Will and his family arrive in Georgia, dogless. He lobbies his parents to let him replace Chub, who was left behind in the move. He doesn’t have much luck but keeps on trying.
We sat on the porch and looked at Dal’s skinny, tan-colored hound.
“What’s your dog’s name?”
“Boy, I guess.”
“His name. I just call him Boy, like, ‘c’mere, Boy’. Doesn’t matter what I call him; he doesn’t come anyhow.”
Boy looked like every other stray I’d seen hanging around Yeomans. The dogs all seemed to be part of one large family and they were everywhere; lying in small groups by the side of the road and wandering through the neighborhoods. Nobody seemed to own them, at least I never talked to anyone who did, and I never saw anybody feed them either. The dogs never moved except when they absolutely needed to, like when someone shied a rock or a stick at them, and when they did move it was in slow motion. I had tried a couple of times to get close to one for a better look, but each time I got to within about ten feet the dog would get up, stretch, and saunter off in the opposite direction.
Boy lay sprawled on his belly, his head on his paws, taking advantage of the cool sand in the shadow of the porch. When he heard his name he turned toward Dal and cocked one ear, but in the dense heat even that minor activity seemed to be too much; he laid his head back down and closed his eyes.
“So, do you hunt him? What’s he good for?”
Dal thought for a moment. “Nothing much, I guess. He just kind of sticks around; goes where I go. He’s never far.” Dal reached out and gave Boy a couple of pats on the back. Boy thumped the ground once with his tail.
“Wish I still had my dog,” I said.
All of us kids had protested when we had to leave Chub behind. Dad gave all sorts of reasons; Chub was too old to travel, he’d be uncomfortable in the heat, they’d found a farm where he could run free and play with the other animals. We were skeptical and we said so. Dad wouldn’t change his mind, but he did promise to talk about getting another dog once we arrived in Georgia. So far he and Mom had avoided the discussion.
“So, how’d you find Boy? Did you buy him?”
Dal laughed. “Oh, hell no. You don’t buy a dog. He just turned up one day. I started feeding him and he stuck around.”
Boy reached his head up over his back and gnawed vigorously on his rear end and then, exhausted by the effort, slumped back down onto the sand.
I knew if I asked for a dog Mom would say no, given the size of our house, and Dad would probably go along with her. Still…
“So does he eat a lot? Where does he sleep?”
Dal was silent for a moment, like it was the first time he’d thought about these issues.
“Let’s see, food. He gets table scraps, mostly. Never seems too hungry. I think he chases stuff down like all the other dogs here. And he doesn’t much like to come in the house. I’d say he’s an outdoor dog, just a typical dog, y’ know.” He seemed ready to move on from this conversation.
“C’mon,” he said, “Let’s go on out to the river.”