Way back when, my baby sister had a pull-toy identical to this one. I was ten at the time–too old for toys, I was told–but I think I loved that dog almost as much as she did! Its body was wooden and its tail was springy; and no matter where or how she dragged it, it looked at her with adoring eyes. Brown ears flopping and red wheels clacking, it followed her everywhere.
When the red plastic string finally broke, Mei-Ling cried and cried. My brother Randy fixed Snoopy with a frayed string from an old yo-yo and wiped away her tears. Happy smiles, wagging tail…the inseparable duo were off on another adventure.
Around the same time, we rescued a puppy from the side of the road—a dachshund puppy we called Kelly. At first, he was so insecure that he’d shadow our footsteps, whining his anxieties and begging for food. Before long, he looked like the wiener dog in my old On We Go reader*– “too short from top to bottom, and too wide from side to side.”
My sister hadn’t yet learned that there are important differences between wooden toys and flesh-and-blood playmates. Kelly sensed this, I think, because he accepted a lot of abuse from her. But when she tried to pull him around by the collar, he dug in his heels and growled. And when she rolled him down the stairs in a Halloween pumpkin, poor thing, he ran away with a crazed look in his eyes.
Truth be told, Kelly was a hobo at heart. He liked traveling more than he loved us. We tried fencing him in, but that didn’t work. Then my father tied him to a tree with a clothesline, and when that didn’t hold him, he tethered him with a leather leash. I swear, that dog was channeling Houdini—he even slipped loose from a thick metal chain!
Thinking back on those puppies today, I understand better two important life lessons: First, that love means honoring the inherent qualities of Other. And also, the harder we try to hold onto something, the more transient it becomes.
*a treasured book I stole from school, but that’s another story