Hey Dog, Let's Go Home

Hey Dog, Let's Go Home

A Story by drcornelius

Story about loss and healing.


The man slipped the tiny squirming mass into the jacket of his pocket before entering the large Victorian era house.  He didn’t want his eight year old son to see it quite yet. A couple of hours later, he called the boy downstairs to the elegant, dark oak paneled dining room for the evening meal. After they had finished their mostly silent supper, the man said “I have a surprise for you” and left the dining room.  When he returned he was carrying the warm, whimpering mass, in the form of a puppy, which he carefully placed in his son’s lap. The boy pushed his chair back from the table, shying away from the sniffing, inquisitive bundle and mumbled “What’s that supposed to be for?”.

Despite his efforts to maintain a calm and caring demeanor, the man was finally at his worried wits end and he lashed out “Your mother has been dead for nearly six months now.  I miss her too. She’s not coming back and there is nothing we can do about that. It’s time you started taking an interest in something, anything. Just stop spending all your time sitting around showing me how empty you feel.”  The next day he returned the puppy to the pet store.

It was summertime in the small town not far from Fort Wayne Indiana.  School was out and kids were living the joyous, unbridled, worry-free existence that is only bestowed upon the young.  Except for one kid, that is. The one without a mother. He didn’t feel the comforting warmth of the summer sun. He didn’t smell the fragrance in the air from the summertime blooms.  He didn’t feel the cool breeze off the lake as it passed over his cheek. He didn’t notice the way the dust whorls seemed to stop and curtsey, from time to time, as they made their way down the road.  He especially didn’t notice the nothingness that had settled deeply within him over the past six months.

That’s the way it is with nothingness, when it is complete.  It is almost impossible to notice nothingness, in the absence of something, anything, to stand upon.  Nothingness is there and takes up all the space but is never seen. His nothingness seemed to have two moods.  Most of the time it lived in solemn deadness but on rare occasions it would flare into a consuming rage. The rage terrified the boy and that is why he agreed to make peace with, and become one with, the deadness.  He and the deadness had become close friends.

The boy didn’t think about the fun he used to have during the summer months playing with his friends, hitting baseballs with his father, having his mother tousle his hair as he sat at the breakfast table.  There is no room for happy memories in the middle of nothingness.

His father took him to see the village doctor, thinking some antidepressant medication might help the boy just snap out of it.  The doctor advised against it saying “Kids lose parents sometimes. Just give it time. He’ll learn to live with it.” Despite the words of the doctor, the man was worried.  Watching his son turn from a normal, joyful, engaged child to a cold and withdrawn, lifeless object made it hard for him to fight off his own depression.

The boy finished his breakfast and left the house just after nine o’clock.  He really didn’t have a destination. Just walking, anywhere, helped him to make it through the day.  This day he found himself about a mile south of town, passing an old dilapidated barn, just off the road.  The area around the barn was grown up in yellow ragweed and tall Queen Anne’s lace with its large, round blossom clusters.  The building was no longer standing up straight. Its age, the weather, and the neglect had bent its spine. The once red paint had been weathered away to a dull dark grey although faint traces of the old, ten-foot high “Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco” advertisement could still be faintly seen on the north wall.  

As he walked along, head down watching his shoes kick of puffs of dust, he heard a whimpering sound coming from a gap between two of the barn boards.   Looking through that gap, the boy saw what he thought must be the world’s ugliest brown speckled dog. It’s ribs were showing, it looked like it had the mange and there were open sores suggesting it had not been living an easy life of late.  

The boy bent over, picked up a rock and threw it with all his might at the apparition that was giving him the eye.  The dog seemed skilled at dodging objects and stepped through the gap back into the barn just as the rock bounced off a faded board, barely missing the gap.  The dog kept a keen eye on the boy. The boy flung another rock, and another, and another, and another. He kept throwing rock after rock until he had exhausted the power of his arm and of the angry rage of the nothingness.  By that time tears had appeared in his eyes, overrun the lower lids and were cascading down his cheek. Finally he turned and headed back up the road towards town.

That night right after supper the man asked his son to come to the living room window.  When the boy looked outside he saw that mangy half-starved dog he had seen and mistreated earlier in the day.  The man asked “Do you know that dog? Where did he come from?” The boy remained silent. The man decided that the dog needed feeding and prepared a dish for the dog.  He asked the boy to take it out and give it to the dog. The boy protested but did as he was asked, setting the dish on the ground a good twenty feet away from the dog.  After returning to the house, the boy, and the man, watched through the living room window as the dog quickly devoured the food, looking furtively from side to side as it did so.  It then laid down under the sycamore tree, gave its fur and sores a thorough licking, expressed a great yawn and fell asleep.

At bedtime, the boy looked out his upstairs bedroom window to see if the mutt was still under the tree but the thick, summertime foliage and the waning light of late dusk prevented him from getting a good view of the ground.  He went quietly down the stairs, past the study where his father was reading, and continued to the living room window. Sure enough, the dog was still there and still sleeping as far as the boy could tell. When the boy checked in the morning, the dog was awake but sitting in an alert posture in the same place it had been the night before.  

The next day the man and the boy walked through the village to the veterinarian’s office, with the dog following some distance behind.  They shared with the vet, the little they knew of the dog’s history but the dog would not come close enough to be examined. It stood a half-block away, always ready to run off if things didn’t look right.  The vet told the boy to keep on feeding the dog and make sure it had clean water to drink. He gave the boy some supplements to mix with the food and told him that the mange would probably take care of itself once the dog became healthier.  He also gave the boy some salve to put on the sores, if the dog ever trusted him enough to let him get close.

The boy and the dog settled into a routine consisting of the boy walking, the dog following at a distance, the boy gently tossing pebbles in the general direction of the dog, the dog deftly dodging the pebbles, the boy feeding the dog at night, and checking on it before bedtime.  It even got to the point where the dog would let the boy softly and carefully rub some of the salve on its wounds. Finally the man asked the boy whether they should call the dog their own since the boy and the dog seemed to get along pretty well. The boy was silent as he thought about it and then very tentatively agreed.  After all, he had learned the hard way that you have to be cautious about caring for things too quickly and too deeply.

Over the course of the summer, the boy and the dog slowly and carefully developed a relationship.  They had both known pain and found that recovery is never immediate and can’t be rushed. It requires more than wanting to be loved. Recovery has its own calendar and complex set of rules in its fight with nothingness.  

When school once again began, the boy was back to spending time with his friends.  The nothingness that had captured him was rapidly losing its power. About half of the time the dog was waiting for the boy when school got out and they walked home together, with the boy in the lead and the dog close behind him.  The boy often wondered where the dog went when it wasn’t waiting at school because it was always, in its designated place beneath the sycamore tree at suppertime.

One day when the dog wasn’t waiting for him after school, the boy had a hunch.  He walked down the road to the old barn where he first saw the dog. The boy hollered and the familiar canine face poked out through that same gap in the barn boards.  “Aha” thought the boy “The dog has a past to which he too must sometimes return”. “Come on dog” he said “Let’s go home”.

The man was happy because his son, although not fully recovered from the loss of his mother, was finally beginning to re-engage with life.  It appears that the salvation he so desperately wished for his son, came in the form of a beat-up mongrel dog. A form the boy had rejected, then tolerated, then accepted.  He reflected “Sometimes it’s hard to reach out for the healing we need, but then the healing, when it is ready, will come and seek us out.”

It was a warm spring day when the kids inside the school heard the screech of brakes out on the street that ran behind the school.  A little while later the principal came into the classroom and asked to talk to the boy. In his office the principal told the boy that his dog had been hit by a car and killed.  There were no tears. The boy had imagined the disappearance of the dog many times. He never worked out the details but knew that bad things almost always happen.

The man came to school and picked up his son.  He was dreading this setback and imagining that the boy would revert to the cold and withdrawn self that had followed the death of the mother.  At supper that night the boy didn’t eat. He was silent and sullen. The man said to the boy “I don’t know what to say son”. The boy looked at his father and asked “Why can’t I love without having it being smashed?” It was then he broke into tears.  The man held the boy on his lap and they mixed their tears. Not saying anything. Not trying to answer questions. Just being together trying to fight off the nothingness.

A few days later, on a sunny saturday morning, the boy walked down the road to the old dilapidated barn with the bent spine and the “Mail Pouch” remnants.  Almost from habit he called out “Hey dog” and softly lobbed a pebble at the side of the barn.

To his complete surprise there was a whining sound and a different mangy half-starved canine face appeared.  The boy said “Come on. Let’s go home.” The dog didn’t move but the boy wasn’t about to give up easily. He had a healing mission that had called him.  Although not a cure, he had discovered a way to shine a bit of light on the nothingness. The nothingness always shies away from light. He hollered out “Come on dog.  I’ve got food. Let’s go.” Finally the dog followed, though at a considerable distance behind, until the boy arrived home and went into the house. The dog circled the tree several times sniffing the ground carefully, playing particular attention to one spot.  Eventually he laid down on that spot, under the sycamore tree, and laid his head on his paws.

The boy sat at the living room window for hours, looking through the antique lace curtains and waiting to see if the dog would leave.  At lunchtime the man brought the boy a sandwich and glass of milk. He remained at this post through the rest of the afternoon. Late in the afternoon, as the sun was casting long shimmering shadows through the curtains, the boy put together a bowl of food and added some of the supplements from the vet.  He took it out and set it under the Sycamore tree, about twenty feet from the dog. The dog back up a bit, then held its ground. The boy went back inside and resumed his post at the window. After a short time the dog cautiously approached the bowl and devoured its contents. It was at dinner that evening the boy thought he had finally figured it out when he said to the man “We just have to keep going, a day at a time.  We just can’t stop. Is that right dad?”

© 2018 drcornelius

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Featured Review

This is a lovely gentle of piece of writing about something that effects each of us at some point. The loss of a loved one can have a profound effect, particularly the death of a parent on a child. The way you have intertwined the story of the stray dog is very moving. One day at a time - that is right!

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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This writing deeply touched the reader, I loved it a lot.
Thanks a lot for sharing!

Posted 1 Year Ago

This is perfect writing & superb storytelling. I was immersed in your story the whole way. I love that you didn’t make this maudlin or get into overused kid-dog clichés. The resistance from each dog & the boy made it more realistic instead of having everything go cutesy too fast. This pacing in your story is the meaning of “show instead of tell” as far as the final sentiments about taking one’s time. You use great details full of imagery, but not overdone with paragraphs of purple prose. Perfectly balanced (((HUGS))) Fondly, Margie

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.


1 Year Ago

Thanks for the review Margie. The "show instead of tell" approach is something I am enjoying playin.. read more

1 Year Ago

I write sketchy stories, too, after 30+ years of technical writing, where my audience hated reading... read more
This is a lovely gentle of piece of writing about something that effects each of us at some point. The loss of a loved one can have a profound effect, particularly the death of a parent on a child. The way you have intertwined the story of the stray dog is very moving. One day at a time - that is right!

Posted 1 Year Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Added on June 3, 2018
Last Updated on June 3, 2018
Tags: depression, healing, loss



Sarasota, FL

Poet, song writer, dream chaser, and retired psychologist. I thrive in the mountains of northern New Jersey during the summer and Sarasota Florida during the winter. more..