Mommy says the white and brindle Russian wolfhound we visit has bonnet ears. He will never be a show dog. We walk the long treed Salt Lake City Avenues to see him because he is beautiful like art. So while admiring the art that is the brownstone Victorians and painted Queen Ann houses in our neighborhood, we pay our respects to this artistically beautiful dog. Each day we walk to the yard where he is kept and each day my mother tells him just how beautiful he is. Her soft words coax the shy dog to press his nose through the chain-link fence, allowing us to stroke his face and crooked ears.
On one particularly hot summer day a neighbor lady sees us. She’s the nosy grey haired kind with sharp eyes and a sharper tongue. Crossing her lawn she walks to the fence that separates the dog’s yard from hers. Lifting a running hose she drops the end over the fence letting the water run into the burned yellow grass. The Wolfhound bites at the water, sucking it down greedily.
“If I don’t feed and water him he’ll die. That terrible man who owns him would let him die.” Looking around we see there’s no water dish anywhere. “When he goes away on business he locks the dog in the basement. I hate hearing the poor thing cry when I can’t do anything for him. It would be a good thing if this dog got a good home.”
Mommy doesn’t say much. We thank the woman for her kindness but the next time walk to the house I notice my mother check the driveway for a car before peering into the house to look for lights. I can’t tell how many times we pass that house and pet that dog before we spot a car in the drive. Without hesitation Mommy parks the stroller at the bottom of the steps.
“Stay with your sister and be quiet.” I nod my head and watch her walk up the cement stairs to the porch. It’s not a pretty porch, not like ours. The house isn’t a Victorian. It has a sad sort of 1950’s utilitarian look to it. Three knocks bring no one. Three more bring a man to the storm door, a look of suspicion and annoyance on his face.
“I’m so sorry to bother you,” Mommy’s smile is all charm. “I just noticed your beautiful dog and was interested to know where you bought him. I’d love to have a dog like him.”
“He’s from back east. Supposed to be imported stock but he has bad ears. He can’t be shown or bred. They sold me a bad dog.”
“Oh I don’t mind his ears. I don’t breed dogs I just like them. Do you happen to remember the breeder’s name? I know you probably wouldn’t want to part with him but I really want a Russian wolfhound.”
The guy looks from her to the skinny dog and back again. “I work a lot,” the man says, his features softening, “and I paid a fortune for that dog but honestly with those ears he’s worthless.”
“I think he’s beautiful.” Mommy takes a piece of paper from her pocket with our number on it. “If you remember the name of the breeder or ever want to sell your dog, give me a call.” The man’s eyes soften slightly.
Three nights later I watch my mother leave the house alone. My daddy sits on the porch with us as the late summer sun sets low behind my friend Jenny’s house. An hour passes and then I see something I’d never dared dream of. I see my mother walking towards us with the Russian wolfhound gliding gently beside her.
“He’s skinny.” My daddy says when he sees her come in the gate. Our big St. Bernard Sadie runs up to greet them. The wolfhound hides behind Mommy but Sadie’s joyful panting and playful personality soon put him at ease. Inside the gate he is set free to run and play with our dog. Daddy names him Arrow from a record called ‘Me and My Arrow’ because like the lyrics in the song say, our dog is, “Straight up and narrow.”
Arrow gains weight, he gains confidence, he gains a family that loves him but best of all he gains a mate for life. Sadie and Arrow run off leash in Lyndsey Gardens where Arrow preforms the magical leg trip that summersaults Sadie off her paws and onto her back. We watch Arrow go in for a pretend kill, snapping at Sadie’s tummy as if she were a real wolf. His instincts are strong but so is his love for the chubby St. Bernard. She’s up again in seconds, running as fast as she can beside him.
Wolfhounds hunt as one, live as one and love as one. Like the wolves they’ve been bred to kill, they are pack animals, loyal and selfless to the end. I’ve come to realize that the day God takes our Sadie home, our Arrow won’t be far behind her. They’ve bonded and are bound by a pack love that was born the night Mommy brought our Arrow home. To imagine Arrow without Sadie now, is like trying to imagine a blue sky existing without the sun.