The first time it happened I was five years old and just learning to write more than my name and dog and cat. Writing fascinated me. Even before that, as soon as I could hold a pencil, I would sneak one of my daddy's yellow legal tablets and scribble lines across the page, pretending to write. A blank page is a siren call to me. I can’t help but put something on it, scribbles, doodles, whatever. Stories are best, of course. I love stories, telling, writing, reading.
And my stories always start with a character—of course, what else? For my first story, the character was a dog. I wanted a dog. I begged and begged my mother. Pleaded with my father. But we moved a lot, and they wouldn’t hear of it. Too much trouble. No place for it to live. Costs too much to feed. Dogs are noisy. The excuses were unlimited. Dog hair all over the place. That was mother’s favorite. I’m allergic. That was daddy's. Then he’d sneeze not very convincingly. We really did move a lot. And lived in little apartments and sometimes motels.
So I decided to write myself a dog. I carefully sharpened a pencil with the little knife on daddy's key ring. When mommy wasn’t looking. She’d have had a fit. I pulled a chair up to the desk in the motel room we were staying in. Turned on the desk light. Sat down. Got up to get a pillow from the bed for the chair. I was pretty short even for my age. And started writing.
‘My dog is black, with short kerly hare.’ That didn’t look right, so I asked mommy to look at it. I started over on a new page. ‘My dog is black, with short, curly hair. He is about…’ I thought for a minute, erased that last part and wrote ‘He is halfway to my knees tall. He has little white teeth and he smiles a lot and loves me more than anything. He doesn’t eat anything much and he doesn’t leave dog hair on anything. When we have to move he will sit on my lap in the car and won’t take up too much space. He will only bark when I am in danger because he is my guard and best friend. He has little pointy ears that stand up. And blue eyes.” I had to ask my mother to spell some words. I forgot about my father's allergies.
Every night before I went to bed for the next three days, I read the words in a whisper so they wouldn’t hear. Every night I dreamed about my little black dog. I wrote more each morning. ‘His name is Tiger.’ ‘He has one white foot.’ ‘His eyelashes are very long.’ ‘He loves to play catch with a little red ball.’ ‘His water dish is yellow with blue flowers around the edges and his food bowl is pink.’ ‘He doesn’t like for me to tie bows around his neck and paws them off when I try.’ ‘He has a collar with a tag that has his name on it.’ ‘His tail is short and he wiggles all over when he wags it.’
For three days I wrote my dog. The night of the third day I finally wrote ‘The End’ and went to bed.
The next morning when my dad went out to McDonald’s for our breakfast Tiger was sitting just outside the door to our room, his yellow water bowl with blue flowers, his pink food bowl were right there. He had a ragged red ribbon around his neck and a red ball in his mouth. The tag on his collar said, Tiger.
That was the first time it happened.
The dog went straight to the pound.
That night I started writing again. "My mother and father love dogs. They love my dog Tiger." I wrote for three days and whispered the words for three nights.
Daddy went back to the pound and got Tiger.
That was the second time it happened.