Written by Rick Archer
My childhood was a time 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 talk about 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.
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
sob. Even though he was just a puppy and was always in
trouble for chewing up my rubber dinosaurs, I loved this dog
fiercely. 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
chase. I would run and Terry would tackle me by grabbing the
lowest part of my pants with his teeth. Since Terry
never missed a single open field tackle, he would have made a great
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 too. 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.
I almost lost Terry as a
puppy. It was my fault.
We lived in a brand new
subdivision known as Sharpstown. There were fields in front of
my house, behind my house, and at the far west end of our block.
Consequently there was practically no traffic, so I never gave
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 voice discipline yet. 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 six 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 the dog 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
home. I found him 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 still 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 just 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.
Terry loved to run away.
Every three months or so, he found some way to escape while I was at
school. I would go looking for him, cursing him the entire
time because I was so worried. That dog drove me nuts. One
afternoon after yet another
escape, I saw Terry from across the street before he spotted me.
Terry 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 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.
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
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
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
Shortly after the August
1959 divorce, Dad began to disappear from my life. I saw my father every
other weekend without fail for the first four months. Then something awkward happened that first
I was 10 years old.
Here we were in his apartment full of Christmas cheer, just Dad,
me and the Christmas Tree. Under the tree was an enormous
I ripped open the paper
to discover my father had bought me a
gigantic erector set complete with some kind of fancy electrical motor.
This was a very expensive gift. It came in a heavy metal box so large I could
barely lift it. Dad was extremely proud of his gift.
I have a hunch this was the kind of gift he coveted when he was my age,
but of course never received because his mother was very poor.
Dad beamed at his lavish present. Being an electrical engineer, this erector set was right up his alley.
As for me, I gulped. I had never tried this sort of thing
before and wasn't sure how I would I do. But I kept my worries
I hugged my father and
thanked him. Dad looked at me with a
huge smile. He wanted to build something neat with his son.
That would make
this his best Christmas ever!
"Well, sure, of course,
Dad, let's build
something!" At this comment, I was beside with myself
with happiness. I had missed my father so much lately.
Dad took out the list of projects and looked it over. He immediately suggested
we build a drawbridge so we could take advantage of that fancy motor.
I wasn't so sure. That idea seemed a little
ambitious. I was thinking the stuff on the first page was more my
speed. However, if Dad said I could do it, I would try.
The drawbridge had
elaborate instructions. He said all we had to do was follow
the instructions. What could be easier? Dad handed me
the tools and worked with me for a while. I was game, but I
didn't do very well. The instructions made no sense.
As I had feared, this project was
way over my head.
When he realized how totally overwhelmed I was,
Dad got the strangest look in his face. He stared at me in
Now I gulped again. I was almost certain I
knew what he was thinking.
I believe when my father was my
had the talent to build stuff like this without anyone's help.
So why couldn't his son do it?
deepened. He could not believe
how inept I was, especially when compared to his own immense
natural ability at mechanics.
At that moment, something terrible snapped in the man. I could see it in his
expression. He had just discovered his son had
no mechanical ability. There would be no following in his genius
footsteps, now would there?
Dad studied me in disbelief.
His face was crestfallen. What a
disappointment I was to him. How could I possibly be his
kid? And even if I was his kid, my value had just plummeted.
At best, maybe someday I could get a job pulling bubble gum off of
theater seats or something equally noble.
snatched the tools out of my hands and began to build the bridge
Dad told me to watch carefully and he would
show me how to do it. Then I could do it again by myself tomorrow after
he took me back to Mom's apartment. Yeah, sure, Dad.
With the sparkling
Christmas tree as our backdrop, Dad got down to business on the
living room carpet. The moment he stuck his tongue out on the
side of his mouth, I knew he was in The Zone. Sticking his
tongue out was Dad's trademark signal whenever he locked in.
I noticed he didn't even need the instructions. One look at
the picture was enough. I was incredulous... not even another
Dad was in another
world. The entire time I did
not exist. Despite my own sadness, I smiled at seeing how
happy Dad was. I had never
seen him look happier. Dad was probably reliving some of his
own boyhood Christmas memories. I marveled at my
father's immense talent. I was reminded of the good old days when he
had built that gigantic electric train complex in the attic with me
at his side watching in awe. It is
a good thing I paid such close attention as he built that drawbridge.
Little did I know this would be the last time I would ever see my father display his wonderful ability.
Three hours later, Dad
finished. If it took my father three hours, that in itself should
explain how complicated this project was. I never had a
chance, did I? But I did not know that. Nor did he
reassure me that this was a tough place to start. I was
ashamed of myself.
The completed drawbridge was a magnificent structure.
It was huge. Hit a switch and
the drawbridge went up and down. Dad was so proud of himself.
This is what he was capable of. He
looked at the bridge and beamed with pride. Then he looked at me and frowned.
I got the message. I had failed him. I wasn't good enough.
After Christmas, Dad stopped seeing me. I was supposed to
see him every other weekend, but he skipped our next weekend
visit. Then he skipped the one after that. An entire month
had gone by without hearing from him. At the time I was
sick in my stomach.
Meanwhile, things were really bad
in my new home. Mom was struggling with the divorce and had
brought this awful man named Tom Cook to live with us. Among
other things, Tom Cook stole my silver dollar collection to pay for alcohol.
Recently he had beat my mother up after getting drunk. He even tried to get
me started on smoking. What a pal. I was badly
rattled and needed my father. Where was he?
I assumed Dad's absence had something to
do with how badly I had done with the erector set. What
else was I supposed to think? He didn't even call to
explain his absence. Missing him, I asked Mom to check.
was still too angry about the divorce to get in touch with him. So I
stayed in the dark assuming his disappearance was all my fault. I went around
criticizing myself for being so stupid. Probably other
sons my age could have built that drawbridge with no trouble.
Half a year went by without seeing or hearing from him.
Then one day out of the blue Dad called and said he was coming over to pick me up for
our scheduled Saturday. I was thrilled! I got my father
back! He must have forgiven me for being so stupid. I was going to be the best kid possible.
Now get this.
I went to my closet and got out the erector set which had sat
there untouched for six months. I
tried building the beginner models every day for the next few days
leading up to our
visit. I wasn't very good, but I finally figured out how to build a
simple house frame. Mind you, it
had no moving parts like the drawbridge, but it was a good start.
The point is I tried as hard as I could to do something to make
my father proud of me again.
When Dad came to the
door, I had my giant erector set kit in my hand. I was going to
bring it with me and show Dad what I had taught myself to do.
I was going to build that house for him without any help. Dad
took one look and frowned. He said, "You won't need that,
son. Leave it
When I got
to his apartment, there was a surprise waiting for me. Dad introduced me to his new girlfriend.
She had lunch waiting for us.
After lunch, he suggested I turn on the TV. Dad spent
the rest of the day hanging out with that lady in the kitchen where I
could barely see them. I watched
nervously out of the corner of my eye as the two of them played court
and spark in the background. Then they went into the bedroom for a
while. I wasn't quite sure why he was
ignoring me. I guess she was better with erector sets than I was.
he drove me home. What a great father-son Saturday.
It took me a few years to
figure it out, but the real reason Dad had skipped his weekends
with me was to pursue his new flame. It had nothing to do with my
lack of mechanical ability.
Too bad I didn't know that at the time. I spent half a year
feeling worthless for nothing.
I did not like his
girlfriend at all. The best words to describe the woman were 'frosty' and
'phony'. Where I was concerned, she merely went through the
motions until she could seal the deal. And seal
the deal she did.
Dad married that woman not too long afterwards. I wasn't invited
to the wedding. No surprise there. Due to my eternal contempt, I won't
bother giving her a name, not even a fake one. We
will just call her 'Stepmother'.
Stepmother did not
like me at all. Mind you, Stepmother never came out and
admitted I disgusted her. But actions do have a way of sending
the message. Stepmother allowed me into her home once a
year at Christmas time. It was the Christian thing to do, no
After the wedding,
Stepmother's next step was to get rid of me. She was wildly
successful. Dad almost completely disappeared from my life.
During the nine year stretch from the 1959 divorce to high school
graduation in 1968, I
saw my father four times a year.
My father was a creature
of habit. He
played a game I liked to call 'Four Seasons.'
marked my yearly visit to his home. Since I was not
welcome in my stepmother's home at any other time, Dad switched to picking me up at school
for lunch. No problem. Lunch
was a convenient option. Once on my birthday in October. Once in early Spring. Once
shortly before the Summer
I am not sure why I
didn't see my father more often. After all, my father worked
just down the street from St. John's.
I estimate by car, St.
John's was a four minute drive from his office. Maybe less.
Dad's office was at the corner of Weslayan
and Westheimer. This
spot was a half mile
from my school on Westheimer and Buffalo Speedway.
to be exact, but a million miles away in my father's mind.
For a busy
too far to take the time to see the forgotten son.
This was a heartless
move on the man's part. My
father had no excuse not to see me more often. Seeing me
was so easy it was ridiculous. Permission slips
were unnecessary at St. John's School. Back in the Sixties,
security was not a concern. Since the
SJS receptionist knew
who my father was, any time my father wanted to see me, he would just
phone and leave a
message with her. The lady would hand a note to me when I passed
through the Reception area. The following day Dad would
pick me up for lunch for our quarterly visit.
periodically hint in some roundabout way that Stepmother was responsible for his
That set me to
thinking about the sincerity of his statement. If
Dad wanted to see me more often, I would have gladly ridden my
bike to his office. It didn't have to be lunch; why not
after school? I understood that I was Taboo, off-limits in
her book, but the suspicious wife would never have to know her husband was seeing
the Forbidden Child. I
could have visited him at his office behind Stepmother's back.
Here is my point.
If my father wanted to see me, it was effortless. He could
have seen me every day of the week if he chose to. I would
have been overjoyed to see my father more often had he permitted
it. One lunch a week
would have been wonderful. The truth is that I have always
had a soft spot for the guy even though another part of me despised
the man for how he neglected me. I have never really quite
understood my mixed feelings. No matter how much my father
disgusted me, I was shocked to realize how much I looked forward
to seeing him again.
fact remains that I rarely saw my father. He obviously preferred his Four
Seasons approach. Maybe he liked the symmetry of it. The rest of the time, Dad
made it clear how busy he was and that my phone calls to his
office were a nuisance. The message was clear... I needed
to know my place. He was a busy man. Don't call him; he'll call me.
Now that I wasn't allowed to bother him, like a desperate mistress, I began to
wait anxiously for his call. For the first year or so (4th
grade), I developed a pathetic habit of walking past the
receptionist twice a day just in case he had called.
Once I hit the 5th grade I didn't bother any more. Now sometimes
the receptionist had to hunt me down if he called. This
kind woman always looked at me with the most profound sympathy.
I think she understood how sensitive this issue was for me.
Perhaps if my father
had ever been openly mean to me, I might have gotten the guy out
of my system. Such was not the case.
Whenever we met for
lunch, Dad was
invariably nice to me. In person, Dad was warm to me, always
friendly, always affable. I cannot recall a single harsh word
I still remember that big smile
Dad would greet me with. I guess when you spend four
hours a year with your kid, you can smile with the best of them.
Must have been his sales training. Seriously, Dad put
up a great front. I swear a casual observer would never
guess the utter mediocrity of his parenting skills where I was
Stepmother had two children
by Dad, a boy and a girl. No effort was ever
made to include me in his second family. I saw them each
Christmas, but that was it. Certainly not enough time for
my bad seed ways to rub off on them.
One of the most
painful aspects of our relationship was my knowledge that Dad
treated his other two children very well. And how did I
know this? He told me! Dad had the strangest habit of spending most of
our time together telling me all
about his two children. When I was 13, Dad ceased talking to me like a father to a son. He developed a friendly, superficial rapport with me. There was no heart
to heart communication whatsoever, just cordial stuff.
While he spoke, I was mesmerized by how
incredibly oblivious Dad was to my pain. I think he preferred
to avoid that subject.
behaved more like a distant uncle who calls for a friendly visit
whenever he is town. I was no longer his son in these
conversations, but rather his buddy and confidante. Nothing
serious was ever discussed between us. Just happy talk.
Now that I was his
spent most of our time talking about his children and his job.
From what Dad told me
over the years, it was apparent he loved his second and third children. The
girl was very talented, but the boy was somewhat mentally
handicapped due to a problem during the birth process. Based on the stories he told me, I came to the conclusion that Dad was a pretty
good father to these two children.
In particular, Dad exhibited
a patience and caring for his struggling son that I admired.
Dad went to great lengths to help that boy overcome his
handicaps. His concern
for my struggling half-brother indicated he was actively
helping this boy any way he could.
"Dick, I spend a
couple hours every night helping Charles and Joy with their
homework. I am so proud of them, but especially Charles.
School comes easy to Joy, she's so smart, but school is an
uphill battle for my son. Charles gets very frustrated,
but after I calm him down and give him some encouragement, that
boy works as hard as he is capable of."
I could see the pride
written all over my father's face. It gave him pleasure to
talk about what a good father he was. It doesn't get much
more ironic than this.
Here I was, the world's most miserable kid in desperate need of
attention, but instead of receiving encouragement for my own problems, my
job was to politely listen to Dad brag about how well he was
raising his other children.
To me, his behavior
reminded me of a man who makes a starving dog watch while he
feeds his favorite dog. To deal with the pain, I simply
observed him speak with an odd detachment. I must have been a
good actor because I don't think he ever had a clue the contempt I
felt for him while he told me these stories.
Okay, I was glad that
Dad had the ability to be a decent father to my half-siblings.
I did not begrudge them his attention. Good for you, Dad.
But what about me? Why would he always give me the short end of the
stick? And why would he make it so apparent that he cared
more for them than me?
My father's disdain really hurt.
I wanted to believe I was a good kid and that I was worthy of his
love, but it sure didn't seem that way.
Why would my father play favorites?
Or, more to the point, why would my father play favorites and
discuss it openly with the unwanted child? Sure I was moody and introverted, but
I never gave my father a bit of trouble. Okay, so I was
withdrawn and insecure. Is that any reason to give up on me? I was at a complete loss
to understand how he could care for these two children, but not me,
his first child. This was the mystery.
Where had my father gone
to? I was certain that he had loved me when I was a little boy.
Now it was
like he had a blind spot for me. I could not imagine what I
had done to lose his love.
I tried so hard to
please him, but it didn't seem to make any difference.
lost interest, that was apparent. I will never know the real reason.
I laid much of the responsibility for this pathos on the doorstep of
Stepmother. I was ten years old when the brush-off began.
I don't know why she disliked me so much, but from the start I could sense she really did not want me
around my father. I resented her deeply for the wedge she drove between
In my opinion, Stepmother was the coldest
woman I have ever met.
What sort of threat could I have possibly been to
her or to her children? I was a little boy, for crying out
loud. Nor was I any brat. I was a quiet, withdrawn,
sensitive kid who missed his father.
Nevertheless, Stepmother deliberately deprived me of my father. Children depend on their parents. Who was I supposed to
What the hell was wrong
with that woman? And what the hell was wrong with my father
for his inability to defy her?
My early life had
been idyllic. I once had a happy home and my father adored
me. It was mutual; I worshipped Dad. I followed him
everywhere like a puppy dog. Dad was my best friend in the world. Why he abandoned me
after the divorce made no sense.
Once in a while, I
wonder about the strange nature of Good luck and Bad luck.
Yes, Stepmother was incredibly bad luck. She cost me my
father. Yet at the same time, Stepmother was indirectly
responsible for giving me my St. John's education... not that she deserved
any credit of course.
Stepmother had been Dad's secretary at his office. Mom suspected an office
affair that pre-dated the divorce. Mom had no proof and no
witnesses; she just felt it in her bones. Call it woman's
When my father
refused to send me to St. John's as the psychiatrist
recommended, Mom told my father she knew all about his affair.
She would use the knowledge to take him to the cleaners in the
divorce... unless he paid for St. John's.
I traded my father
for the best education in Houston.
Good luck or bad
luck? In hindsight, considering how worthless the man was, I
suppose I got the better end of the deal. However, I did
not know that at the time. I missed Dad
terribly. It was a devil's bargain to be sure.
Why would a decent man stop caring for a
child he once loved? I am sorry to say I never got my answer.
- THE BOOKWORM
AND HIS DOG
It was 1961 and the summer had just started. I was 11
and I had just finished the 6th Grade at St. John's.
Back in those days, I was quite the bookworm. Due to
my lack of friends, I was constantly reading. My
favorite books were about Greek Mythology. No doubt
that revelation comes as a great surprise to the Reader.
such a wonderful dog. He was my closest companion for the nine long years
stretching from Mom's divorce till college.
We had an inseparable bond. We went everywhere together,
especially to the neighborhood park where I constantly practiced
When I say 'everywhere', I mean it. No matter what I did, Terry always wanted to be by my side.
One day I was getting ready to visit the downtown library.
Since I lived in the Montrose area, downtown was only a
twenty minute bike ride away. As I got ready, Terry
stared at me expectantly. "No, Terry, you can't come
with me. It is too dangerous."
Terry immediately began to pout. That dog had my
number, so I relented. Since it was the start of
summer, I was in no hurry. So I decided to try an
experiment. I put Terry at the end of a long rope so
he could run along beside my bike. Keep in mind we
were headed DOWNTOWN. Busy streets, many cars, lots of
traffic to watch out for.
This really wasn't very smart, was it? But you know
what, Terry and I were a heck of a team. I knew we
could pull this off, so I did it anyway. I rode my
bike down Bagby, a semi-busy city street. I took it slow and made sure to keep
the dog on the side away from traffic. Once we hit the
skyscrapers, the traffic got too great. So I got off
my bike and we walked together the rest of the way. I tied Terry up outside the Library,
then went inside to collect 12 books, the maximum allowed.
While I was in there, I joined the Summer Book Club. I
put the books in my bike basket and home we went.
On the way home from the library, a passing truck clipped my handlebar.
The accident wasn't my fault in any way. The truck driver
swerved out of his lane and hit me.
I went flying out of
control and hit the concrete pavement hard on my hip. The truck was pulling an empty U-Haul
it. The heavy wheels of the U-Haul went right over my right ankle, cutting
it to shreds. My ankle wasn't broken, but it wasn't working
I could see the exposed bone. Yuck! Something was wrong with my hip
I was in tremendous
pain. As I writhed in agony on the street, Terry came over
and stood guard beside me. Worried about the oncoming traffic, I
had the presence of mind to able to crawl on my hands and knees
to the curb. Some
came out of her store and offered to call an ambulance.
Grateful, I also gave her my mother's number at
When the ambulance showed up, the men were very aggressive.
Without any explanation, they tried to grab me and put me on a cart.
I put my hands up and resisted. I said,
"Hold on, guys!! Wait just a minute! What about
The moment I protested, Terry stepped in. It was
amazing to watch him in action. Terry tensed up due to
the urgency in my voice. The men took one look at
Terry and froze. Now they practically fell over in their haste to step back.
I smiled grimly. That dog would protect me with his
Terry instinctively moved between those men and me.
Now my dog wouldn't let the emergency
personnel anywhere near me. I was badly hurt and in a lot of pain, but I
wasn't in any immediate danger. I
needed take care of my dog first and foremost.
One of the men asked me to tie the dog
up. Despite my pitiful condition, I actually laughed. Here I was
lying on the curb of a hot city street with my hip so numb I couldn't move and
my badly damaged ankle bleeding profusely, but these guys were asking for my help with
the dog. How absurd.
"Mister, I am not going to tie my dog. Why don't we
just take the dog with us?"
You're gonna have to leave
the dog here."
My laughter disappeared.
These men were serious.
guys crazy? There is no way I am going to tie up my dog and leave him behind!!"
These men were frowning and had their arms crossed.
They meant what they said.
When I realized how serious they were, I was suddenly
panic-stricken. I was worried they would use force to put me
in the ambulance. Then I realized as long as Terry was
next to me, that wasn't going to happen. So I focused
on protecting my dog.
These men clearly did not understand my fierce loyalty.
They would have to knock me unconscious before I would leave my dog. This dog was the most
important person in the entire world to me. Losing
Terry would be
unbearable. I would rather lie here bleeding in the
street till my mother showed up than take any chance of losing my dog. This dog was my best friend, my only friend, in the whole
world. I had my life wrapped around him.
asked again, "Why
can't we put Terry in the ambulance with us?"
"We can't put a dog in
our ambulance! We will lose our job!"
"Then I am not leaving.
You can go, I don't care. I will just lay here till my mother comes. And you better not touch me. You will have to fight my dog to get to me."
The two men
looked at each other. There was a silent agreement
that neither man wanted anything to do with my dog.
Terry was not a
dangerous dog. Not once did Terry ever bite someone or
even snap at someone. I don't even recall him
growling. But Terry had a way of staring right at
those men that paralyzed them with fear. I was so
proud of him!
Terry was protective of
me. Oh yes, for sure he was protective. Trust me, no one
would dare touch me if Terry thought I was in danger. Terry was the reincarnation of Old
Yeller. As I said, I firmly believed Terry would give up his life to protect me.
Well, that made
two of us. This loyalty went both ways. I was
willing to risk losing my leg to stand up for him.
Well, maybe not stand up, at least not at the moment.
But I was ready to lie here on this street for eternity to protect him!
scared that I might lose control of the situation. The
pain was terrible. What if I passed out? Then
they might be able to gang up from behind on my dog, grab
that rope and
The thought of losing
Terry was too much to bear. So now
I cracked. No more tough kid... I began crying. Talk about
crocodile tears! I cried my eyes out at the thought of losing
my dog. I could recover from my
injuries, but not from a broken heart. This dog was the only friend I had in the whole
turned out to be my saving grace. Thanks to all the
drama, this spot had turned
into a circus of onlookers. Cars stopped to
see what the fuss was all about plus an entire
crowd of pedestrians had gathered to witness the spectacle. I
guess there were at least twenty people watching. What
a sight this was... a wounded kid laying helplessly on the
ground and a fiercely loyal dog trying to resist two big men
who were behaving like insensitive bullies.
Suddenly the people lining the perimeter came to my aid. Some man hollered, "C'mon, you
guys, let the damn
dog ride with the kid in the ambulance!! Can't you see the kid is
everyone cheered. All the onlookers concurred with
similar comments. Suddenly I had an entire cheering section
rooting for me and Terry. Now one ambulance guy looked at the
other in frustration. They threatened again to leave me laying
there. That didn't work. Despite my pain, I
barked, "Then Go! Leave! That's fine with me."
Here I was hurt, crippled and bleeding, but I was defiant.
Not that it did me any good. The men did not budge.
Choking back tears, I said,
"You men don't understand!! I would
rather take the chance of losing my leg than lose my dog! This
dog means everything to me!"
The crowd loved
my speech. Now they really cheered for me. Seeing how upset I was at leaving
Terry, the crowd stepped up the
pressure. They raised quite a racket. Finally the men relented.
They said Terry could ride with me in the ambulance to
the hospital. Now all the onlookers cheered and clapped
their approval. Even the two ambulance drivers grinned
a little. What
I told Terry it
was okay to let the men touch me. Then I allowed that nice
lady who had phoned my mother to hold Terry's rope. I said,
"Sit." Terry was so unbelievably intelligent; he did exactly
what I asked. Terry somehow understood that these men were now
my friends and he immediately
backed off. Once the men had me in the ambulance, I
said, "Terry, come here" and gestured to him. With that, Terry jumped
in the ambulance and the lady handed me the rope.
The people all
laughed and clapped. Such a spectacle! People began to nod
their appreciation. They could see why I
had stood up for my dog. That was one heck of a smart dog! They were
also proud of themselves for the big part
they had played in resolving this odd standoff.
Now that I was in the ambulance,
the nice lady came up to me and handed me the library books
collected off the street. I was glad to get those books back; I had wondered what had happened to
Then she grabbed
my hand in an affectionate way and said, "Well, young man, it looks
like you'll need these
books this summer. You take care of yourself and that great dog of yours." I
smiled wanly and thanked her.
The ride to
Jefferson Davis Hospital didn't take long. It was only
a mile away from my accident. Before entering the
hospital, I asked the men to wheel the gurney over to a shade tree next
to the entrance. They lowered my stretcher to the ground and
then wheeled me over to the tree so I
could tie Terry up. Crying profusely due to my fear
of losing my dog and knowing how worried Terry was for me, I kissed
Terry on the nose and told him to wait for
my mother. It broke my heart to see him tugging at the rope
trying to follow me into the hospital. The poor dog was so
worried about me... he had his life wrapped around me too.
The separation broke both of our hearts.
Once inside the
hospital, I broke down badly again. Now that I was
separated from my dog, I wasn't brave any more. Not at
all. I had lost all courage. I was worried sick about my dog outside. My helplessness to protect my dog was too much for me to
bear. I absolutely could not stand the fear of leaving
him out there alone. That dog was my only friend in
A nurse heard me
crying, a black woman. She thought I was in serious pain and came over to me.
She was surprised to find I was crying for my dog, not my
injury. Between sobs, I begged the
sympathetic nurse to please give Terry some water and tell him I was okay.
I was frightened to death someone would steal him or he would get
loose. Terry was the original escape artist; I was terrified
he would chew through that rope. I also made the nurse promise to tell my mother where to find
him in case I passed out from my considerable pain.
After she left, I just laid there in a constant state of worry for
my dog. I had no idea whether the nurse had done what I asked
Fortunately, the nurse did indeed leave to
go take a look. She came
back ten minutes later and said Terry had water now and was doing fine.
She said Terry was a great dog and that he had let her pet
"I reassured your
dog that you were okay. Gosh, I think your dog
actually understood what I was saying! He licked
Choking back tears, I whispered, "Oh, thank you so much,
ma'am. I can't stand not being near him right now."
The nurse took a shine to me and kept me company.
"You really love
that dog, don't you? I have never seen a boy care
more for his dog in my life. Don't worry, things are going to be okay."
As the nurse was talking to me, Mom showed up. Mom reassured
me she had found Terry just where I left him and
that she had put him in the car for safety.
"But what about the heat, Mom? We can't let him
"I found a
tree to park the car
under so the car won't get too hot. Let me stay with
you for a while, then I will drive him home and come back if that's
"Absolutely, Mom, take Terry home and come back. Don't
worry about me. I have a bum ankle. I'll live."
found that I was more worried about the dog than myself, she was incredibly relieved. Now my mother
started crying too. You know, my
mother wasn't a bad person. She may have been an emotional
cripple, but there is no doubt she did love me. I regret so
much that we constantly butted heads throughout my childhood.
Sad to say, things would get worse during my rebellious teenage
has a happy ending. The insurance company of the driver who
hit me settled quickly. Mom was able to get out of
debt for a while and was very happy. She even thanked
me which I thought was odd. Hmm. Always glad to
take one for the team.
Terry and I spent June and July in bed while
I recovered. I read every book under the sun. Since I
could hop on one foot well enough to fetch peanut butter sandwiches,
I wasn't in any danger of starving. Nor was Terry... he got a
big corner of every sandwich. That was our deal.
I made sure to put extra peanut butter on Terry's slice just
to torment him. I would laugh as Terry went nuts
twisting his tongue to lick the sticky peanut butter off the roof of his mouth.
With Terry keeping me company, I read book after book. I easily won the library's
summer book club reading
contest. It took two months, but my ankle healed just fine. The companionship of
my dog made my suffering bearable. As long as I had Terry
beside me, I would be okay. Peanut butter, Terry, and books...
turned out to be a pretty good summer!
Cut my eye out
(01), Near Miss with the Stock Car (02)
My dog Terry
comes into my life
My dog Terry
comes into my life
Divorce, 4th grade at St. John's,
Mom begins to fall apart
Blue Christmas (03)