By Tom Brenner, September 2019

A puppy was the last thing we wanted. But his was a sad story, so Buster came home in the crook of an arm.

He sports a brown brindle coat flecked with tawny gold. His legs, halfway up, are white, like stockings. A diamond-shaped white patch marks the back of his head and a white tuxedo front runs up and over his face, which is dappled with brown bits, as though he just finished lapping up your cup of cocoa while you ate your toast.

(He wants the toast, too. The little devil.)

Chewing things brings great joy, especially if they turn into splinters. Anything that rips is beyond excitement. Noise is a big extra: a plastic bottle snatched from the recycling bin gives loud crunches and crackles when he bangs it around, then kicks it along the floor.


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Sometimes he grabs a silly-faced round puffball by its ear and shakes it mightily, as if it has been naughty again, and his growls say That’s enough. Then, finished, he turns, stalks away, head up: another enemy defeated.

It keeps us sweeping … moving things higher on the shelves … gathering shoes (now featuring tooth marks) … sorting out jumbles of socks.

Yet in our lap, his weight spreads out and his breath becomes a steady, deep rhythm of content; his smooth coat and silky ears a delight to stroke; his trust, as he lets out a satisfied sigh—spellbinding. He is one of us, one of the family.

Oh, to know his dreams.

So the brim of the cap is chewed? It still fits. So the book cover is destroyed? The book can still be read. The plastic gets recycled.

Buster brings a love like no other, a link to ancient times. The cave and clan are safe.

For now.

Article first appeared in The Bark, Issue 98: Summer 2019