by Jim Parker from Brampton, ON
Aug 6, 16
My first eight years were spent in an endless whimper to convince my mother that the only way I would ever get good marks at school, keep a tidy bedroom and reach spiritual enlightenment was if I had a dog.
Eventually a stray followed me home. I named him Buddy.
Unfortunately, Buddy was a free spirit who refused to be constrained by our backyard fence, preferring to roam the neighbourhood where he romanced his personal harem of lady dogs.
Inevitably, Buddy’s philandering came to the attention of the North York dog catcher, who called my mother on each occasion it did and demanded five dollars ransom to end Buddy’s incarceration.
After several repetitions of this process, my mother had had enough and said, “I’m not made of money. The dog catcher can keep him.”
With the help of a telephone directory and a Toronto street map I found the animal shelter on Ingram Drive and the next day, after school, I headed off on my bicycle. The dog pound was located, inconveniently, between a police station and a firehall. Undeterred, I went inside to find a disinterested man sitting at a desk. He barely looked up from his newspaper as I approached him. He asked what I wanted.
“I’d like to look at your dogs. I’m thinking maybe my Dad would let me have one.”
The man got up and took me into the caged area.
There were dozens of dogs there, in cages stacked three high. And sure enough, Buddy was among them. He started whining frantically the moment he saw me. I ignored him; instead I focused my attention on the simple pin-latches on each cage and on the window that was propped open for ventilation. I expressed interest in a small dog that looked like a cross between a dust mop and a toilet brush. The man opened the dog’s cage and let me hold it.
“Maybe my dad would let me have this little guy,” I said. “I’ll ask him.”
With that I went on home for supper.
After dinner I got on my bike and went back to the pound. By then it was closed - locked gates and a chain-link fence.
I leaned my bike up against the fence and used it as a ladder. I was soon up and over, and scouting for the open window I had seen earlier. A row of garbage cans made a convenient step up to the window. And so I stepped up and squeezed inside. The dogs, of course, started barking frantically. Each one saying , “Take me!”
(Did I mention the police station next door?)
I used my flashlight to find Buddy. I pulled the pin on his cage.
For a moment I considered pulling the pins on all the cages, but the modicum of common sense I had stopped me.
I boosted Buddy up through the open window, and then I landed beside him with a ferocious clatter on the garbage cans.
I took off my belt and used it as a leash.
And with my pants falling down, I rode my bike while Buddy ran alongside.
When we got to the end of our street I realized I had another problem.
Buddy and I stopped for consultation. “Go home boy. Go home!” Being a clever dog, Buddy cocked his head. Then he seemed to catch the spirit of the occasion. He ran to our front door and barked. A moment later I saw my mother let him in. I waited nearly an hour. Then I walked nonchalantly in the front door. My mother pointed under the kitchen table where Buddy was contentedly digesting his bowl of Doctor Ballards.
“Guess who’s back,” she said.
I resorted to silence, the first refuge of a coward.
The next day my saintly mother called the dogcatcher and berated the poor man with words I didn’t think she knew.
For the rest of my mother's long life, Buddy was her dog and she told anyone who would listen about his escape from the pound and his miraculous return home through Toronto traffic.