Hazel (The Answer)

An appreciation
By Murray Dunlap, December 2020, Updated June 2021

There are dogs. And then there are dogs. Hazel is the most special animal I have ever called my own. My wife and I adopted her from the humane society last week. They said she was a stray.  So, we are not clear on what her background is at all. We know that she is the most adorable Chocolate Lab we have ever seen, and now she has found her forever home. Her eyes emote happiness.

But here is where it gets hard to explain. Hazel can sit, stay, and all that regular jazz. But you must understand is that I was in an automobile accident over ten years ago and still fight for balance most all of the time. I have a traumatic brain injury, but it hasn’t had any noticeable impact on our relationship. The balance issue, however, is a daily catastrophe. But here’s the thing: from day one, Hazel instinctually knew my trouble and would wait at the top of the stairs to make sure I made it down. Then, she would trot down with her tail wagging and be all smiles to do anything I had planned. 

Now, this is much harder to understand. If we are walking in the backyard, without leash, Hazel will dart around me to the left or right side and not be in my way if I have tripped, or fall, or whatever has come up, and be ready with her smiling face on the side I am climbing up from. Tough to visualize, I realize, but the result is that a happy smiling face greets me every day. I am a writer, so when I finally sit down to work, Hazel has a bed under my desk that she enjoys while I write. Her companionship requires virtually zero maintenance, and we love her as the child we’ve always wanted. My injuries made human children seem too needlessly dangerous.

When it is all said and done, Hazel is the answer. And her eyes will tell you most anything you would like to know.

Photo: Murray Dunlap

Murray Dunlap's work has appeared in countless magazines and journals. His stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, as well as to Best New American Voices.