Excerpt from Puppy Dog Tales:Short Stories for the Dog Lover. Available at smashwords.com
A Dog Named Roosevelt
By Alice V.
When my mother died a few months ago it was hard to let her go. Going over her will was even harder. My siblings and I were not sure whether we should sell her house and divide the family heirlooms, or if one of us should move in and keep the home we all grew up in. Three days after her death we decided to sell the house because it was too heartbreaking for any of us to live there. We kept everything dear to us like family pictures, her record collection, and her jewelry. We had a yard sale for everything else.
Maybe my mother didn’t plan on dying because she failed to leave her beloved dog, Roosevelt to anyone. She had named him after Theodore Roosevelt because, she said, her little Basset Hound was smart like he was and very outgoing. At the time I didn’t know how she could see all this in a dog, but she did.
My older sister Cathy gave Roosevelt to my mom shortly after my father died seven years ago. I remember my mom’s face when my sister presented her with the puppy on Christmas day and how my mom fussed over his “Precious Moment” eyes.
I remember that she held the pup in her lap while she sat on the couch opening her presents and he stayed there the whole time taking a nap. Her grandchildren loved Roosevelt. Every time we came to visit her he was sitting on the couch watching a television program with her. He didn’t bark much and he caught on fast on how to use the doggy door I installed so he can go in an out of the back yard. Sometimes when I’d visit her with my wife and two kids, I’d stop off and get a bone for Roosevelt. I didn’t mind doing those little favors for my mother because I knew how much she loved that dog.
So now that she was gone I sat at her kitchen table in the half-empty house contemplating what to do with Roosevelt. He was too old to be adopted. Sister Cathy lived in an apartment and they don’t allow dogs there. My little brother Michael was moving to Boston in a few months for his job and his wife was expecting their third child; he wasn’t sure they had either the time or the patience for Roosevelt. I wondered what to do. My boys were old enough to be responsible with a dog and if Laura was ok with it we could keep him. Just then he came in through the doggy door and started sniffing around. He looked at me with those sad Basset Hound eyes and I could have sworn he was crying because his face had wet streaks coming from his eyes. I bent down to pet him and wiped his eyes with a paper towel.
“You miss her too don’t you?” He put his paw over my arm and licked my face as if he understood what I was saying. He walked away with his head down and stopped at the living room. He saw that the furniture was no longer there. He circled around a bit and then sat down where the couch once was and let out a sigh. At that moment I packed all his toys, treats, doghouse, and bedding into my truck.
“Looks like you’re going home with me tonight. The kids really miss you; want to go see them?” He wagged his tale and lifted his head in response and I took it as a “Yes.”
When we made it home my kids were ecstatic to see Roosevelt with me. They instantly started petting him and asked if we were going to keep him. I looked at Laura who gave me the “we need to talk” look. I told the boys to take him outside so he can sniff the yard and we waited for the door to shut indicating they were in the back yard.
“I know what you’re going to say but please hear me out first.” I started and she crossed her arms in disapproval, saying nothing as she scowled at me. “I just can’t leave him there by himself. He misses mom, I can see it in his eyes and it’s heartbreaking.”
“What about your sister and brother? Cannot one of them take him in?”
“I already asked them. Cathy said they won’t allow dogs at her apartment and you know Michael is moving in a few months and his wife is pregnant again. A dog would just be an added burden to them right now.”
“I just don’t understand how this falls on us. Why are we the ones taking on all the responsibility? I mean, we did the yard sale; we got the real estate agent and the appraisal to sell the house and where were they? You know I loved your mom but her other two kids should be the ones finding a home for him, not us. This is too stressful.”
She walked away angry into the kitchen to stir the spaghetti she was cooking. Laughter coming from outside followed by a few dog barks enticed me to look out the window to see Roosevelt running and playing with the boys. Suddenly a scream and then warning barks and growling came from outside. My wife and I instantly forgot our argument and ran out to see what the commotion was. My mind raced thinking Roosevelt attacked one of the kids. My youngest son sat on the grass barely able to say a few words as he pointed towards Roosevelt who growled and seemed to have caught something in the bushes as he rustled the leaves about and then suddenly emerged with a dead snake in his mouth. He wagged his tale and came running up to me to present his prize.
“The snake almost bit Josh, mom!” My eldest son, Richard exclaimed. “Roosevelt saved him.”
“What a good boy.” Sarah said, astonished by the courage of the Basset Hound looking up at her with hopeful eyes.
“Yeah, good job Roosevelt. You saved my life.” Josh said swinging his arms around Roosevelt’s neck.
Needless to say Roosevelt’s quick actions earned him points in Sarah’s heart and she was forever grateful to him saving the life of one of our precious children. It was one of those defining moments in Sarah’s life. Roosevelt’s action in saving our son Josh from the most dangerous snake in the whole of existence meant that Roosevelt was most definitely in.
I found out later when describing the ordeal to my neighbor that the snake Roosevelt killed was a copperhead and probably someone’s pet that got loose. He explained that even though the copperhead has mild venom, it could still pack a punch on its victim. Either way I was glad Roosevelt was there and even though I miss my mother dearly I’m glad she left me this brave little dog to remind me of her, and I was thankful to whatever Power intervened to save the moment and ensure his acceptance by EVERYBODY in his new, forever, home.