by Becca Sanders
Men used to be embarrassed to walk dogs like those,
little yippers you can tuck into a purse,
but there’s a guy who looks okay with it, I guess.
I can’t imagine my dad putting up with it.
“That’s not a dog,” he’d say.
He liked animals with some heft to them.
On the farm he had a hog named “Big Red”,
as close to a pet as an orphan gets.
Though he wasn’t strictly an orphan, exactly,
but a boy whose mother
locked the house behind her one day,
left while he was at school,
and the soap from the breakfast dishes still
melting in the sink.
It was his job to feed the hog, water him.
They ate him, eventually –
all those mouths to feed and whatnot.
We never had a dog, growing up.
My dad didn’t like the responsibility,
didn’t like the house with its creaky oil-burning boiler,
the corner lot that always needed mowing.
We had a cat, though, who died at an old age.
He was a mean sonofabitch; he bit,
and he’d have scratched if he had claws.
He only liked my dad.
I recall sitting in the car
outside the vet’s office, a late fall day.
The vet met us in the parking lot
and my father handed him the dying cat.
Didn’t say a word.
Then he got back in the car.
Hunched over the wheel,
he covered his face in shame.
Becca Sanders lives and writes in Minnesota.