How to give away a dog you love.

Pets and people.
Oct. 4 2004 10:53 AM

Goodbye, Homer

Can you ever give away a dog you love?

(Continued from Page 2)

One of my strategies for Homer was to start plotting activities for just the two of us. We began to leave Rose and Orson behind several times a day, something I should have done much earlier: at dawn, when we trained; then late morning, when we went out to chase balls and Frisbees; and again in the late afternoon, when I began what I called the school-bus ritual. It was a neat idea, better than I first realized.

Homer loved school buses, mostly because kids came pouring off of them, and he loved kids. He was especially fond of one of our neighbors, Max, a sweet 10-year-old with a shy but easygoing nature. In a funny way, he was much like Homer, which is perhaps why the two connected. Homer adored Max from the first, and vice versa, so I thought it would be nice for him to greet Max at the bus stop.


At 3:30 p.m. the bus pulled up to the corner across from our house and a gaggle of kids came thundering out. Homer waited and then went into his patented wriggle when Max disembarked; Max beamed and looked for Homer, knelt down to say hello, gave him a hug. Then Max and Homer would walk the half-block to his house.

By the third day, all I had to say was "Let's go see Max" and Homer would go nuts, as happy as if there were sheep outside. The other school kids loved Homer, too, and he was nearly drunk with joy from all the attention. The first day or two, he looked nervously around, perhaps waiting for Orson to appear and order him away. But he soon realized that greeting Max's bus was his daily task, his moment, another form of work but without competition from his siblings or scolding and criticism from me. There was no part of this task that Homer could fail at, and it was delightful to see these two guys fall in love.

It occurred to me, after only a few days, that this was the kind of relationship Homer would thrive on, and the kind I couldn't provide.

Max's family was dog-starved. He had a younger sister, Eva. His mother, Sharon, an education specialist, worked at home. His father, Hank, a magazine editor, worked grueling hours in the city but was at home several days during the week. Everybody in the family wanted a dog and talked incessantly about taking one to soccer games and playing with one in the backyard.

In fact, Max asked if Homer could come over and play. So one sunny afternoon, shortly before I was due to head back to Bedlam Farm in West Hebron, N.Y., semi-permanently, I took Homer to Max's house. I sat on the back porch with Hank, who sensed that there was more to this encounter than an interspecies play date, but I didn't tell him what was on my mind.

In a week or two I would head north to my farm for the winter. Whatever was going to happen with Homer had to happen soon or else wait for months.

Sitting on the porch, Hank said only how much they all loved Homer, and what a great dog he was. In the yard in front of me, Max and Homer were lying down face-to-face. Max was throwing a ball over Homer's shoulder; he'd rush to grab the ball, lope back to Max, and slurp his nose.

Homer was having a blast, running in circles, tearing around the yard, smooching Max in between. I'm sure Hank noticed that I was affected by the sight, although I didn't say why. The reason was that I'd rarely seen Homer so uncomplicatedly happy.

The next few days unraveled me. I knew where this was heading, yet it brought up awful pain and anger, much of it having nothing to do with Homer. The experience of being criticized, abandoned, frightened—all feelings I was thinking about subjecting Homer to or already had—resurfaced in me. I couldn't sleep. Not even Paula could quite grasp what was happening to me.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Business Insider
Oct. 21 2014 11:27 AM There Is Now a Real-life Hoverboard You Can Preorder for $10,000
Dear Prudence
Oct. 21 2014 9:18 AM Oh, Boy Prudie counsels a letter writer whose sister dresses her 4-year-old son in pink tutus.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 10:41 AM Taylor Swift Just Went to No. 1 on iTunes Canada With Eight Seconds of Static 
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 21 2014 7:00 AM Watch the Moon Eat the Sun: The Partial Solar Eclipse on Thursday, Oct. 23
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.