at his bloated belly, which seems odd in comparison to his starved frame, and giggle. Our old Labrador, Buddy, watches from the porch, apprehensive and envious.
“I like ‘im, Mommy,” Hunter announces. “He tol’ me ‘is name’s Charlie.” I rustle my son’s soft, strawberry-blonde hair, and Charlie licks him generously, perfectly content to be called anything as long as the food keeps coming. Full and more relaxed, the hound begins to investigate his new environment, sniffing around the yard, giving the cat a huge ‘Nice to meet ya’ lick, then relieving himself in the garden. I decide I like him more by the minute.
The boys coax Charlie into the house and give him a desperately needed bath, while I sit on the porch swing with a glass of iced tea and watch dusk surround our farm. Soon, they come bounding onto the porch, more wet and smelly than the dog, chattering like squirrels. I try to remember when I’ve seen them so excited and I enjoy the moment.
Charlie jumps onto the swing and Josey and Briar follow. Hunter sits between my legs, enjoying a popsicle and offering Charlie an occasional lick. Our Labrador Buddy hobbles over and lays his head on my lap, and I pat my firstborn’s white fur and let him know he’s still the man of the house. The kids snuggle close and we watch the first star shimmer in the distance, and I can’t think of one thing to wish for.
Angie J. Mayfield teaches English at Vincennes University in southern Indiana