"He Was Bite By A Dog"
I took Nelson to the park after supper, as I often do. With summer almost upon us, it was hardly surprising to find the campground nearly full on a Friday evening. There'd be no hunting for his green rubber squirrel on the jungle gym today; there were too many small humans making use of the equipment.
As we walked past the playground, though, two children came running over, pursued by their father. I gave Nelson the command to sit, and he obeyed immediately. Then I followed, as I always do at these times, with a loud, "You sit, Nelson, and let the kids come up to you if they want to," aimed not at him, but really at the approaching father. It's my indirect way of saying, "The dog's under control, and they're welcome to come pet him, but that's up to you," and it's always seemed to work.
He was a young man, about thirty; the boy was four, I soon learned, and his sister "almost three." They were Hispanic, and the father spoke with a strong accent. The boy hung back, but the little girl rushed right over to Nelson. I addressed her, but again spoke more for papa's benefit, "He is very friendly, but he may try to kiss you. Have you ever been kissed by a dog?"
The little girl didn't answer, but the father gestured toward his son, and said something I didn't quite understand. I smiled non-committally, as one learns to do as hearing fades, and the man repeated his remark. "He was bite by a dog."
Then I noticed the scar: a good two inches across the boy's right cheekbone. My heart sank.
"Oh," I said. "I don't blame him if he doesn't want to get near."
All this time, the little girl continued to explore the depth of the Newfie coat, as her brother watched wide-eyed. Nelson sat stock-still: as I knew he would.
And then the little boy stepped forward and put his hand in Nelson's fur.
He touched for a moment, stepped back, then advanced and touched again.
That was it. He stepped back a final time and smiled. I said, "His name is Nelson, and he's seven years old. Are you seven years old?"
The boy grinned and held up four fingers. "Oh, so you're twelve," I told him. He grinned bigger and waved his fingers.
"I'm four!" he finally spoke.... leaving out the "Silly grownup!" that was so plain. Four of us laughed together, Papa and I exchanged a few more pleasantries, then we all went our own ways.
I'm sure it's too much to expect that one brief encounter will banish whatever canine nightmares might afflict a four-year-old boy with a scarred face, but I hope it helped just a little. I do know that I have never been prouder of Nelson, or felt so sure that a Newfoundland was the right dog for the moment.
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