“Theth tho nithe, Charlie! I love her! Theth amathing!” Tim was sitting in one of the chairs in the backyard, his eyes ringing with delight as he alternated between fending off and allowing Rose to lick his face. The assault of licks had been going on for the last two minutes, it seemed, and Charlie was reminded of how she greeted him when they first met. Every so often, however, her eyes broke contact with Tim and she looked at Charlie, as if for reassurance that this was what he wanted.
He found this very satisfying.
She knows she’s my dog. But she also knows that Tim is a friend. And we are friendly with our friends!
“Isn’t she, though?” Charlie chuckled. “She likes you, that’s for sure!”
Laura looked on with equal enthusiasm. “You know, I have never seen an animal behave this way with my brother. Not in his entire life. I am impressed.”
“Rose has a way with people,” Charlie explained. “If she likes them. And she definitely likes Charlie.”
Laura grinned widely at Charlie, and he felt a great sense of satisfaction and pride.
I’m becoming a proud parent.
As the three of them soaked in the incredible doggy love of Rose, Nan remained by the back screen door, quiet and withdrawn. Charlie didn’t give a whole lot of thought to her reserved mood, there being so much excitement with his dog meeting these new friends, but he did take note of it.
“I’m looking into dog training school,” Charlie said, in particular eyeing Nan, whose approval of such things he most wanted. “I think Rose… and I… could use some training. I want to make sure she’s well-behaved. I called the place, and we are supposed to go in tomorrow. They think that she’s still young enough to be trained. She’s under three years old, they think.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Nan offered. It was the first time she spoke, and there was a strain in her voice. It was almost too calm.
“Yeah, well, I know she’s a big dog, and I’ve never had a dog before. So I really want to be a great dog owner.”
“Isn’t that marvelous?” Laura said, eyeing her mother. “Charlie, I think you are going to be a great dog owner! And I definitely think that Rose made a new friend in Tim. I’m sure Tim will love to come over and visit. Won’t he, mom?”
“Oh yeth! I will come and vithit! Yeth, yeth!” Tim exclaimed.
Nan seemed to consider this. “Yes, I guess so. She seems like a… a really nice dog, Charlie.” Nan paused. It seemed she was collecting her thoughts. She took a deep breath, and both Charlie and Laura suddenly found themselves waiting on her next words, as if expecting something important.
At last, she spoke. “Charlie, I have a confession to make. I don’t like dogs. They… they scare me. When I was a child, a neighborhood dog tried to attack me. It almost bit my hand off! I admit, I wasn’t hurt. But I was scared. And ever since… I haven’t liked them. I haven’t wanted them around.”
Nan took another deep breath. “But I do like you, Charlie. You have been an excellent tenant. And Rose… she seems like a good dog, even if she needs some training, so she doesn’t dig up my bushes. And Tim loves her, and Laura loves what Tim loves. So I’ve decided that it is okay for you to keep the dog and live here.”
Then she looked at Charlie with an intensity that was almost pleading. “All I ask, Charlie, is that you please do everything you can to keep the house in good shape even with the dog living in it, and to keep the yard in good shape. I don’t expect perfection… but I love this house so much. Will you do that, Charlie?”
Charlie was suddenly moved. “I… of course, Nan. I didn’t know that you had such a bad experience with dogs. I’m sorry that happened. Yes, Rose is a big dog, and yes, Rose probably will be trouble sometimes. But… she’s my responsibility. And I will do everything I can to take care of your house. Rose and I love living here, and you have my word that I will do my very best!”
To Charlie’s surprise, tears suddenly appeared in Nan’s eyes. “Thank you,” she said. “That’s all I ask.”
She reached out to her daugher and son, grabbing each by the hand. “Outside of that… welcome to the family, Charlie’s dog.”
“Yeth! Charlith Dog! We love her, yeth we do!” Tim’s hoots could be heard down the block as landlord and her two children, and the unusual tenant with the friendly red dog all celebrated this unique special occasion.
And at that moment, indeed they were a family, brought together by a dog.