Puppy Eyes

The passing of a neighbor’s dog prompts memories of fish that swam on.

Sweet San Carlos… The city of San Carlos weaves the fabric of the American Dream. It’s the city where one reaps the reward of many amenities: our schools, our parks, great downtown, tantalizing restaurants and simply put: Nice people. They say it’s the City of Good Living – and I believe it’s because most of us choose to live here because we want just that. Good living.

Our home is hammocked between a row of homes of parents who are now either grandparents or close to it. In the three homes adjacent to ours live couples who have already raised their children on this very block. My kids are the neighborhood hooligans, running and screaming up and down the quiet streets that were traipsed years’ prior by our neighbors’ broods. While we love our neighbors calm, I believe they love our excitement.

But our kids are so lucky. They have neighbors who adore them, or do a great job pretending to. They are the neighbors who quickly return a ball kicked over the fence; a lone scooters left amid the neighborhood, a roller blade here, a whiffle ball there…

They are the neighbors who create special Halloween treat bags specifically for our children or bring by a basket of Easter decorations for our children to rifle through and decorate our home with. They invite us in for a quick visit on Christmas Eve. Our neighbors pull up our garbage cans when we leave them out and take the time to warmly greet us with a gracious smile and warm wave with all our comings and goings.

So when our next-door neighbor graciously returned the soccer ball we accidentally lobbed over the fence (after years of my kids doing it just for sport…), we had one of those impromptu neighborly conversations, but one that left me teary-eyed and in an interesting conversation with my kids at dinner later that evening.

Our neighbor told us how her beloved 12-year-old dog, Bentley, had passed away. I was so sad to see her so sad. A few tears trickled down my cheeks as I looked eye-to-eye with my neighbor and listened to her talk about her dog with great fondness. In front of my sons, I tried to hide it. But I was sad, our neighbor might not have known it then, but Bentley was a part of my life too.

I remember moving in, nearly eight years ago. I gave birth to my oldest son just two weeks after moving in. Seventeen months later our daughter was born and two years following, our youngest son. My neighbor and I shared our worries very often in the early stages.

“I’m sorry, I have dogs that bark,” she would contritely say.

“Uh, I have kids that cry, scream, hit and …, “ I stumbled over my words, still trying to identify in my mind what my little creatures were capable of, while trying to assure my neighbor that we were worthy of our new next-door position.

But I knew upfront from our candid relationship that we would trade many stories over the years. Most of those impromptu conversations I have experienced with my neighbor occurred while she was walking her two dogs and I would be loading up my kids into the car or into the house, sometimes secretly admiring the leashes she had on her darlings. 

Listening to her talk about her dog that day brought to light the time in which we have lived next door. When we moved here we had no kids and now there are three. The passing of her dog represented a new time – eight years time had passed since we first met her doggie, and each other.

My mental trip down Memory Lane was abruptly halted when Connor stuck his eye with a tree branch while chasing down a soccer ball near the hedges.

I told our neighbor we’d continue our conversation but haven’t yet. At dinner that night, there was an heir of sadness in my boys that wasn’t apparent just hours before and it had nothing to do with the branch in the eye incident.

The kids who acted as though they weren’t listening -- too busy playing soccer -- had heard it all. And all of a sudden I was bombarded with questions about Bubbles, our carnival-won goldfish that lasted just days; Blueberry, Dart and another fish whose name I can’t recall -- our Beta fish who lasted too long; and, of course, there’s Hermie the Hermit Crab, who didn’t even make it home from Petco before meeting his fate. We subsequently had three additional hermit crabs named Hermie until I just couldn’t take it any more. They were also missing Lizzie the Lizard, a lizard we found and thought was some rare lizard that lost its home and returned it to the Peninsula Humane Society.

The boys were sad about their fallen pets. And I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I looked into their puppy eyes and told them that pets die and have shorter life spans than people. But I wondered if they were sad about the passing of the dog next-door or sad that they weren’t sad enough when their pets had passed. It was another example for me of just how refined these little minds can be.

John Burdado February 03, 2013 at 10:45 AM
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