For Lobo

My dog’s name was Lobo, a name that my mom chose for him. The word means “wolf” in Spanish. I was in grade 2, about 7 years old, when we got him.

The day I first found out we got a dog, I was at my friend, Alanna’s, house. Alanna’s mom brought me the telephone while we were playing and it was my sister on the phone, which was odd. What reason would my elder sister have to call me for? If my family wanted me to come home, why wouldn’t my mom call? Jessica, my sister, was squealing into my ear; I couldn’t understand a word she was saying. After asking her to repeat herself multiple times, she calmed down enough to say mom got us a dog. I didn’t believe her. If I had, I would have asked Alanna’s mom to take me home immediately. But when I got home just before dinner time, Jessica led me straight to the puppy. He was the cutest little thing — he was mostly black, with brown legs and brown patches around his eyes. His tail wagged vigorously, and his big brown eyes sparkled. He had floppy ears and would stumble over his disproportionately large paws. Needless to say, we played with Lobo for the remainder of the day.

My dad was surprised when he got home, but not unhappy. He was a big dog lover. My mom explained to him how she had picked up Lobo for free from someone giving away puppies a few streets over. However, this person had not told her anything about the puppy. Obviously it was easy to identify his sex, but we couldn’t be certain about his breed. My dad decided he looked like a Rottweiler and was surprised that my mom had chosen him,; he figured she would want a small dog as opposed to a big one. It turns out my mom had thought he was a small dog. Haha, nope. My dad pointed out his gigantic paws as proof he would grow.

And boy, did he grow. He began to look more like a German Shepherd, although with a shorter snout, those floppy ears, and more bulk. So we determined he was half Shepherd and half Rottie. In his prime, he was extremely handsome and built of solid muscle.

He was an alpha dog, and would dominate any and all other dogs he met that could match or beat his size. He came across as quite vicious sometimes, due to his alpha and guard-dog nature. Many of my friends were very hesitant to meet him when they came over for the first time, after seeing him barking madly from behind the gate to the backyard. But as soon as I would tell Lobo they were a friend, and I’d have my friends hold out their hands for him to sniff, he was a perfectly polite pup, despite his intimidating appearance.

There were a couple of incidents in which Lobo was not so polite, but if you ask me, he had very good reason to not be. One time when we left him with my grandparents to dogsit, one of their visitors broke his tail — or at least seriously sprained it. I don’t know why she had been harassing him, but when I found out he had turned around, leaped up, and bitten her right in the jaw, I felt no remorse. Don’t freak out, though, she wasn’t seriously injured.

That can’t be said for Lobo’s next bite victim, though. To explain this one, you must understand that my poor pup was bullied, often. The street on which we lived was a popular one for kids to walk on to and from school. Lobo was outside most of the time and so, when he was being a good guard dog at the gate to the backyard, kids would throw stones at him. We even had a shitty little paper boy who would jab him through the bars of the gate with a stick as well as throw stones. So I was taking Lobo for a walk one day with my grandmother and Jessica, and we were approaching a paper boy going the opposite direction. It wasn’t our paper boy, but he was pulling along the same type of cart filled with newspapers whose wheels made the same squealing sound that our paper boy’s did. Lobo went nuts. He started lunging at the boy, barking, growling, held back only by my grip on the leash. Jessica encouraged me to let him go, that he just wanted to say hi. So I loosened my grip on the leash. This was extremely stupid — I shouldn’t have listened to my sister and I’m not sure why I did. Lobo crashed into the boy, jumping up and biting hard. Later, the boy’s doctor would tell us that had the boy not lifted his arm to protect himself, Lobo probably would have had his throat in his jaws, and could very well have killed him. As it happens, my dog bit the boy in the arm. I yanked him away as hard as I could, but the damage was done. My grandmother helped the crying boy to his house while Jess and I took Lobo home.

My dad was making calls and answering them all evening that day, speaking with the boy’s father. Many times, my dad offered to have Lobo put down, telling the boy’s father to just give him the word. I spent that whole evening in tears. Lobo was a good boy, it wasn’t his fault. He was just afraid. I couldn’t imagine having to lose him.

You see, Lobo was my best friend. Dogs are consistently loyal where people are not. I don’t know what it is about being a middle child, but I was often excluded from my siblings’ activities. My brother and sister were very close and I was the outsider. But anytime I’d be feeling lonely and left out, I could count on Lobo. I would teach him tricks, we would play tag and catch and fetch (he wasn’t very good at bringing the stick back, though). Sometimes we would even just sit together — I would read or sing and he would chew on a bone or nudge at my hands, looking for a belly rub.

My dad explained to the paper boy’s father how Lobo was teased and didn’t attack people on a regular basis. The boy’s father happened to also be a dog lover. He understood and didn’t want to take our dog away from us kids. Thank you, paper boy’s father! Lobo was safe.

From then on when walking Lobo, I would reel him in when we neared other people or other dogs. I was not going to risk another surprise attack ever again. I noticed when I did this that we would be given a wide berth, which was good but probably unnecessary. It must have appeared to others walking by us that Lobo was a pretty vicious dog, because as soon as I spotted someone within fifteen feet of us, I’d pull him in so close that his fur would rub against my leg. People would notice this and would give us as much room as possible. I would feel an odd sense of power.

Now I’ve probably made Lobo sound like a savage animal, but he wasn’t. Admittedly, he was wary of strangers but always gave them a chance. And unless that stranger was a paper boy, he was very friendly and excited. With his family, he was gentle, kind, and loving. When I would hand him food, he would very carefully take it out of my hand to avoid hurting me with his teeth. There came a time when I could even take his food straight out from under his nose and he wouldn’t snap at me (which, in my experience with the many dogs I’ve met, is very unusual). Lobo was also very smart. I truly believe he would have been an impressive student had he ever taken professional training. As it is, he never received any but the most basic training that amateurs can teach a dog. And yet he was very well-behaved, good-natured, and could learn tricks very quickly (even when his age began to catch up to him!).

There was a point in high school when I became very unhappy. I’m not the type to talk things through with others, but to deal with it myself, internally. Lobo was my rock during that time. I didn’t have to pretend to be happy around him and I didn’t have to talk either. And when I’d go to him in tears, he would lick them from my cheeks or press his face into my shoulder. I don’t care what anyone says… I know he could feel the change in my emotional state and he wanted to comfort me. He would choose me over food and over toys.

Three years ago, Lobo ran away. I no longer lived with my dad at that time, so it was probably about a month later when I found out. Lobo running away was not unusual. It would happen regularly actually, but we would always find him near the house and bring him home. This time, though, my brother couldn’t find him.

I don’t remember the last encounter I had with my pup, which saddens me greatly. But I would be willing to bet that he had given me a kiss goodbye and I, him. Though I know where he must be now, I like to imagine that he found a magical doorway into a doggie haven and is having the time of his life.

Well, who knows? Maybe I’m right. I miss you, Lobo.

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