Joseph Wants a Dog

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti stared out the kitchen window and watched the rain pour down. The branches of the evergreen trees across the street waved back and forth in the wind like giant arms waving goodbye to someone they loved.

“Looks like a great day to stay inside,” G.M. muttered as she shuffled into the kitchen.

“I wish we were at the ocean!” Joseph said. “Mac told me how great it is to be at the ocean during a storm. She said the waves are huge and powerful and really fun to watch. I don’t think I’d like to be on the ocean in a boat during a storm though,” he added.

G.M. shuddered. “I’m very sure I wouldn’t want to be!” she said. “It’s only safe inside somewhere in any storm because of lightning danger.” She picked up the teakettle. “Do you want some tea?”

“I want a dog,” Joseph answered.

What?” G.M. asked. She set the teakettle in the sink and looked at him.

“I want a dog,” Joseph repeated still staring out the window.

G.M. turned on the faucet and filled the kettle. “I have Lemon Zinger tea and peppermint tea and apple cinnamon,” she said.

“Maybe a German Shepherd or an Irish Setter,” Joseph replied. “I can’t decide. I want a big dog, not one of those yappy little dogs with bows in their hair. And I don’t want one of those dogs with practically no hair either. Chihuahuas. I don’t want one of them.”

“Do you want some tea?” G.M. asked.

“I want a dog,” Joseph said.

G.M. sighed. “We are not communicating. You’re supposed to answer the question I ask you, not one of the ten million questions I’m not asking you!”

Joseph looked at G.M. He grinned. “I want a dog.”

G.M. couldn’t help grinning back at him. “I’ve heard that before,” she said. “Now, do you want some tea?”

“Peppermint, please,” Joseph answered politely.

G.M. put the kettle on the stove and took two mugs from their pegs on the wall. She pulled out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table. “Why do you want a dog?” she asked.

“Every kid wants a dog!” Joseph exclaimed. He glanced out the window again. A bright yellow umbrella with sticking-up yellow ears was bobbing across the lawn. “Here comes Mac!” he said. He opened the back door. The wind whipped in.

Mac clumped up the porch steps. She ducked out from under the umbrella and shook it. “I’d better bring this inside or it will blow away,” she said. “And I don’t want it to blow away. I love it! It’s the best umbrella I’ve ever had!”

“Let me see it,” G.M. said.

Mac stepped into the kitchen and proudly reopened the umbrella. Two big, black eyes, a round, red nose, and cat whiskers decorated the front. A perky red bow was fastened next to the left ear.

“And look! My boots are yellow too! And so is my sweatshirt. I am color-coordinated!” Mac pointed out.

“You look quite dashing!” G.M. said admiringly.

Joseph laughed. “Where did you get that?” he asked.

“My dad brought it home for me. Don’t you just love it? Isn’t it the cutest umbrella you ever saw?” she answered.

“It would be cuter if it were a dog’s head,” Joseph said.

“Are you getting a dog?” Mac asked eagerly.

“Maybe,” Joseph answered.

“No,” G.M. said.

Mac blinked.

G.M. sighed. “It’s his only topic of conversation so far this morning,” she said. “Dogs.” The teakettle began to whistle. G.M. stood up. “Do you want some tea?” she asked Mac.

“I’ll have Lemon Zinger,” Mac replied promptly.

That’s how you communicate,” G.M. said, pointing her finger at Joseph. “You answer the question that’s asked, not the one that’s not!”

“But why can’t I have a dog?” Joseph asked.

“Dogs are a lot of trouble,” G.M. said as she poured hot water over the tea bags.

“Not all dogs!” Joseph protested. “You can train dogs, you know. Canine companion dogs aren’t trouble. They’re very important, helpful dogs! Seeing-eye dogs help blind people, and hearing ear dogs help deaf people. And I even read a story about a kid who can’t walk very well, and her companion dog helps her keep her balance!”

“Well, you’re not blind, and you’re not deaf. And you have pretty good balance!” G.M. said. She put the steaming mugs on the table and sat down again.

“You sound like Pharaoh,” Mac commented, blowing on her hot tea.

“I beg your pardon?” G.M. said, startled.

“Like Pharaoh’s hard, stubborn heart. You have a hard heart about dogs,” Mac explained kindly.

“And I have to think of a way to soften your heart!” Joseph exclaimed.

G.M. shook her head. Her mouth wiggled at the edges as if she wanted to laugh. She took a sip of tea. “Dogs are expensive, and they are a constant responsibility,” she said.

“But you want me to learn to be a responsible person!” Joseph pointed out. “And I have to have a responsibility in order to learn to be responsible!”

“Dogs are an everyday, practically-forever responsibility,” G.M. said. “You can’t get a dog and then decide two weeks later that you don’t want to take care of it. That you’re tired of walking it, and feeding it, and cleaning up its messes.”

“Messes?” Joseph asked.

“Dogs don’t wear diapers,” G.M. said. “And if they did, you—the owner—would have to change them.”

Joseph wrinkled his nose.

Mac sputtered with laughter.

G.M. sipped her tea.

“But if I would do all that, could I have a dog?” Joseph persisted. “If I promised to walk it, and feed it, and clean up its messes every day?”

“And train it,” Mac put in. “Joseph could train it, and I could help him. That would soften your heart, wouldn’t it?” she asked G.M.

G.M. held her head in her hands. Her shoulders shook with laughter.

“Good morning, everybody,” Mom said, coming into the kitchen. “Is there any more hot water left? That tea smells good.”

“I want a dog!” Joseph said.

Continued next week

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