Whenever we went on vacation, we always took our dogs with us.
Kennels were absolutely out of the question as we considered our pets to be members of the family.
You don't put your loved ones in a cage just because you feel like getting out of town for a few weeks.
There were a few occasions, though, when we were staying at my aunt’s farmhouse in the Berkshires when we had to leave our dog, Casey, at the house.
Usually we’d be going to the movies or dinner and it wouldn’t be right make him sit in the car for two or more hours. And just before we left my father would explain the situation to Casey.
“Casey,” he’d say, “you have to stay home and guard the house. Guard the house.”
My dad usually said it twice to drive the point home, but honestly he didn’t have to tell Casey even once. Dogs are natural born guardians, ready to lay down their lives for their loved ones without a moment’s hesitation.
I thought about the dogs in our family recently when my sister and I made one of our nighttime rides by our childhood home on Senator Street.
We sold the house three years ago, but we still like to drive by every so often to see what’s become of the place where our parents raised us.
The new owners have made some modest changes to the exterior, but the house always seemed eerily uninhabited whenever we go by, dark and lifeless, and sharply contrasting with the other homes on the block.
There were times when we wondered if the owners were going to try and flip the place just to make some fast cash—which, of course, they have every right to do. They own the property and they can do just about anything they want with the place. But that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
However, things were different on this last ride. As my sister slowed down, we could see a car in the driveway and there were lights in the upstairs apartment.
But, most importantly, we saw the silhouette of a dog’s head in one of the second floor windows. He—or she—sat motionless, looking out on the street below.
It probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it meant a lot to us. I felt like the house was finally becoming a home.
A dog is a sign that there’s a family living there, that there’s stability. The new residents are putting down roots.
I thought about our parents and all our old neighbors who used to live on that block, almost all of whom are gone now, and the new families moving in to what used to be our space.
It’s a bittersweet feeling, but I’m glad there are people living there.
We had a number of dogs in our family: Casey, Schnapps, and before my time-Kerry and Daphne—all loyal and loving, all devoted guardians.
I don’t know anything about the new people and I’m in no hurry to find out, just as long as they’re happy and they put the house to good use.
And to that dog we saw in the window, I want to say keep up the good work. Keep guarding the house.