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We went to bed, it was phenomenal, as always, even though I knew what I would say when it was over. I knew if he didn’t bring the dog, that was the last straw.

I didn’t call to change my mind. I guess I thought if I could hold out long enough, it would be that great with somebody else.

The need for him cycled like a recurrent fever, hid around corners waiting to trip me. Swept me offshore like a rip current. The missing him. It sang to me, an opiate drug reminding me how warm and familiar it had always felt, could always feel again. How easy it would be to fall back into. But I didn’t call. Thinking the Universe would reward my resolve.

It’s never been that good with anybody else. And God knows I’ve tried. At least it was over before I promised to take the damned dog I’d never met. It irked me that I’d forgotten to ask the dog’s name. There’s always one thing you can’t let go of, and it’s usually something peripheral and fairly unimportant. I guess it’s easier that way.

Carrie says, “Maybe you should change his name. It might make him sound friendlier.”

Ellen says, “I don’t think the issue is how he sounds.” She sits on the floor by the window with her arm around the dog. They both hold still because Carrie is sketching them for a portrait. Dante seems to understand the art of posing. Dante seems to understand everything. Ellen is beginning to think the kennel man was right.Maybe there’s only just so smart a dog should be. “What do you think I should call him?”

Carrie seems to consider this, and when she decides, Ellen knows by her smile. “Grant’s Revenge.”
“Right. Friendly. I don’t want to change his name.”
“Do you think that’s why he had you take him?” “What do you mean?” She knows what Carrie means. She’s considered it herself, at some length.
“How long since you’ve been with a man?”
“Five or six months.”
“For real, Ellen.” It’s a little game they play.
“Okay, seven months, 13 days. Not counting that one time.With that one guy.Who didn’t deserve to be counted.”

At first it seemed rational to think she’d leave the dog at home and go to his place, whoever he was. But she has not succeeded in leaving the dog alone. He’ll get out, and follow. Through a window if necessary. So she takes him places with her, or she gets Carrie to baby-sit.

Since leaving the city, she works at home, on the Internet. Thank God.

Potentially she could leave the dog with Carrie and go to his place, but Carrie has a life, too, and Ellen hasn’t found a him who doesn’t consider that a burdensome limitation.

“So, do you think that’s why Grant did it?”
“No. I think it was because nobody else would have kept the dog.”

She realizes that if she were to die, she’d have to obligate someone to Dante, too.

“So, in other words, Grant’s dead, and you’re still being the one person he can always count on.”
“Don’t artists usually like silence when they work?”
“You should think about getting rid of him.”

Dante breaks the pose. Slinks, and pushes his head onto Ellen’s lap.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of the story collection Earthquake Weather as well as numerous novels, including Pay it Forward (which was adapted for film and has been translated into 20 languages),Chasing Windmills (Doubleday, Spring '08) and The Day I Killed James (Knopf, Summer '08).

Photograph by Marcy Robinson

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