Dogs have a special place in our hearts
As a reporter, there are always a few of those stories that leave a place in your heart.
That was the case for me in tracking down the story behind Callaway, a kind dog who has found a special place at Benton Academy.
As I conducted a few interviews and followed Callaway around the school campus one day, I kept thinking back to the Willie Morris classic, My Dog Skip.
There is nothing more sincere and heartwarming than a story of a good dog and a child.
Growing up, my mother had a small, gentle Shih Tzu who we called Kelly. We drove hours to buy her because Momma said she would be a good dog “with papers.”
I think I was in junior high when we brought Kelly home for the first time. She was a small ball of black and white fur with a tiny nose and a mouth full of puppy breath.
Being my mother’s only child, she was my constant playmate and true friend. No matter how bad of a day I had at school, she was always there with a wagging tail. Even when I was a little grumpy and didn’t have time for her, she would follow me around the house and wait on me to come around.
She was loyal and just a good dog.
Kelly remained at home when I ventured off to college. It got to a point when I only saw her about every other weekend. Perhaps it was the time left between us, but I don’t think I ever noticed how much older Kelly got with each year.
It actually kicked me in the stomach when I noticed she was running into walls and couldn’t follow me around as much. She had gone blind at some point in time.
It wasn’t long before she couldn’t walk around at all. She had to scoot along the wall to figure out where she was going.
The dog that used to jump up on the couch to snuggle under a blanket couldn’t even lift her paw up on it anymore. We had to pick her up.
When I left home for good to start my own family, it never occurred to me how Kelly must have felt.
Her best friend was gone. I wasn’t there to pick her up on the couch anymore. I wasn’t there to brush her hair into a ponytail on top of her head. I wasn’t there to scratch behind her ears. I just wasn’t there.
I know the house must have seemed empty to her. And I can only imagine what it felt like to be alone, blind.
Kelly did have a blessing with my Momma though. Momma was also getting used to an empty house. I am sure those two pulled each other through that tough transition.
Sadly, Kelly died only a few days after my grandmother died. Her once shiny coat was dull and thin. Her expressive eyes were dark with blindness. She had lost a lot of weight. And her puppy breath had long been gone.
But she was still a ball of love. She was still my friend.
I don’t even think I got to say goodbye to her. With the hustle and bustle of children and sick family members, I don’t think I ever had the chance.
I was at Momma’s house not too long ago, shifting through a box in my old room when I found an old letter with my familiar childhood writing.
It was a letter to “Santa Paws” that I had put together for Kelly. She wanted a bone, a rubber chew toy and bacon for Christmas that year.
I must admit, I teared up a little.
I have had my share of pets over the years. I have even shared a column or two with readers about my dog Roho at my grandparents’ house.
Kelly was a registered pooch while Roho was a mutt. But both dogs were my childhood companions.
They followed me on foot or bike. They let me dress them up in doll clothes and push them around in baby carriages. They were my pillows on family movie night. They were my partners in crime and even sat with me in a few “time outs.”
They were my outfielders in a sandlot ball game. They were my cheerleaders in a backyard basketball game.
They were my feet warmers in the dead of winter. They were my face lickers in the dog days of summer.
They were my protectors from the switch. They were my guards at night.
They watched me grow up and sadly, they watched me leave.
But they remained, constant and loyal.
Callaway reminds me of that feeling you get with a childhood dog. The students at Benton Academy have found their own “Kelly” and their own “Roho” in him.
I understand now the appeal of a good dog and I see what Willie Morris was feeling when he wrote his book.
With that being said, I think it is only right to end this with his words. I think it says it all when it comes to the bond between a child and their dog.
I received a trans-atlantic call one day. "Skip died,” Daddy said. He and my mama wrapped him in my baseball jacket. They buried him out under the elm tree, they said. That wasn’t totally true. For he really lay buried in my heart.