Artwork by James De La Vega
I have become friendly with many of my neighbors through their pets. This is Biscuit, who jumped up on me the first time we met, and through him I met my neighbors. They rescued the Biscuit from the ASPCA – even though the dog has epilepsy, and they are constantly bringing him to the vet and is always undergoing various types of treatments. I have always loved animals.
When I was a kid in the Bronx, we got our pets from the ASPCA and it seems as if they were always sick with something or other. I don’t think that my parents liked animals very much, but me and my sisters insisted on having cats and dogs around. One of the traumatic incidents in my childhood involved my dog Sandy, another dog – much like Biscuit that we got from the ASPCA.
I went away to sleep-away camp when I was about ten years old. It was a three week stint. I still have postcards (the counselors forced you to write home) and just about every postcard has some mention of Sandy. I didn’t get along well with the other boys in the bunk, and was homesick. Not for my parents, but for Sandy. I kept a picture of him under my pillow. My parents wrote back telling me that Sandy was fine and that they would bring him to meet me when I returned to the Bronx by bus.
I managed to make it through the three dismal weeks and the big yellow school bus arrived in front of the Mosholu Community Center and I remember looking out the window and hoping to catch a glimpse of Sandy. I saw my parents waving at me. But no doggie. As soon as I got off the bus I asked where Sandy was, and my father took me aside and told me that Sandy had gotten sick shortly after I left for camp, and had to be put to sleep. All the postcards he wrote saying that Sandy was fine were lies. He didn’t want to upset me while I was at camp.
I don’t know what the right thing would’ve been to do – as a parent. But there you have it. After that, I felt that I could never fully trust them anymore. And in some ways, I never did entirely get over the loss of that dog. And I thought it was suspicious that the dog had gotten sick as soon as I left. Maybe they just didn’t want to walk him. Many decades later, I asked my father what had happened with Sandy – and he and my mother had too much to do and couldn’t be bothered walking the dog twice a day (which had been my job). They had given him to some cousins that lived in Massachusetts. So again, they had lied because if they had admitted that they had given the dog away – they knew I could never forgive them.
Well, I still get to play with Biscuit almost every day since he needs a lot of excercise and his owners walk him a few times a day. But he always reminds me of that moment when I was searching for a glimpse of Sandy through the bus window.