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Hot Dog
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If I try to crawl back into bed, he woos me with impish charm. He runs around the living room with the handle of my hairbrush in his mouth. For the love of liver treats, he learns “roll over.” Since my father’s diagnosis, I’ve been trying to make everything okay and thanks to my Boston Terrier, some­times it is.

My father recently spent an entire month in the hospital. He’d exhausted all treatment options. He couldn’t walk, was fed through a tube, spoke in a whis­per. I arrived early one morning to visit him, the two of us alone in the stark room.

“Get me out of here,” he said.

I readied the wheelchair for a trip to the recreation pavilion.

“That’s where we’ll tell the nurses we’re going,” my father schemed and pulled out his intravenous lines. “Wheel me out the side door. Hail us a cab to your apartment.”

An untenable plan, I told him. He’d been prone to falls. His painkillers might wear off. The hospital could refuse to treat him over a stunt like this. “No way, Dad. I love you,” I said, “but there’s too much at stake.”

My father, a meatpacker, a Marine, macho personified, wept into his hand­kerchief. “I’ve been dreaming for weeks,” he gasped, “of playing with the puppy on a big bed.”

I did what a compassionate daughter ought to do. I helped him into his shoes.

“Do you know who this is?” my father said when I put Iverson in his arms. “This is my grand-dog.” He scratched the black diamond on Iverson’s belly. He bundled Iverson in a blanket and watched him tunnel out. Iverson licked his cheeks wet with kisses. The puppy didn’t see a sick man. He saw a smiling face. And I saw a Boston Terrier keeping my father from fading away.

My dog is no trendy trapping of urban swank. He’s way too cool for that. 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 32: Fall 2005
Pari Chang is a former attorney who has written essays for The New York Times, Glamour and Self.

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