A SIMPLE ACT OF KINDNESS
Written by Rick Archer
2015, Richard Archer
My story of childhood has covered moments of great hardship for me.
However, there was one
bright spot in my life... my dog Terry. My story would not be
complete if I didn't say a bit more about my dog Terry.
Odd as it sounds,
I imagine Terry did more
to keep me sane during my troubled years than any single human being.
I got Terry in 1958, one
year before the divorce and my start at St. John's. I was eight at the time. Terry
would serve as my constant companion during my nine years at St.
John's. Sadly, he passed away in my Sophomore year while I was away at college.
1958 was the year my parents began
to argue. My father would come home and immediately pick a
fight with my mother. My mother
would retort that she gave up her education so he could get his
degree. These moments led to brutal
I would run to my room
and hide, holding my dog to my side for comfort. I would be so
scared. Inevitably I would bury my face in my dog's fur and
begin to cry. Even though he was just a puppy, Terry would lick my face and do everything in
his power to help me survive
those awful nights. Terry was absolutely my only friend in the entire world.
Things weren't always
this bad. When I first got Terry,
I was a pretty happy kid. Terry and I roughhoused all the time. Our favorite game was
I would run and Terry would tackle me by grabbing the
lowest part of my pant's leg with his teeth. Considering Terry
never missed a single open field tackle, he would have made quite a
Once he got me on the
ground, we would roll on the grass and wrestle. Hanging onto
my pants, Terry would shake my leg and growl. I would growl
right back. Then I would grab him and squeeze him with
Of course my mother
had mixed feelings about our games.
was constantly sewing up my torn jeans and washing the grass stains
out. However Mom didn't complain.
Mom loved my dog for a
special reason. Once the marital nightmare began, Mom was well aware Terry was the only thing
keeping me glued together during the final year of her marriage.
eight in this picture. Too
bad my favorite picture of my beloved dog got his facial
That is Duke, Mom's dog (and Terry's father), on my right
I almost lost Terry as a
We lived in a brand new
subdivision known as Sharpstown. There were fields in front of
my house, behind my house, and at the end of our block.
Consequently there was practically no traffic and I didn't give
Terry's safety much thought.
I was eight years old
and completely unaware of the danger I put my dog in by not having
him on a leash when we explored together. Terry was still a
puppy and didn't have any discipline. One day we went running
through a giant field a
block from my house. On our trip home, Terry dashed out into the middle of
the street. I saw a giant Sears delivery truck barreling down
on Terry and screamed "Terry!!!" at the top of my lungs. It
was too late; Terry couldn't stop.
The truck driver also
saw Terry and slammed on his brakes. That man hit those brakes
hard! The loud screeching sound of the brakes was
unbelievable. Too late. One of the front wheels hit
Terry pretty hard. Terry began to spin uncontrollably.
The dog rolled over and over and over. Terry took eight violent flips in front of the
truck's path that covered at least fifteen feet. When he
finally stopped, I was sure my dog was dead when he laid there
motionless. Suddenly Terry magically bounced up and dashed right past me
at warp speed. Poor Terry!! The little dog was so frightened, he ran home as
fast as he could!!
Thank God the
truck driver had slowed enough so that Terry did not get caught under the
wheel, but rather bumped very hard. Full of tears and consumed with guilt,
I yelled my gratitude out to the truck driver. I waved at him and thanked him profusely. His
alert action had made the difference.
I could see the man
smiling with relief that the dog wasn't hurt too much. Seeing my
tears, he could tell how much my dog meant to me. The man
grinned at me and waved back his acknowledgement of my appreciation.
He knew he had saved my dog's life.
Now I turned and chased my dog
home. I found Terry shaking like a leaf on our doorstep.
I took my trembling puppy into my arms and cried huge tears of
relief. I thanked God for giving me a second chance.
At that moment, I knew I loved this dog with all my heart.
Two things happened
after that. Terry had such an incredible spirit of
independence that I couldn't
bear to put him on a leash. Terry loved so much to run free.
I tried to put him on the leash, but I couldn't do it. He looked
so sad. So I looked for
other solutions. I became very cautious from
that point on. I did put a collar around Terry's neck and held that
collar tight whenever we were remotely near any traffic.
In addition, I developed
an uncanny voice control over my dog. All I had to do was say
"Terry" and he froze. Terry trusted me completely.
recognized I was looking out for him at all times. My voice
became his warning signal. Terry would run along
beside my bike and stop the instant I said "Terry" if I saw any
problems up ahead. We became quite a team.
It gives me
tremendous satisfaction to report that Terry would never have
another incident nor any sort of close call. Thanks to our
teamwork, Terry was able to run free for his entire life.
I had other lessons to
learn besides looking out for my dog's safety. One day not long after
the divorce, I asked my mother why Terry was so skinny. "Probably
because you forget to feed him at night."
A look of horror crossed
my face. Oh my gosh, Mom was absolutely right. Sometimes
I did forget! I was beside myself with guilt and shame.
I vowed never to forget again and I kept that vow. Caring for a
dog I loved so much helped teach me responsibility.
Terry had a great life
thanks to me.
I kept him busy. He went with me everywhere and I mean everywhere.
inseparable. It is safe to say Terry was one heck of a
happy dog. As for me, I could not have made it
Once in a while we took
a bicycle adventure over to a beautiful valley near South MacGregor
and North Parkwood. Houston doesn't have too many valleys, so
that made this spot special. This was an area where some of Houston's
finest mansions were located. This started when I was
about 10. I was in the 5th grade at St. John's. This lush
grass-covered valley was surrounded on all sides by beautiful trees and palatial
mansions looking down from above. Terry and I had discovered
it on one of our bike adventures. It wasn't too far from our
apartment project. We would go there before anyone was up on a Sunday
morning. While Terry roamed around, I would sit in the valley
under a tree and bask in my
fantasies about how I would like to live in a place like one of these
This was a common daydream of mine. The dream
arose because I had been ripped from my comfortable suburban existence by
the divorce. The middle class neighborhood we currently
resided in wasn't all that bad, but it was a far cry from what I had
been used to. I would stare at these modern-day castles lining
the valley and wish my parents
hadn't gotten divorced.
At the time, the absurd paradox of having the children of
Houston's wealthiest patricians as classmates didn't help. I had
known some of the rewards that money can bring only to have them
ripped away from me. And now every day I had to go to school
with constant reminders of what I had lost.
About this time, Terry
would check back in
from his explorations and interrupt my thoughts. Probably just as well.
Sam Walton, the founder
of Walmart, once said his major regret in life was his
inability to impart the value of hard work to some of his grandchildren.
His grandchildren lived extremely comfortable lives and knew beyond
a shadow of a doubt that they had it made for the rest of their
lives whether they lifted a finger or not. They enjoyed their
lives of ease just fine. Work ethic? What's that?
Mr. Walton wondered if
perhaps at least some hardship during childhood wasn't such a bad
Sam Walton made a good
point. Hardship is a powerful motivator indeed. I had
once lived a
comfortable life. However, when it was torn away following the
divorce, I developed a major chip on my shoulder. For the rest
of my time at St. John's, I developed powerful drive to get it back.
In moments like this Peaceful Valley Sunday, I felt a determination
growing within me that I would use my education
and hard work to find success someday. I was certain of it.
So yes, I would have to
affluence followed by deprivation is a powerful motivating force. I imagine many
accomplished people will point to a similar chip on their shoulder as the
secret to their success.
My fantasies changed as
I grew older. I didn't care about living in a nice home any
more. I just wanted to escape home.
Now that I lived
in the Montrose area, Terry and I
bicycle adventures over to Rice University. As I viewed the
beautiful campus with its ivy-covered
buildings and its
stately oak trees, Rice felt like the sanctuary I coveted. While Terry chased thousands of black birds
and every squirrel under the sun, I would sit there and dream. Wouldn't it be wonderful to
graduate and go to school here at this amazing campus?
extremely athletic. There was
one particular deformed oak tree with a giant tree limb low to
the ground. I would climb up to that limb and call to Terry. Terry could jump
that high, but his paws couldn't quite grip the thick branch, so he would fall
back to the ground. I learned to
catch Terry at the top of his leap and pull him up to me.
He would lick my face in
appreciation and I would hug him. We would sit on that tree
limb for a while and watch the world go by. Just me
and my dog. Then Terry would see some squirrel and jump down
to begin the chase. I would yell at my stupid dog for ditching
me, but I didn't really care. I loved watching Terry
have so much fun.
Frequently Terry would
accompany me to Cherryhurst Park where I had found a deserted basketball
court to practice on. While I shot baskets preparing for my
much-anticipated basketball career,
Terry would roam the park in search of cats, squirrels, birds and other
dogs. Every ten minutes or so Terry would check back in to make
sure I was still there, then take off to explore some more. We
had a marvelous buddy system.
Sometimes I would tease
Terry. I would deliberately hide behind some
bush. Then I would call to him. Terry would return, but
I was gone. Terry would
become frantic with worry. At first he would run amok double-time
in every direction, but that didn't work. I was impressed when Terry quickly developed a better trick.
Watching from my hiding spot, I was impressed that he was smart enough to disengage from a search technique
that wasn't working.
From now on, Terry would start sniffing the ground.
He would follow my scent from the spot he had last seen me.
Guess what? He would always find me. It was uncanny to
see him in action. That dog was something else. His
tracking skills showed me that dogs have abilities I could not even
begin to comprehend.
question, Terry was the smartest dog I would ever meet in my
The beautiful oak
trees of Rice University
If Terry the Terrible had one
failing, that would be his insatiable sex drive. Yes, even
dogs have that downfall.
come home from school and my Terrible dog would be missing.
Where is that damn dog this time!?! I would get so mad at him!
I would immediately get
on my bike and begin the search. Typically he was just a few
blocks away and I would round
up my escaped dog within 30-60 minutes. However, one time
Terry was gone two full days. I was forlorn.
I had given up all hope. In the morning as I got ready for school, I
heard barking. I looked out the window and saw a pack of six dogs
running together on the other side of the street. One of those
dogs looked like Terry. I burst out
the door and chased the dog pack. Son of a gun, just as I hoped,
there was Terry.
Suddenly two dogs began
to fight. Take a guess who one of
the dogs was? Good guess.
I screamed "Terry!!!!!" at the top of
my lungs, but that didn't work. So I just dived right in. It didn't even dawn
on me that I could get hurt. The two dogs were
caught off guard and stopped fighting to see what this giant new threat
was. I got between them and grabbed Terry's collar to
pull him away.
To my surprise, that
rotten dog struggled
to get away from me. He
wanted to keep fighting! Terry had all kinds of energy surging through
his body and strained to get back at the other dog.
Now it was
time for me to assert my authority.
"C'mon, Terry, fun's
over. It's time to
To my surprise, Terry
wouldn't budge! He kept struggling to get back to that other
dog who had begun making a move on a female dog. That's
when I realized that this third dog was a bitch
in heat and I was interrupting Terry's Call of the Wild. Terry was
fighting for mating rights. Well, tough luck, Terry, no mating
today. I want
picked Terry up off his feet and carried him home in my arms.
He struggled a bit more, but I was powerful. I noticed the further we got, the Call of the Wild
seemed to diminish. Finally he
gave up and licked my face. I am sure it
had to be humiliating for him to be carried home, but I could not have cared less
about his feelings.
I should have had him fixed for what he had just put me through.
Would have saved me a lot of grief.
Terry was the master of
the Great Escape. His specialty was defeating fences. Sometimes he dug a hole under the fence
and sometimes he found
he could jump over the fence. Other times he simply found a loose board and
kept pounding at it till he busted through.
Even metal fences didn't stop him.
He could jump so high that he could get his paws on top, then use
his hind feet to climb over. Rope leashes didn't stop him.
He could chew through a rope. Screen doors were his favorite.
If Mom didn't latch the screen door, Terry would be gone in an
Eventually Mom caught on and became more
conscientious about using the simple metal latch. That didn't
work either. To our
astonishment, Terry learned how to lift the metal hook with his
nose and escape that way.
So we got a fancier metal
latch. No problem. Terry figured out that the screen
door mesh wasn't that strong, so he would just bust through and
destroy the screen door in the process. That dog
drove me crazy!
When Terry wanted to roam, he was relentless.
Nothing stopped him.
I would come home and he
would be gone. I would be panic-stricken.
Time for the Great Chase. Immediately I would hop on my
bike and begin my search of the neighborhood bellowing "Terry!
Terry! Where are you?"
Typically within 15-30 minutes he
would hear my call and come running up to my side wagging his tail
and thrilled to see me. I was always irritated to find not a
trace of guilt on his face for the panic he had caused me.
About 20% of the time I
didn't find Terry at all. Those were the worst moments.
After two hours of searching, I called it off and went home
to do my homework. Left to his whims, it typically took Terry about four to six hours to
get hungry enough to come
back home. I was a basket case the entire time waiting for that
scratch on the door.
It might be as late as 10 pm or midnight, but I would wait up for him. I would let him in and scold him, but Terry the Terrible never showed the slightest
concern for me. All he wanted to do was eat.
The time he left for two
days was the worst. The worry-induced nausea I felt was so strong that I was determined never
to let Terry escape again. I took elaborate precautions to curb
my willful dog. Not surprisingly, Terry
chose not to cooperate. This escape stuff was
not a random event. I estimate Terry found a way
to get loose three to five times a year. Typically all he had
to do was use his
athletic ability, but from time to time he resorted to
cunning as well.
One of Terry's most
techniques was to exploit the growing rift between my mother and me.
Please understand that Mom
almost as much as I did. Unfortunately she took a perverse joy
in defying my wishes where Terry was concerned. I told her in
no uncertain terms that I was in charge of Terry when he needed to
Even if he wasn't on a
leash, Terry never defied me.
Never. However he had no respect for
my mother's voice.
carelessness caused me terrible heartache.
One year we moved to an air-conditioned apartment
that had no yard. Terry had to stay inside all day long and
there was no screen door to attack. Hah, I gloated. Let's see you escape from
him. After we moved into
that apartment, Terry developed a new trick. He would simply scratch the door when Mom walked by.
That was his signal to go outside and pee. Mom would
invariably let him out and expect him to come right back in. Terry was so clever. He would
develop my mother's trust by
returning nine times in a row without any fuss. But
the tenth time he would take off. That dog was so damn rotten!
He played my mother like a fiddle.
Mind you, Terry only used
this trick when I wasn't around. Maybe I was in my room or
maybe I had some errand to run. I would come home and Mom
would say, "Guess what? Terry's gone again. He ran
off when I let him out. Better go
I would scream at her,
"Mom, Terry is MY DOG!! I'm in charge of letting Terry out!
Don't ever let Terry out when I am not around." I would
get so angry at her.
Mom didn't listen to me.
She kept doing it anyway. Each time I would have to go out and chase
that rotten dog down again.
year before the divorce.
Sometimes I wondered if
deliberately. Letting Terry out was her way of showing me I
couldn't tell her what to do.
I wasn't the most loving child in the world.
Thanks to resentment from incidents like this and my lack of respect
over her neverending desperation for a man, each year I moved
further away from her like a receding glacier. A wall grew
between us that never diminished. There was a part of
me that suspected she retaliated with mean tricks like letting the
dog escape. I was disgusted. What kind of
person endangers an animal just to win a power struggle?
Terry didn't always need Mom to
be the patsy. That dog was ridiculously clever at finding
to get free. What an imagination! In one place, we lived on the second
story. In the back, we had a small elevated deck. One day Terry jumped out
an open window onto this elevated deck. From there, he simply walked down the
stairs to the ground and took off.
When I came home from
school, I was stunned to see my dog missing. Mom wasn't home,
so that took away the likely explanation.
took me awhile to figure it out. Eventually I concluded this
open window was the only possibility. I was incredulous. Terry had no way to see over the
ledge. The ledge was not only very narrow, but it was a good
four feet off the ground. Since he had to jump with enough
force to clear the ledge, I could not imagine any way he could stop
on that ledge and have a look. I concluded Terry was forced to
take a blind "Leap of Faith" to the other side. I was
impressed. That indicated the dog was smart enough to know ahead of
time there was a deck
on the other side of that open window to catch him before he jumped.
Fortunately I found him quickly enough, but this time I didn't yell
at him. I was in awe of his abilities.
Terry got loose, like a good detective, I would investigate what his latest trick was and do
something to prevent it from happening again. For example, in
the case of the open window trick, now I only left the window
half-open. Hah! Now what are you going to do, dog?
I would come home from school and Terry would be gone again. I
would be in shock. How
did he escape this time? Our battle of wits was
legendary. Here I was the honor roll kid from an egghead prep
school, but this darn dog outsmarted me time and again. Thank
goodness Terry didn't play chess or my constant humiliation at his
have been worse.
Sometimes the secret of Terry's
success was sheer willpower. Some neighborhood dog would go into
heat and Terry would catch the scent. Terry was relentless. He would spend
all day if he had to, but he would pound away until he eventually knocked a board loose in
the fence... and then he would squirm through the opening and be off to chase the object of his
One time Terry was so
overcome with lust that he pulled a metal stake up from the ground.
I could not believe it. I had used my neighbor's sledge hammer
to drive that stake three feet deep into the ground. It was
hard work and I was sweating like a pig. The dirt was dry and
tightly-packed, so this was no easy task. When I was done, I
gave the stake a tug. It didn't budge. Given
how hard it was to drive the stake in, I assumed it would be just as hard to
get it back out. So when I was done, I smiled with satisfaction.
looked straight at Terry who was sitting there watching me with that
"There, dog. You'll never pull that up!"
Famous last words. Not
longer after, Terry
was gone when I came home. The stake was missing. I
stared at the hole in disbelief. How did he do that?
I rode my bike around
till I found Terry with his latest conquest. When I saw Terry,
I found him engaged in the throes of passion. I also noticed my canine lothario still had that stake
clinging to the metal chain and his collar. Terry had dragged
that stake and chain all the way across the neighborhood in pursuit
of his latest girlfriend. He was lucky the chain or stake
hadn't gotten tangled on something.
consternation at his latest escape, I burst out laughing. The
things he would do for love. I
admired Terry's will power.
This wasn't the first
time I had caught him in the act. I had previously learned that male
dogs do not disengage very easily. So I politely sat
there to give him time to finish. I received some informal sex education
in the process. When Terry had satisfied his urges, I yelled
"Bad dog!!" at him. Terry didn't care what I said. Terry had
gotten what he wanted and was ready to go home.
the chain and the stake and we headed home together. All was
One time after yet another
escape, I spotted Terry
on his way home before he spotted me. I saw him from across the
street. He was headed towards me, but hadn't noticed me yet.
I said nothing because I was worried that he would be excited to see me and dangerously run
across the street. Fortunately there was no traffic, so I relaxed and just watched
to see what he would do.
To my surprise, Terry stopped at the street and looked both ways
before crossing. Terry had learned his lesson from the
Sears truck years ago. I was very impressed.
As I said earlier, Terry was the most intelligent dog I have ever
known. It wasn't just his loyalty that drew me to him, it was
my respect for his immense talent and spirit. I had a sense that this dog had a mind and
personality that was 'human-like' in so many ways.
We had a
respected Terry's strong sense of independence, it sure could be
hard to live with. Terry's sense of
adventure caused me great heartache when I was eleven. It was
1961 and giant Hurricane Carla was headed our way. I was
in the 6th grade at the time and listened to the weatherman's dire
warnings with fear. As I would come to learn, most hurricane
warnings don't amount to much. Most of the time the weatherman
is manipulating our fear so we will keep watching through
the commercials. However, this time I had a
hunch these warnings were no
hype. I sensed genuine concern in the weatherman's voice.
This hurricane was something different.
record books list Carla as the most intense hurricane to hit Texas
in the 20th century. I believe it... I remember this powerful hurricane
oh so well for a very painful reason.
During its approach, the experts labeled
Carla the storm of the century. Get to safety. Heeding
the warnings, my mother decided to take
Terry and me over to her latest boyfriend's house near Texas Southern University about ten miles
east of our apartment.
Mom did not want to be alone in this
storm without a man around for protection. I rolled my eyes since I wasn't
convinced this was the real reason for our visit. However,
I didn't protest. Instead for once I gave her the benefit
of the doubt. Terry came with us.
Hurricane Carla was something else. Since Carla made
landfall near Victoria about 120 miles to the southwest, Houston was
mercifully spared a direct hit. However the Bayou City got the
dirty side of the hurricane. That meant lots of water and powerful winds.
Carla was quite
a storm. Those winds howled and the rain pounded
on the roof mercilessly. However, we were safe inside the
house. Around 10 pm that night, I decided to take a bath.
Unbeknownst to me, Terry
immediately began scratching at the door, his signal to go outside. Without thinking, Mom
reflexively opened the door.
Terry took off straight into the hurricane. Didn't even
hesitate. He wanted to explore the wild climate outside in the
When I finished my bath,
I asked Mom, "Where's Terry?"
"Oh, I let him outside.
He'll be back in a minute."
My eyes grew wide.
"Are you serious? You let Terry out in this storm without telling me first?"
An overwhelming panic
came over me. I was incredulous at what she
had done. Mom had no control over my dog. I had
control over the dog.
Terry would never defy me.
Terry was my dog!
What right did my mother have taking a chance like that!?
I was furious. I
absolutely screamed at her. "Goddamnit, Mother, you have absolutely no
right to let my dog outside without me around!! How many times
have I told you this? Don't you understand that the dog could
be in danger?"
I didn't even wait for
What was she thinking? This was a different neighborhood.
We were at least 10 miles from our apartment. What if the dog got lost?
That was my biggest worry.
Panic-stricken and only
half-dressed, I burst out in the yard despite the torrential rain. I was drenched in an instant. I didn't
care. The intense rain and wind didn't even register on me.
All I wanted was my dog back.
"Terry! Where are
vainly into the dark. Oh no. This was my worst fear.
He had no intention of returning. Where
in this god-forsaken night was my dog?
My heart was numb.
Fear of losing my dog overwhelmed. I mumbled to myself, "Terry, please
come back, I beg you. Don't do this to me."
Sure enough, Terry was nowhere to be seen in this windswept darkness.
I was certain Terry had no intention
of coming back any time soon. In his mind, no doubt this was the best storm ever!! What
a great adventure!
There was no way I could
chase him, not at 10 pm with that drenching rain and those winds
whipping dangerous debris in every direction. I didn't even
know which way he went and it was pitch dark. I was totally
heaviest heart I have ever felt, I went back inside. I
was certain that
Terry had planned this. He would have never bolted on me. He
knew I would chase him to end of the earth, so the damn dog
waited... that's right, he waited!... till he had an opportunity to
con my mother instead.
When I came back
inside, Mom confirmed my suspicion. She said his urgency
had hit the moment I
had closed the bathroom
I stared at my mother in
disgust. She knew the tricks that dog was capable of.
Why wasn't she more careful? I could not believe she fell for
Terry's trick. Now I couldn't hold it back any longer.
Losing my temper, I glared right at my mother and said with contempt, "Just
how stupid can you be, Mother? What if the dog gets hurt?
What if the dog gets lost?"
Those were strong words
from an 11 year old kid. Ordinarily my mother
would have lashed back, but this time she was strangely silent.
Seriously, for an intelligent woman, there had to be a wire loose in there
In disgust, I
went to my room. I did not sleep that
night. I nearly went insane with worry. Every fifteen
minutes I went back outside and called for my dog. I
was so pitiful. I was sick beyond sick with worry and
How would my dog ever survive this wild night??
How would he ever find his way back to this house he had never
visited before in
an unknown neighborhood?
The hurricane's force
abated by morning. The moment there was
light, I was out in that strange neighborhood calling for Terry.
The dark gray foreboding sky was the perfect reflection for my mood.
I could not believe the devastation around me. Huge trees had fallen to
Tree limbs, leaves, and all kinds of debris
covered the landscape. Many of the streets were flooded
and impassible. Not that it mattered. There wasn't a
moving car or human in sight. The people of Houston were still
hunkered down. I was absolutely the only person moving in this
deserted world. Terry was nowhere to be found. I noticed the nearby bayou was swollen beyond belief.
I worried that my dog had drowned in that bayou.
Under the dark cloudy
skies, I continued wandering in different directions around the
neighborhood. I covered miles and miles without a shred
of luck. I would check back in every now and then to see if
Terry had returned in my absence. He never showed up.
continued my non-stop searching for Terry till 5 pm that
afternoon. After an entire day of disappointment,
heart was heavy with dread and loss. My best friend in the
entire world was gone. I did not think I would ever see him
again. I was forlorn with grief.
dark thoughts for my mother. Needless to say, this
incident was typical of my childhood. Terry was my dog.
Knowing my dog loved to escape, she had no business putting my dog
at risk. All she had to do was tell the dog to wait five
minutes and I
would take Terry out myself. But no, like a thoughtless idiot, she opened the door and
out he went.
There were times during
my childhood when I absolutely hated my mother. This senseless
incident was something I never forgave her for.
When I returned
empty-handed at 5 pm, Mom said it was time to give up
waiting for Terry to return. Let's go home.
The dog had been gone now for nineteen hours. Mom said there
much point in waiting any longer for his return. I
didn't want to go, but Mom said that if Terry did show up, her
boyfriend would take him in and give us a call. Reluctantly I
gave up the search.
Please understand that Mom
loved the dog too. She was very kind to Terry and he was loyal to her. I could tell she was
crestfallen, so despite my overwhelming fury, I stopped chewing her out.
What was the point?
I cried softly all the
way home. I hurt so bad. My body ached with grief.
How would I ever survive this loss?
When we pulled up to our apartment, I was shocked to see
Terry sound asleep on the porch. Not once this entire day had
it ever occurred to me he might have come here. It was too
At first I worried Terry might
be dead because he didn't even look up as our car pulled in.
I rolled down the window
and screamed "Terry!!" at the top of my
To my relief
came back to life. I imagine Terry had not heard us
because he was beyond exhausted from his adventure.
I leapt out of the car
just in time to catch Terry in mid-air as he jumped to greet
me, practically knocking me down in the process.
It was a joyous reunion to be
sure. Oh, did I cry. I cried my eyes out. When I finally calmed
down, I took a good look. Terry was really bedraggled. His hair was matted and entangled
with an assortment of grass, mud, twigs and leaves stuck in his
He was also
very hungry. As I put his food down,
the joy I felt was indescribable. I just couldn't stop crying. Through
profuse tears, I chewed him out fiercely for putting me
through that ordeal. "How could you do that to me, you
stupid terrible dog!"
continued to sob giant crocodile tears with relief as I watched him eat.
could not have cared less about the agony he caused me. I still
wasn't done being mad.
"You stupid dog! You are the
worst dog ever! I am so mad at you! I'm going to make
you sleep in the yard tonight on the muddy wet grass!! I
hope you are miserable! I've made up my mind for sure.
Tomorrow I'm going to have you fixed. Serves you
After his meal,
it was time for his bath. Terry licked my face and I
started crying all over again. Terry slept in
bed with me that night with my arms wrapped tightly around
him. The thought of losing him had been the worst pain
I had ever felt in my life.
I wasn't going to give
that damn dog a single compliment to his face, but privately I was incredulous at Terry's
accomplishment. Our neighbor said Terry had been sleeping there
our doorstep all afternoon. I was amazed. Left to my own
devices, I could not
possibly have made the same trip without a map. From that
house, I would not have the first idea which direction to go.
How did Terry know which
way to go? Terry had accomplished
something that I could not match. Yes, using maps or asking
for directions, I could have done it. But without help, there was no way I could have found my way home from where we
had spent the night, much less during a hurricane.
Ten miles is quite a
distance under the best of conditions, but Terry's journey had taken
place in the dark of night amidst a blinding, drenching
storm. Where did this homing instinct come from? How did he ever find his way
back under those
When I was five years old, I cut my eye out with a knife. For some reason, they
bandaged both eyes. While I lay blind in the hospital bed, I
asked Aunt Lynn to continue the book I had been reading, Lassie Come Home.
It was a story about a collie that crossed Scotland
on her own.
A poor family had sold Lassie to a man who took the dog to his farm
a hundred miles away. He proceeded to mistreat the dog badly.
Lassie missed her boy and his family, so the dog escaped and began
the long journey home.
I cried buckets as Aunt Lynn
read the story. Hearing me cry, poor Lynn didn't know whether to stop or
continue. She tried to stop, but I begged her to keep reading.
I couldn't bear not to know what happened next.
Unbeknownst to me, Aunt Lynn was sobbing as well. She
later told me she couldn't decide whether the tears were for me or
for the dog in the book.
Despite my tears, that story had seemed ridiculous to me.
Good story, but total fantasy. No dog
can possibly travel hundreds of miles without getting permanently lost. But
after what Terry had done, I changed my mind.
How my own collie found his way home in
that storm is one of the great mysteries of my childhood.
Terry made me believe every word of that book.
Terry meant the world to
me. I loved that dog with
every fiber of my being.
Lassie Come Home