This I Believe

Adriana - Smyrna, Tennessee
Entered on September 13, 2006
Age Group: Under 18

My First Pet

I once had a dog, and his name was Tobi. All my life I had wanted a dog. I longed for someone to play with, to laugh with, and to explore with. Those days are gone, and other dogs have come. Years have passed quicker and quicker, but I still remember clearly this first pet of mine.

On my eleventh birthday, I was presented with a large cardboard box. Out of this box popped a wet black nose. This nose belonged to a mutt with blond fur that I named Tobi. I was so excited; I didn’t even think to touch him. Instead, I yelled to my sister, “Marilu, come look!” He was my dearest dream come true.

Tobi was a wild puppy, and grew to be a wild dog. He would never be a dog like Lassie, or Shiloh, or even Old Yeller. He was too rough, too strong, and too uncontrollable. I loved Tobi, though, and even though he infuriated me through actions such as tearing my new clothes, biting me, and scratching me till I bled, I refused to let him go.

Tobi would never listen to me. The only person he listened to was my father. We did not have a fence at my old house, so Tobi was leashed to a dog run for most of the day. I can remember one time where I had unhooked him to let him roam free. I was at the side of the house when I saw a whirl of yellow fur racing towards me. I remember fifty pounds of canine colliding with my eleven-year old body. I was thrown up in the air and came down on my shoulder on the grass.

Tobi was fascinated with birds. Not birds nearby, on the ground, but birds in the sky. He was loose one day and got captivated by a bird flying across the sky. My backyard

was attached to a main highway, so this was very dangerous, with cars screeching and speeding to get to their destinations. Tobi kept his eyes on the airborne bird the entire time, not even noticing the passing traffic as he ran across the busy street. I had never been so frightened in my life. He had no regard toward the motorized beasts that could end his life in a second’s notice. Luckily, though, he made it across and back without harm.

I had never had the responsibility of being in charge of someone else’s life. I decided when Tobi was fed. It was me who decided what he ate, when he ate, and how long he was free, yes, me! I was his center. I played the role that parents play with children. He revolved utterly around me. Perhaps this was why I remember Tobi as I do. To be handed the power of another living, breathing being seemed incredible at the age of eleven.

As I mentioned, Tobi was insane. He really was. He would jerk free from the dog run and when I would find him after searching for hours, he would stare at me with this wary there-is-no-way-you-are-tying-me-up-again look. I suppose all animals, well actually, all living things, yearn for freedom, but Tobi yearned for it more than any person or thing I had ever see. He was like a proud, wild stallion, fierce and fearless. It was like he needed freedom. I used to wonder if he dreamed of this, of being utterly free and wild. I had never even regarded freedom as a privilege until this dog became my pet.

About a year and a half after I got Tobi, my family and I moved from our old house into an apartment to wait for our new house to be built. The apartments did not allow pets, so my aunt kept Tobi on her land. He still wasn’t free; my aunt and uncle had never invested in a fence, so Tobi was once again tied up to a dog run. I visited Tobi

occasionally, but I started to regard him as a duty, not a joy. It was very hot that summer and I hated the idea of being outside for more than ten minutes. Absence did not make my heart grow fonder. To me, out of sight was out of mind.

I was cruel to Tobi. It was a bad thing to abandon him except for the scarce visits, but at the time I really did not know that my actions could ever hurt anyone. The end for Tobi came quickly. He was gone a couple months after he was sent to live at my aunt’s. He died alone, as we all do. I will never know for sure how exactly he died, only that one day in early August my aunt went out to feed him and he was limp and not moving and dead. I wonder sometimes at night when I cannot sleep how he went; wondering will always be in my thoughts now and again.

He only lived a little over two years. Those two years were enough to touch my life and teach me something. You asked us to write about something we have learned; I have learned this: Value your life and your freedom. Value other’s lives and freedom. Tobi’s life and death was a lesson for me to learn from. Every once in a while I will think about how I used to have a dog named Tobi that came to me as a gift from my parents.