I was talking with a friend of mine last week about ghosts. The dormitory their child is living in has a reputation for being haunted. Radios being turned on and off and the sounds of footsteps in the hall when no one is there are reported as common nightly occurrences.
Real or imagined, it doesn’t matter whether you believe in ghosts or not, their existence is not dependent upon your belief. As for me, I’m not so sure because I could argue for either side, but for a moment I thought I saw and heard a ghost the other day.
It’s been a whole year since we buried Buddy, our black Labrador/Great Dane mix. At the height of his health he was almost 120 pounds, and sometimes I think I see his large frame in the shadows. Big and clumsy, he would make for a corner at full speed and slide right through as he would lose footing on all four feet.
Buddy’s happy, hurried gait was very recognizable, especially on the deck. The claws and heavy paws told you he was coming before you saw him. I heard that same sound last week as I walked out the door.
I turned to look for Buddy and saw a big black lab sliding on the deck. I wanted it to be him, knew it couldn’t, hoped it would, and realized he was gone just as the dog with the different colored collar turned and ran off.
Up until then, I hadn’t realized how much I miss Buddy. But the sight of that visitor brought it to life. I still think about Max, the large German shepherd that preceded him, but not as much. The other dogs, first Winnie then Jessie, have come and gone, and that’s all right. So it appears the void left by Buddy can only be filled by another dog.
I’ve mulled this over in my head and looked at it from several different angles. In that internal discussion I am at once the boy who wants a dog to walk and play with and the grandfather who wants to give him one. Then I am the father who sees things pragmatically and says no we don’t need one.
This lopsided tug of war was played out superbly in Episode thirty-five of the TV show, The Wonder Years. Thirteen year old Kevin is surprised with a dog by his grandfather. The problem is that Jack, Kevin’s father, wasn’t in on the surprise. Jack and Grandpa (Jack’s father) argued about the merits of giving Kevin the dog.
In this adaptation of a scene from that episode I will play the part of all three characters. It’s kind of a one-man, one-act play.
Father: Dogs are too much to handle
Son: I can handle it, I know I can handle it.
Grandpa: You can handle it, you’re fifty-four.
Father: I know how old I am, and I know what having a dog means. A dog chews things. A dog needs to be walked.
Son: I promise I’ll walk him…
Grandpa: Give yourself a chance. You need a dog.
So yes, I need a dog. I need a dog to walk, to play fetch and tug of war with. The farm needs a dog to guard it. I haven’t had any one dog for more than seven years at a time (we gave one away, one ran away, and two died too soon) so at my age I only have enough time left for six or seven more dogs.
In the Wonder Years, Jack, the father, lets Kevin, the son, keep the dog. In this episode of my life I am not entirely sure I have a ghost of a chance in convincing all the players in my life that getting a dog is a good idea, but seeing is believing.