“Judy, do you have a little critter in here somewhere?” asked my principal.
Vanette was glancing about my classroom, looking for the dog that had been reported by the parents of a student who was suffering from allergies each day after attending my English class.
It crossed my mind for a brief moment to deny I had a dog at school, but decided I had to be honest about my little Cocker Spaniel puppy, Detour, who was at that moment in his cage in the adjoining workroom. I was teaching seventh and eight graders at Shea Middle School in Phoenix and had, for several weeks, been bringing my newly acquired puppy to school, knowing all the while that I would eventually be called to the principal’s office for naughty behavior, but willing to take the chance, because I felt Detour needed company and care.
Detour came into my life as a happenstance of geography, or more accurately because I am one of those people others refer to as someone who “couldn’t find her way out of a paper bag”. Here’s the story:
My hubby and I had decided to buy a vacation home near Mount Baker, Washington, one of my favorite childhood destinations and the area in which my mother had grown up. On my first house-hunting trip to the foothills, which I hadn’t visited since I had summited the mountain 40 years earlier, I made a wrong turn as I drove towards Bellingham, where I was staying. I had driven awhile before I realized the scenery didn’t look quite right. I passed several farms and fields, trying to find someone to direct me. Finally, I saw a man standing by his garage, and I pulled into his driveway and got out of my car to ask directions for the quickest way to town.
As I walked towards the man, several adorable little golden balls of fur came frolicking towards me and one of the puppies broke from the pack and ran up to me. He raised his delightfully furry face, as if waiting for a kiss. I was immediately enchanted, in love at first sight! Though I had no plans whatever to add a second dog to our household and had no idea how I would get him home to Phoenix, I HAD to have that puppy. Other pets my family had had in the past, including our faithful Lab, Batman, had been rescue dogs, and I was shocked at the price the man wanted for the “Pure Bred,” but I would have drained my bank account and lived on noodles for the rest of my trip to keep the dog who had captured my heart, so in a few days, I found myself heading back to Phoenix with “Detour” in a dog carriage.
From day one, Detour and Batman bonded. Though I felt a little guilty that I had taken Detour away from his mom, I was consoled by the fact that he adored the older dog, trotting along side of him throughout the day. But, In spite of Batman’s protectiveness, I was concerned about leaving Detour home alone at such a young age for the long hours the family was away at school and work, so I hit upon the idea of just taking him along to school with me.
Yes, I knew that pets (even gerbils) were not allowed in the classroom without permission from the administration, but that didn’t stop me. I started bringing Detour to school and letting the kids hand him around during class, each getting an allotted time to fondle and nuzzle him. I had a hundred and fifty students that semester and it seemed that every one of them adored Detour as much as I did. I noticed that the ones who seemed to be especially thrilled to hold and cuddle him each day tended to be the eighth grade boys, especially the troubled ones. I would sometimes notice a remarkable change in demeanor as students petted him and some of my most challenging students began to change before my eyes. Some of the students would hang around as long as possible after class and come by after school for an extra face licking from the one who seemed always so thrilled to see them, the one who offered an unconditional love some of them had never experienced before.
It was inevitable, of course, that Detour’s days in Middle School would have to end. I sadly accepted my principal’s direction and rationalized that Detour was now old enough to stay home and would provide comfort and friendship to our aging Batman.
Little did I know that leaving my beloved at home, expecting an aging, feeble dog to protect him, would be his death sentence.
To be continued...
Art by Lycia Harding
Art by Lycia Harding