I was about four years old, sitting on the floor in the kitchen playing with our puppy, Micah. My mother was at the stove finishing cooking supper when my father came into the kitchen and told me to wash my hands because it was almost supper time. It was a family rule – we had to wash our hands before we ate. I got up, went to the bathroom, washed my hands, went back into the kitchen, sat on the floor and played some more with Micah. My father told me to go wash my hands. I didn’t question it; I got up again went to the bathroom and washed my hands. I went back into the kitchen and since supper was still not on the table I sat back down and played with Micah. My dad said, “Go wash your hands and sit at the table. Do not play with the dog after you wash your hands”. I did as he said although I remember thinking it was silly because Micah wasn’t dirty.
Micah was a little black and white bundle of cute and I couldn’t get enough of him. I don’t know what kind of a dog he was but he looked like a Springer Spaniel. Except that this was the 1960’s in rural Pennsylvania and we never had a pure bred dog. We always had mixed breed dogs that we could get for free from any of our neighbors or friends. Back then people where I lived did not take their dogs to vets, which meant almost all of the dogs I knew were not neutered or spayed and did not have vaccinations. We also did not confine our dogs. In the morning, we let the dog out. He’d come back when his business was finished and after he made his daily tour of the neighborhood. It’s not just how my family raised dogs, it’s how everyone in our area raised dogs. We fed them, we loved them and we gave them shelter, but we also gave them freedom to roam…which led to more puppies. Any time someone wanted a new dog one could be easily found by looking for one of the “Free Puppies” signs hanging up.
I don’t remember where we got Micah and I don’t remember how he got his name. That was more than 50 years ago and there is a lot about Micah that I don’t remember. But I do remember that one day Micah did not come home and I was heartbroken.
A few months later my brother Billy and I were playing in the yard when I saw Micah running down the dirt road next to our home. I called to him and he came to us, licking our faces and jumping all over us. We were so excited! The three of us ran into the house and I was yelling “Micah is home! Micah is home!” He had been gone a while, so of course he was bigger, but we were just so happy to have him home after all that time and we picked up right where we left off. Micah was happy; Billy and I were happy.
The dirt road next to our home led to a lake. A few families, such as ours, lived at the lake year round, but there were a lot of families who owned lakeside property who did not live there year round. Those families lived in the city most of the year, but spent the summer in their cottages at the lake so they could avoid the summer heat of the city.
One summer evening as we were all out in the yard and my brother and I were playing with Micah, a car with one of those families who lived in a cottage stopped on the dirt road and talked to my parents. I can still see my father, his back to me, talking to the man driving the car. The next thing I knew, my father called Micah over as the family got out of their car. Micah was jumping all over them and giving them kisses. And the family seemed happy to meet him too as they were laughing and petting him and giving him hugs. And then, just like that, the family and Micah got into their car and drove off.
And I cried. I didn’t understand. My parents told me that he was not our dog, that he was their dog and that they had lost him. My mother said that dog’s name was not Micah and that our Micah was still missing. My parents said that the other family had seen him playing in our yard and were pretty certain he was their dog, so they stopped and explained it to my parents and asked my father where we got the dog. And my dad told them how he came to live us and then called the dog over. My mom and dad both told me they believed the dog was theirs.
But I was four years old and I didn’t believe it. I was hurt and I was angry. Of course I eventually got over it and was happy that Micah, or whoever he was, found his rightful family. Even so, every once in a while the memory of a young black and white dog sprinting through our yard pops into my mind and I wonder…..why did he stay? If he wasn’t our dog, and he wasn’t confined, why did he stay with us? I asked my mother that very question recently and she said, “I don’t know”. I like to think he stayed because we cared for him and he chose to stay with us until his real family found him and that if they never found him, that he would’ve been content to go through his life with us – as Micah.
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