With three of the four kids home for the summer that year, there was a lot going on – especially a lot of noise – around our place every day.
Indeed, there weren’t many quiet moments.
And this was one of them.
But it was too quiet.
I didn’t realize it right away as I worked in the front yard on a beautiful, sunny day while listening to sports talk radio, with callers Aaron from Akron, Melvin from Medina and Billy from Bedford analyzing the struggles of the Cleveland Indians with the show’s host.
Then, just like that, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It became crystal clear.
And with it, I angrily hurled a garden tool so hard into the ground that it nearly stuck like a spear, after which I used a word I can’t print here.
Really, though, what difference did it make? No one saw it, and no one heard it.
Because no one was home.
Only one car was gone, which meant they had all gone someplace together.
That someplace was where I had asked them not to go, and then told them not to go. For I knew that if they went, what would happen.
And as I stood there fuming, it was happening – maybe even right at that moment.
I don’t recall much of the next hour or so, only that it’s amazing how quickly – and how well – you can work when you’re full of anger, disappointment and frustration.
The members of my family had told me for a while that they were going to get a dog. They laughed when they said it, but they weren’t kidding.
I told them that they were not going to get a dog. I didn’t laugh when I said it, nor was I kidding, either.
They talked about going to Hartville Flea Market, where legendary Cleveland TV weatherman Dick Goddard, a 1949 graduate of Greensburg High School and the best friend stray animals have ever had, was going to be master of ceremonies for a big adoption fair for dogs and cats to be conducted by the Stark County Humane Society.
I talked about wiping that thought from their minds forever.
Guess who won?
And guess who lost? The way I saw it, it was me, for I knew I would have to eventually take care of the dog. I thought I already had enough to do, and I wanted no part of adding dogsitter to the list of chores.
As they pulled into the driveway, I was loaded for bear, not dog.
“I told you not to do it!” I said several times as they turned off the van.
Page 2 of 2 - When they opened the side door, out bounced a little black dog that I soon learned was a female lab mix. She happily started toward me until I angrily glared at her. She did an about-face and just as happily started exploring the front yard of her new home.
“You’re going to take care of her, not me,” I said.
“We will,” our two daughters replied.
But they were right. They did take care of her, which was fortunate for them and the dog because I was bound and determined I wasn’t going to do it – at least not right away.
In fact, I don’t know that I ever petted the dog or even spoke to her. As long as she stayed the heck out of my way, I guess I could tolerate her being around.
But I made it clear to them that the first time there was a problem, the dog was going to be on the waiver wire.
It’s funny how things work out, though.
About seven months later, I shockingly became a casualty of our ever-robust economy, getting laid off. For the first time in my life, I was out of work. And since I was going to be home for at least a little while, I was told I would now be the one taking care of the dog.
Job loss. Dog care. I didn’t know which nightmare was worse.
When everybody left for work and school that next morning, it was just me and the dog in the quiet house together all by ourselves.
I needed to talk to get all those bad feelings off my chest, so I poured out my soul to her for a couple hours. And she listened without saying a word. That’s what I needed, just somebody to listen – quietly.
As the days went on, I kept talking, and she kept listening.
We became best buddies. I wouldn’t let anyone else feed her or take her outside for restroom breaks. Those were my jobs, and I worked hard at being good at them because I wanted to please her.
And if the truth be told, I spoiled her rotten. Too much dog food. Too many treats. A seat on the sofa next to me.
Nothing was too good for my Samantha, or Sammy, as we call her.
She turns 4 years old this week.
And thanks, King family, for getting me my first dog in 41 years. I couldn’t be happier.
One man’s job loss is that same man’s gain.