Melissa Chen | Art by Jennifer Lee
I had found out I had forgotten my wallet, and was going back home to get it. I was
coming around the bend up through the thick of the trees when I saw the crash.
Well, no that’s not quite the word. A collision? Maybe a bump?
It was a small, obnoxiously yellow car—almost like a taxi—going real fast. The
afternoon sun was shining just so through the leaves to light it up almost flaming like an asteroid.
And I couldn’t tell what the tiny brown thing was, darting out from the trees, until the dog was
The sight put me to a halt.
Now, I don’t know what the exact procedure is when you hit a dog, but you sure as hell
don’t do what this yellow taxi bastard did. Over the gray pavement of the road and that now limp
brown form in the middle of it, our eyes connected. The driver’s eyes were wide, but his
eyebrows came down quickly, and with a squeal he squeezed past me right along his way down
the hill, nearly running over the dog again.
I maybe should have called or ran after him, but there wasn’t much sense to that. I
scrambled out of the car. The dog seemed to be moving and alive, and miraculously, not badly
hurt. I guess it must have just been stunned, and was now shaking its head and getting its senses
back. There was something wrong with its leg though, and one of its ear was bleeding.
It was rather small but seemed to be the kind with large ears and big paws, so it was
likely still a puppy. It finally sensed me approaching, and stiffened, tracking my movements.
Yep, it had puppy eyes. No whites, just two puddles of milky chocolate. I took off my jacket, and
was already thinking of how I might get it into the car if it started running, but the little one
accepted my scooping it up.
After they were done taking care of him at the vet’s, they recommended a shelter for it.
They also mentioned he was a Chocolate Lab.
I had been doing some thinking in their neat little blue-and-white waiting room, and I was
wondering if this was maybe an omen from the heavens.
Well, the vet’s bill certainly was not an auspicious sign, but overall…
What do you know, the puppy was wriggling in the assistant’s arms to get to me. His ear
and leg were bandaged.
“He’s a lucky one,” the assistant said. She smiled and watching me inspect the bandages.
“Not many survive getting hit by a car, especially with such little injury.”
I smiled. “And the instructions are all here for taking care of these bandages?” I waved
the packet I got from the counter.
“Yes, you’re all set, Mr. Hernandez. If you don’t decide to take him to a shelter, you
might consider bringing him in for a check-up in a couple weeks.”
“Alright, thank you.”
The street lamps had turned on along the sidewalks by the time I got out of the pet store. I
was afraid a chill might have crept in through the windows I cracked open, but the car was pretty
warm. The puppy was still snuggled up in the backseat, the calm rise and fall of his belly
interspersed with little snuffling snores.
I stuffed everything from the cart into the trunk as softly as possible, and the little guy
must have been dead-tired from the day, because he stayed asleep the whole ride home.
He wasn’t a barker, but it turned out he was a scratcher.
I made him his own little area with the dog bed in the foyer, and then I turned in as well. I
read some articles from last’s month issue of the The Economist, plumped up my pillows, and
turned off the lamp.
Minutes later, he was scratching at the door.
The lamp blinked on.
He spent the night nested beside my feet.
I didn’t think of potty-training, or whatever the version of that you do with dogs is. It was
lucky it was the weekend and I didn’t have to get to work, because I spent an hour figuring out
how to get half the pee out of the rug. All the while, he was smiling—I never knew dogs could
smile, or maybe I didn’t notice—and chewing one of the little squeaky toys I got him.
That pee accident was also lucky, because I had been getting more doubtful about letting
He watched me solemnly as I packed his bed, and the food and other supplies I got him,
back into the car trunk.
I had seen dogs with their heads poking out the windows, feeling the breeze, so I rolled
down the window and let in a trickle, which he enjoyed.
Grandpa was out in his yard, sitting on that faded, old plastic mint-and-white beach chair.
Orange and yellow leaves were strewn across the grass. He was reading a book, a library one
with a couple barcodes pasted to it. He looked up as I pulled in. I got out quickly.
“Hey Grandpa. How are you?”
He didn’t beat around the bush. “Who’s that little fella with you? You got a dog?”
I carried the pup out. He went right to sniffing around the leaves. I wondered if he had
done that all the time before I found him at the crash—the collision—the bump.
Grandpa watched amusedly as the pup took an experimental lick of his shoe. Great, all
was going smoothly.
“Well he’s not mine,” I said. I explained the car hitting the dog.
I cleared my throat. “Well, I know Pepper has been gone for a few months.”
Grandpa closed his book. His eyes were still on the pup. I wasn’t sure if he was listening.
“Well, I thought it might be good—you having a dog again.”
Grandpa chuckled. “Yeah?” He got up off the chair, and tossed the book on it. Standing
up he was a couple inches taller than me, but our eyes were nearly level. His were pale, ringed
with sparse brows and light brown sunspots.
“Listen, Albert, I appreciate it. But you keep him.”
Now we both watched the pup tumbling around the piles of leaves, amusing himself.
“I’ll rake them today,” I said. I looked back at Grandpa. “Don’t tell me something about
you having no energy for a puppy.”
Grandpa turned up his palms. “Well, it’s true.”
“You took two walks with Pepper everyday!”
“Well, she was a slow walker.”
“Wasn’t she a puppy when you got her, too?”
“That was before I was retired.”
“I’ll help train him,” I said. “I’ll come over and walk him sometime. It won’t be so bad.”
Grandpa shook his head. He still had a thick head of hair. It was mostly white but he was
proud of it.
“I just don’t want the pup, Albert,” Grandpa said. “Pepper was my last. And she’ll be it.
No need for anything new in my life.” He frowned at me. “Now you’re all full of energy, arguing
with me. Why don’t you keep him?”
“You know. I got work all day,” I said.
Grandpa sat down and took up his book again. “Will you get my glasses, Albert? And I
made some juice with that new-fangled presser you gave me.”
I shook my head. “Someone’s got to watch the pup so he doesn’t run away.”
“I’ll watch him. You ought to take him to the dog park. You meet some nice people there.
Say hi to Linda for me if you do.”
Linda was pleased to meet me and Godiva.
“Go for short?” she asked. “Why not Hershey? Cadbury?”
Go and Linda’s sausage dog Murphy were sniffing each other out.
“Not sure really. Go just suited him better.”
Linda waved a ball above the dogs. They broke their sniffing ritual, training their eyes on
the ball. Linda launched it, and Go and Murphy raced after. Go broke off halfway to sniff at a
bush. Murphy returned, dropping the ball in Linda’s hand and panting in anticipation for the next
“How do you do that?” I asked Linda. “Go either loses interest or runs away with it.”
Linda laughed. “He’s still young. He’ll get the hang of it. Have you taken him to any
“Yeah, we’re still working on the peeing on the floor. He’s improving a lot. He doesn’t
do it when I’m at work. I guess he forgets on the weekends though,” I said.
“That’s good,” Linda said. “Don’t you worry. You raise him right, and he’ll do amazing
things. Murphy learned all sorts of tricks.”
She gestured out across the field, where two teenage figures had been shouting and
chasing after their dogs, two white fluffballs.
“The Hansen twins have been volunteering with their dogs at the hospital for a couple
years now. I think they’re working with cancer patients right now.”
Linda pointed at the fountain, where several dog owners were gathered. “See that big dog
with the pointy ears there? Mr. Lemkus has got him trained well. He’s the one that caught the
neighborhood robber, a couple weeks ago.”
“Amazing things,” I said. I watched Go turn somersaults happily around in the grass.
I flicked on the TV. I liked a bit of noise in the background while I worked on things. Go
laid at my feet, on his rug. There was a jewelry ad. I changed the channel.
“Hey look at that, Go,” I said. He was working on a bone I had gotten him the day before.
On the screen, a row of dogs stood on a fancy little stage. A group of people in formal
wear were coming down the line. A man and a woman with measuring tapes, and a man holding
I glanced down at Go. He cocked his head, his ears a little droopy, his rounded eyes
“You don’t like this dog show?” I scratched his ears. One of them was half missing, a
little pink along the edges.
“Don’t you worry, Go,” I said. “You’ve got beautiful eyes. Let’s not watch this, huh?”
The next channel was the news. I set it on low volume, and got to typing on my
computer. I was in the middle of organizing a budget spreadsheet, when Go nudged me. I looked
up. They were showing a blurry phone video of a big black dog swimming toward the middle of
a river, where someone was flailing. I squinted at the headline running across the bottom of the
screen. HEROIC DOG SAVES—I shut the TV off, and looked down at Go.
“Come on. Let’s go for a walk.”
As we made our way down sidewalk, a family turned the corner, biking up toward us
along the side of the street.
“Dog!” One of the little kids shrieked, stopping and pointing at Go. “Can we pet him,
The whole family stopped. “Ask nicely if you can,” the mom cautioned.
In one moment, all the bikes clattered to the ground.
The kids were all over him. He was loving it, of course. Go rolled onto his back for belly
rubs. The kids laughed.
What can I say? Stars are born from collisions.