Part Two: My Path Would Be Different
By April Horowitz
With lots of kids in our house, we had lots of pets, including six or seven dogs who lived in our backyard. When I was about seven, my older sister Cherri brought home a poodle whose name was Putt-putt, and who had soft curly hair and long eyelashes. She had belonged to the neighbors of one of Cherri’s friends, but they really didn’t want her. They would kick and abuse her and were glad to give her up.
When she came to us her hair was matted and she was shaking and trembling. The moment she entered our house she became the center of our attention and affection. We brushed out her hair and hugged and petted her and she began to heal. And she returned our affection. Whenever anybody in the family was upset she would come over to comfort them. One of the kids she took special care of was an Irish boy with bright red hair who lived in the neighborhood and whose name was Timothy. Timmy loved Putt-putt. His dad had left and his mother was an alcoholic, and Timmy would come over just to play with Putt-putt and hold her. And whenever he did, she would put a smile on his face again.
One of the dogs belonged to me. He was a mutt named Sammy Davis Jr., and he was kind of ugly but he was mine and I loved him with a girlish passion. One afternoon I came home from school and the house was unusually quiet. Only Putt-putt and another of our dogs named Shirley were inside the house and I didn’t hear the usual barking from the backyard. So I went through the kitchen and opened the sliding door to look in on the dogs. But when I got to the yard they were gone. I went around the side of the house to see if the gate was open, but it wasn’t. Then I heard a door slam and someone moving about inside the house, and knew it was my mother.
I went in, and when I got to where she was I told her I couldn’t find Sammy or the other dogs. I could see she had been drinking and was upset but I didn’t know why. I asked her where the dogs were. Then she told me they were gone. She had called the pound and the officers had come and taken them away, and they wouldn’t be coming back. She said it was for the best.
I couldn’t believe what my mother was saying. I was in shock, bewildered and frightened. I cried and cried, and ran out into the backyard to Sammy’s doghouse again as though he might be there. But of course he wasn’t. The yard was empty. I went back inside the house still crying, and through my tears I begged my mother to please let me go to the pound to get Sammy back. But she said no. That wasn’t going to happen. Sammy would not be coming back. I felt utterly helpless and miserable. I was eight or nine at the time.
My mother had done it because she was angry. She had been drinking and was mad at my father because he had left her. All those dogs and children must have seemed too much for her to cope with. I guess her own father had set an example for her from which she could not break free.
When I look back on the harsh childhood my mother was given and the hard life for her that followed, I have only forgiveness in my heart for her. But in that moment of loss and pain, I knew for myself and in my soul that the path I was going to take would be different.