By the end of the third grade, Dad started dating. He had a new girlfriend, Katie. She was young, she was 25, Dad was 40. I didn’t really get it.
She moved in with us pretty early on and she made big changes in our world. Katie made Dad tear up our dark green carpeting and refinish the hardwood floors that were underneath. She redecorated our home so things were generally a lot lighter. Katie also updated Dad’s wardrobe with new light grey Reebox and brighter colored shirts of my favorite colors, pink and purple. He didn’t seem to mind the changes. In fact, I think he really liked them.
Katie also got us a new dog, a big dog, a fancy dog that flew all the way from California. It was called a Bouvier des Flandres and his name was Igor. The first thing he did when he came into our house was he sprung from all fours above my head several times. We would soon learn that was Igor's thing when people he liked came to visit.
Needless to say, I was excited about him too. Even though he was probably double my own weight at the time, I begged Dad to walk him by myself. He finally and very reluctantly agreed but with rules. First rule was I could only walk Igor to the circle and back (which was about a block away) and second, if Igor tugged me, I had to “let the damn dog go. He isn’t worth it.” I didn’t quite understand that rule though because I knew Dad spent a lot of money just getting him from California. I nodded my head eagerly to agree and then we were off, just the two of us, Igor and me!
I walked down the street with my chest in the air because I was so proud of my new responsibility of having a dog but mostly because I needed to seem taller because we were pretty much eye to eye. We walked very well together all the way to the circle. Rule number one, success! We were both very obedient.
About halfway home from the circle, we crossed my neighbor’s gravel driveway when Igor saw a furry critter, Mr. Squirrel. Immediately, Igor dashed for him to the other end of the driveway. I held on and didn’t let go. Rule number two, broken. No way was I going to let this guy think he was in charge of me on the first day! He dragged me about 10 feet and I screamed at him, “IGOR! NO!” with the deepest. most commanding voice I could muster up from the depths of 60lbs of my little child body. I somehow broke Igor’s fixation on Mr. Squirrel, who made his escape up a tree. Igor stopped and looked back at me to see what to do next.
I held back the tears as I made my way back to my feet and dusted the gravel dust off of my clothes and my knees, which were bloodied and imbedded with the tiny little stones. I hobbled the rest of the way home and Igor bounced along my side as if nothing happened. As we approached my house, my Dad stood at the end of our driveway looking at the scene. He saw my bloody knees and my inner battle of fighting off the tears with a big smile on my face. He started laughing and shook his head like he often would do and said, “I told you to let go of that damn dog!”