My Dog Days

They’ve been steady companions as I’ve moved from house to house, station to station—and each one has provided me with a lesson about my life’s passage.

THE FIRST DOG I EVER OUTLIVED WAS MOE. He came with my family, which was in the process of getting bigger (I was the third child out of what would become five) and had adopted the dog to appease my brothers’ having to tolerate a new sister. Moe: a beagle named by boys. My delinquent brother believed he had named the dog after his favorite Stooge; my egghead brother thought “Moe” was short for Geronimo, whose history he was then studying. Moe was not exactly one of us. He lived outside, like the lawn mower, and over the years we spent a lot of time commanding and imploring him to shut up. Occasionally, my father took him hunting, which left both of them vaguely deaf. It was Moe’s baying that prompted my first sentence: “Moe bark.”

When my parents’ fifth child arrived, they moved us from our tiny tract house in Wichita, Kansas, to a giant dilapidated one. Moe and I got lost together our first night in that house, wandering the back staircase that led to the servants’ quarters. Everything was different in the new house—we even had a new sister. But Moe was the same. And though he spent the second half of his life in a much larger pen, he still lived outside with the garden tools and bikes, and we rarely visited him. There he sat at the gate, barking feebly. The big excitement was when he finagled an escape

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