Home Up St. John's


Book One:




Written by Rick Archer

  2015, Richard Archer




My story of childhood has covered moments of great hardship for me. 

However, there was one bright spot in my life... my dog Terry.  My story would not be complete if I didn't say a bit more about my dog Terry.  Odd as it sounds, I imagine Terry did more to keep me sane during my troubled years than any single human being.

I got Terry in 1958, one year before the divorce and my start at St. John's.  I was eight at the time.  Terry would serve as my constant companion during my nine years at St. John's.  Sadly, he passed away in my Sophomore year while I was away at college. 

1958 was the year my parents began to argue.  My father would come home and immediately pick a fight with my mother.  My mother would retort that she gave up her education so he could get his degree.  These moments led to brutal shouting matches. 

I would run to my room and hide, holding my dog to my side for comfort.  I would be so scared.  Inevitably I would bury my face in my dog's fur and begin to cry.  Even though he was just a puppy, Terry would lick my face and do everything in his power to help me survive those awful nights.  Terry was absolutely my only friend in the entire world. 

Things weren't always this bad.  When I first got Terry, I was a pretty happy kid.  Terry and I roughhoused all the time.  Our favorite game was chase. 

I would run and Terry would tackle me by grabbing the lowest part of my pant's leg with his teeth.  Considering Terry never missed a single open field tackle, he would have made quite a football player. 

Once he got me on the ground, we would roll on the grass and wrestle.  Hanging onto my pants, Terry would shake my leg and growl.  I would growl right back.  Then I would grab him and squeeze him with delight.

Of course my mother had mixed feelings about our games.  She was constantly sewing up my torn jeans and washing the grass stains out.  However Mom didn't complain. 

Mom loved my dog for a special reason.  Once the marital nightmare began, Mom was well aware Terry was the only thing keeping me glued together during the final year of her marriage.

I am eight in this picture.  Too bad my favorite picture of my beloved dog got his facial coloring reversed. 

That is Duke, Mom's dog (and Terry's father), on my right side. 

I almost lost Terry as a puppy. 

We lived in a brand new subdivision known as Sharpstown.  There were fields in front of my house, behind my house, and at the end of our block.  Consequently there was practically no traffic and I didn't give Terry's safety much thought. 

I was eight years old and completely unaware of the danger I put my dog in by not having him on a leash when we explored together. Terry was still a puppy and didn't have any discipline.  One day we went running through a giant field a block from my house.  On our trip home, Terry dashed out into the middle of the street.  I saw a giant Sears delivery truck barreling down on Terry and screamed "Terry!!!" at the top of my lungs.  It was too late; Terry couldn't stop. 

The truck driver also saw Terry and slammed on his brakes.  That man hit those brakes hard!  The loud screeching sound of the brakes was unbelievable.  Too late.  One of the front wheels hit Terry pretty hard.   Terry began to spin uncontrollably.  The dog rolled over and over and over.  Terry took eight violent flips in front of the truck's path that covered at least fifteen feet.  When he finally stopped, I was sure my dog was dead when he laid there motionless.  Suddenly Terry magically bounced up and dashed right past me at warp speed.  Poor Terry!!  The little dog was so frightened, he ran home as fast as he could!!

Thank God the truck driver had slowed enough so that Terry did not get caught under the wheel, but rather bumped very hard.  Full of tears and consumed with guilt, I yelled my gratitude out to the truck driver.  I waved at him and thanked him profusely.  His alert action had made the difference. 

I could see the man smiling with relief that the dog wasn't hurt too much.   Seeing my tears, he could tell how much my dog meant to me.  The man grinned at me and waved back his acknowledgement of my appreciation.  He knew he had saved my dog's life. 

Now I turned and chased my dog home.  I found Terry shaking like a leaf on our doorstep.  I took my trembling puppy into my arms and cried huge tears of relief.  I thanked God for giving me a second chance.  At that moment, I knew I loved this dog with all my heart.

Two things happened after that.  Terry had such an incredible spirit of independence that I couldn't bear to put him on a leash.  Terry loved so much to run free.  I tried to put him on the leash, but I couldn't do it.  He looked so sad.  So I looked for other solutions.  I became very cautious from that point on.  I did put a collar around Terry's neck and held that collar tight whenever we were remotely near any traffic. 

In addition, I developed an uncanny voice control over my dog.  All I had to do was say "Terry" and he froze.  Terry trusted me completely.  He recognized I was looking out for him at all times.  My voice became his warning signal.  Terry would run along beside my bike and stop the instant I said "Terry" if I saw any problems up ahead.  We became quite a team. 

It gives me tremendous satisfaction to report that Terry would never have another incident nor any sort of close call.  Thanks to our teamwork, Terry was able to run free for his entire life. 

I had other lessons to learn besides looking out for my dog's safety.  One day not long after the divorce, I asked my mother why Terry was so skinny. "Probably because you forget to feed him at night."

A look of horror crossed my face.  Oh my gosh, Mom was absolutely right.  Sometimes I did forget!  I was beside myself with guilt and shame.  I vowed never to forget again and I kept that vow.  Caring for a dog I loved so much helped teach me responsibility. 

Terry had a great life thanks to me.  I kept him busy.  He went with me everywhere and I mean everywhere.  We were inseparable.  It is safe to say Terry was one heck of a happy dog.  As for me, I could not have made it without him. 

Once in a while we took a bicycle adventure over to a beautiful valley near South MacGregor and North Parkwood.  Houston doesn't have too many valleys, so that made this spot special.  This was an area where some of Houston's finest mansions were located.  This started when I was about 10.  I was in the 5th grade at St. John's.  This lush grass-covered valley was surrounded on all sides by beautiful trees and palatial mansions looking down from above.  Terry and I had discovered it on one of our bike adventures.  It wasn't too far from our apartment project.  We would go there before anyone was up on a Sunday morning.  While Terry roamed around, I would sit in the valley under a tree and bask in my fantasies about how I would like to live in a place like one of these mansions someday. 

This was a common daydream of mine.  The dream arose because I had been ripped from my comfortable suburban existence by the divorce.  The middle class neighborhood we currently resided in wasn't all that bad, but it was a far cry from what I had been used to. I would stare at these modern-day castles lining the valley and wish my parents hadn't gotten divorced. 

At the time, the absurd paradox of having the children of Houston's wealthiest patricians as classmates didn't help.  I had known some of the rewards that money can bring only to have them ripped away from me.  And now every day I had to go to school with constant reminders of what I had lost. 

About this time, Terry would check back in from his explorations and interrupt my thoughts.  Probably just as well.

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, once said his major regret in life was his inability to impart the value of hard work to some of his grandchildren.  His grandchildren lived extremely comfortable lives and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they had it made for the rest of their lives whether they lifted a finger or not.  They enjoyed their lives of ease just fine.  Work ethic?  What's that?

Mr. Walton wondered if perhaps at least some hardship during childhood wasn't such a bad idea. 

Sam Walton made a good point.  Hardship is a powerful motivator indeed.  I had once lived a comfortable life.  However, when it was torn away following the divorce, I developed a major chip on my shoulder.  For the rest of my time at St. John's, I developed powerful drive to get it back.  In moments like this Peaceful Valley Sunday, I felt a determination growing within me that I would use my education and hard work to find success someday.  I was certain of it.

So yes, I would have to say that affluence followed by deprivation is a powerful motivating force.  I imagine many accomplished people will point to a similar chip on their shoulder as the secret to their success.

My fantasies changed as I grew older.  I didn't care about living in a nice home any more.  I just wanted to escape home. 

Now that I lived in the Montrose area, Terry and I changed our bicycle adventures over to Rice University.  As I viewed the beautiful campus with its ivy-covered buildings and its stately oak trees, Rice felt like the sanctuary I coveted.  While Terry chased thousands of black birds and every squirrel under the sun, I would sit there and dream.  Wouldn't it be wonderful to graduate and go to school here at this amazing campus? 

Terry was extremely athletic. There was one particular deformed oak tree with a giant tree limb low to the ground.  I would climb up to that limb and call to Terry.  Terry could jump that high, but his paws couldn't quite grip the thick branch, so he would fall back to the ground.  I learned to catch Terry at the top of his leap and pull him up to me. 

He would lick my face in appreciation and I would hug him.  We would sit on that tree limb for a while and watch the world go by.  Just me and my dog.  Then Terry would see some squirrel and jump down to begin the chase.  I would yell at my stupid dog for ditching me, but I didn't really care.  I loved watching Terry have so much fun.

Frequently Terry would accompany me to Cherryhurst Park where I had found a deserted basketball court to practice on.  While I shot baskets preparing for my much-anticipated basketball career, Terry would roam the park in search of cats, squirrels, birds and other dogs.  Every ten minutes or so Terry would check back in to make sure I was still there, then take off to explore some more.  We had a marvelous buddy system. 

Sometimes I would tease Terry.  I would deliberately hide behind some bush.  Then I would call to him.  Terry would return, but I was gone.  Terry would become frantic with worry.  At first he would run amok double-time in every direction, but that didn't work.  I was impressed when Terry quickly developed a better trick.  Watching from my hiding spot, I was impressed that he was smart enough to disengage from a search technique that wasn't working.

From now on, Terry would start sniffing the ground.  He would follow my scent from the spot he had last seen me.  Guess what?  He would always find me.  It was uncanny to see him in action.  That dog was something else.  His tracking skills showed me that dogs have abilities I could not even begin to comprehend. 

Without question, Terry was the smartest dog I would ever meet in my life. 

The beautiful oak trees of Rice University




If Terry the Terrible had one major failing, that would be his insatiable sex drive.  Yes, even dogs have that downfall.

I would come home from school and my Terrible dog would be missing.  Where is that damn dog this time!?!  I would get so mad at him!

I would immediately get on my bike and begin the search.  Typically he was just a few blocks away and I would round up my escaped dog within 30-60 minutes.  However, one time Terry was gone two full days.  I was forlorn.  I had given up all hope.  In the morning as I got ready for school, I heard barking.  I looked out the window and saw a pack of six dogs running together on the other side of the street.  One of those dogs looked like Terry.  I burst out the door and chased the dog pack.  Son of a gun, just as I hoped, there was Terry.

Suddenly two dogs began to fight.  Take a guess who one of the dogs was?  Good guess. 

I screamed "Terry!!!!!" at the top of my lungs, but that didn't work.  So I just dived right in.  It didn't even dawn on me that I could get hurt.  The two dogs were caught off guard and stopped fighting to see what this giant new threat was.  I got between them and grabbed Terry's collar to pull him away.

To my surprise, that rotten dog struggled to get away from me.  He wanted to keep fighting!  Terry had all kinds of energy surging through his body and strained to get back at the other dog. 

Now it was time for me to assert my authority. 

"C'mon, Terry, fun's over.  It's time to go home." 

To my surprise, Terry wouldn't budge!  He kept struggling to get back to that other dog who had begun making a move on a female dog.  That's when I realized that this third dog was a bitch in heat and I was interrupting Terry's Call of the Wild.  Terry was fighting for mating rights.  Well, tough luck, Terry, no mating today.  I want you back. 

So I picked Terry up off his feet and carried him home in my arms.  He struggled a bit more, but I was powerful.  I noticed the further we got, the Call of the Wild seemed to diminish.  Finally he gave up and licked my face.  I am sure it had to be humiliating for him to be carried home, but I could not have cared less about his feelings. 

Damn dog.  I should have had him fixed for what he had just put me through.  Would have saved me a lot of grief.

Terry was the master of the Great Escape.  His specialty was defeating fences.  Sometimes he dug a hole under the fence and sometimes he found he could jump over the fence.  Other times he simply found a loose board and kept pounding at it till he busted through. 

Even metal fences didn't stop him.  He could jump so high that he could get his paws on top, then use his hind feet to climb over.  Rope leashes didn't stop him.  He could chew through a rope.  Screen doors were his favorite.  If Mom didn't latch the screen door, Terry would be gone in an instant. 

Eventually Mom caught on and became more conscientious about using the simple metal latch.  That didn't work either.  To our astonishment, Terry learned how to lift the metal hook with his nose and escape that way.  

So we got a fancier metal latch.  No problem.  Terry figured out that the screen door mesh wasn't that strong, so he would just bust through and destroy the screen door in the process.  That dog drove me crazy!

When Terry wanted to roam, he was relentless.  Nothing stopped him.

I would come home and he would be gone.  I would be panic-stricken. 

Time for the Great Chase.  Immediately I would hop on my bike and begin my search of the neighborhood bellowing "Terry! Terry! Where are you?"  

Typically within 15-30 minutes he would hear my call and come running up to my side wagging his tail and thrilled to see me.  I was always irritated to find not a trace of guilt on his face for the panic he had caused me.

About 20% of the time I didn't find Terry at all.  Those were the worst moments.  After two hours of searching, I called it off and went home to do my homework.  Left to his whims, it typically took Terry about four to six hours to get hungry enough to come back home.  I was a basket case the entire time waiting for that scratch on the door.  It might be as late as 10 pm or midnight, but I would wait up for him.  I would let him in and scold him, but Terry the Terrible never showed the slightest concern for me.  All he wanted to do was eat. 

The time he left for two days was the worst.  The worry-induced nausea I felt was so strong that I was determined never to let Terry escape again.  I took elaborate precautions to curb my willful dog.  Not surprisingly, Terry chose not to cooperate.  This escape stuff was not a random event.  I estimate Terry found a way to get loose three to five times a year.  Typically all he had to do was use his athletic ability, but from time to time he resorted to cunning as well. 

One of Terry's most clever techniques was to exploit the growing rift between my mother and me.

Please understand that Mom loved Terry almost as much as I did.  Unfortunately she took a perverse joy in defying my wishes where Terry was concerned.  I told her in no uncertain terms that I was in charge of Terry when he needed to go outside. 

Even if he wasn't on a leash, Terry never defied me. Never. However he had no respect for my mother's voice.

Her constant carelessness caused me terrible heartache.  One year we moved to an air-conditioned apartment that had no yard.  Terry had to stay inside all day long and there was no screen door to attack.  Hah, I gloated.  Let's see you escape from this place!

I underestimated him.  After we moved into that apartment, Terry developed a new trick.  He would simply scratch the door when Mom walked by.  That was his signal to go outside and pee.  Mom would invariably let him out and expect him to come right back in.  Terry was so clever.  He would develop my mother's trust by returning nine times in a row without any fuss.  But the tenth time he would take off.  That dog was so damn rotten!  He played my mother like a fiddle. 

Mind you, Terry only used this trick when I wasn't around.  Maybe I was in my room or maybe I had some errand to run.  I would come home and Mom would say, "Guess what?  Terry's gone again.  He ran off when I let him out.  Better go find him."

I would scream at her, "Mom, Terry is MY DOG!!  I'm in charge of letting Terry out!  Don't ever let Terry out when I am not around."   I would get so angry at her.

Mom didn't listen to me.  She kept doing it anyway.  Each time I would have to go out and chase that rotten dog down again. 

1958.  One year before the divorce.

Sometimes I wondered if my mother ignored me deliberately.  Letting Terry out was her way of showing me I couldn't tell her what to do.

I wasn't the most loving child in the world.  Thanks to resentment from incidents like this and my lack of respect over her neverending desperation for a man, each year I moved further away from her like a receding glacier.  A wall grew between us that never diminished.  There was a part of me that suspected she retaliated with mean tricks like letting the dog escape.  I was disgusted.  What kind of person endangers an animal just to win a power struggle?

Terry didn't always need Mom to be the patsy.  That dog was ridiculously clever at finding other ways to get free.  What an imagination!  In one place, we lived on the second story.  In the back, we had a small elevated deck.  One day Terry jumped out an open window onto this elevated deck.  From there, he simply walked down the stairs to the ground and took off.

When I came home from school, I was stunned to see my dog missing.  Mom wasn't home, so that took away the likely explanation. 

It took me awhile to figure it out.  Eventually I concluded this open window was the only possibility.  I was incredulous.  Terry had no way to see over the open window ledge.  The ledge was not only very narrow, but it was a good four feet off the ground.  Since he had to jump with enough force to clear the ledge, I could not imagine any way he could stop on that ledge and have a look.  I concluded Terry was forced to take a blind "Leap of Faith" to the other side.  I was impressed.  That indicated the dog was smart enough to know ahead of time there was a deck on the other side of that open window to catch him before he jumped.  Fortunately I found him quickly enough, but this time I didn't yell at him.  I was in awe of his abilities.

Every time Terry got loose, like a good detective, I would investigate what his latest trick was and do something to prevent it from happening again.  For example, in the case of the open window trick, now I only left the window half-open.  Hah!  Now what are you going to do, dog?

Soon enough I would come home from school and Terry would be gone again. I would be in shock.  How did he escape this time?  Our battle of wits was legendary.  Here I was the honor roll kid from an egghead prep school, but this darn dog outsmarted me time and again.  Thank goodness Terry didn't play chess or my constant humiliation at his cleverness might have been worse.

Sometimes the secret of Terry's success was sheer willpower.  Some neighborhood dog would go into heat and Terry would catch the scent.  Terry was relentless.  He would spend all day if he had to, but he would pound away until he eventually knocked a board loose in the fence... and then he would squirm through the opening and be off to chase the object of his desire.

One time Terry was so overcome with lust that he pulled a metal stake up from the ground.  I could not believe it.  I had used my neighbor's sledge hammer to drive that stake three feet deep into the ground.  It was hard work and I was sweating like a pig.  The dirt was dry and tightly-packed, so this was no easy task.  When I was done, I gave the stake a tug.  It didn't budge.  Given how hard it was to drive the stake in, I assumed it would be just as hard to get it back out.  So when I was done, I smiled with satisfaction.  I looked straight at Terry who was sitting there watching me with that innocent face.

"There, dog.  You'll never pull that up!" 

Famous last words.  Not longer after, Terry was gone when I came home.  The stake was missing.  I stared at the hole in disbelief.  How did he do that?

I rode my bike around till I found Terry with his latest conquest.  When I saw Terry, I found him engaged in the throes of passion. I also noticed my canine lothario still had that stake clinging to the metal chain and his collar. Terry had dragged that stake and chain all the way across the neighborhood in pursuit of his latest girlfriend.  He was lucky the chain or stake hadn't gotten tangled on something.

Despite my consternation at his latest escape, I burst out laughing.  The things he would do for love.  I admired Terry's will power.

This wasn't the first time I had caught him in the act.   I had previously learned that male dogs do not disengage very easily.  So I politely sat there to give him time to finish.  I received some informal sex education in the process.  When Terry had satisfied his urges, I yelled "Bad dog!!" at him.   Terry didn't care what I said.  Terry had gotten what he wanted and was ready to go home.

I removed the chain and the stake and we headed home together.  All was forgiven.

One time after yet another escape, I spotted Terry on his way home before he spotted me.  I saw him from across the street. He was headed towards me, but hadn't noticed me yet.  I said nothing because I was worried that he would be excited to see me and dangerously run across the street.  Fortunately there was no traffic, so I relaxed and just watched to see what he would do.  To my surprise, Terry stopped at the street and looked both ways before crossing.  Terry had learned his lesson from the Sears truck years ago.  I was very impressed. 

As I said earlier, Terry was the most intelligent dog I have ever known.  It wasn't just his loyalty that drew me to him, it was my respect for his immense talent and spirit.  I had a sense that this dog had a mind and personality that was 'human-like' in so many ways. 

We had a profound connection.




Although I respected Terry's strong sense of independence, it sure could be hard to live with.  Terry's sense of adventure caused me great heartache when I was eleven.  It was 1961 and giant Hurricane Carla was headed our way.  I was in the 6th grade at the time and listened to the weatherman's dire warnings with fear.   As I would come to learn, most hurricane warnings don't amount to much.  Most of the time the weatherman is manipulating our fear so we will keep watching through the commercials.  However, this time I had a hunch these warnings were no hype.  I sensed genuine concern in the weatherman's voice.  This hurricane was something different.

The record books list Carla as the most intense hurricane to hit Texas in the 20th century.  I believe it... I remember this powerful hurricane oh so well for a very painful reason. 

During its approach, the experts labeled Carla the storm of the century.  Get to safety.  Heeding the warnings, my mother decided to take Terry and me over to her latest boyfriend's house near Texas Southern University about ten miles east of our apartment.

Mom did not want to be alone in this dangerous storm without a man around for protection.  I rolled my eyes since I wasn't convinced this was the real reason for our visit.  However, I didn't protest.  Instead for once I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  Terry came with us.

As predicted, Hurricane Carla was something else.  Since Carla made landfall near Victoria about 120 miles to the southwest, Houston was mercifully spared a direct hit.  However the Bayou City got the dirty side of the hurricane.  That meant lots of water and powerful winds. 

Carla was quite a storm.  Those winds howled and the rain pounded on the roof mercilessly.  However, we were safe inside the house.  Around 10 pm that night, I decided to take a bath. 

Unbeknownst to me, Terry immediately began scratching at the door, his signal to go outside.  Without thinking, Mom reflexively opened the door.  Terry took off straight into the hurricane.  Didn't even hesitate.  He wanted to explore the wild climate outside in the worst way. 

When I finished my bath, I asked Mom, "Where's Terry?"

"Oh, I let him outside.  He'll be back in a minute."

My eyes grew wide.  "Are you serious?  You let Terry out in this storm without telling me first?" 

An overwhelming panic came over me.   I was incredulous at what she had done.  Mom had no control over my dog.  I had absolute control over the dog.  Terry would never defy me.

Terry was my dog!  What right did my mother have taking a chance like that!?

I was furious.  I absolutely screamed at her.  "Goddamnit, Mother, you have absolutely no right to let my dog outside without me around!!  How many times have I told you this?  Don't you understand that the dog could be in danger?"

I didn't even wait for her answer.  What was she thinking?  This was a different neighborhood.  We were at least 10 miles from our apartment.  What if the dog got lost?  That was my biggest worry.

Panic-stricken and only half-dressed, I burst out in the yard despite the torrential rain.  I was drenched in an instant.  I didn't care. The intense rain and wind didn't even register on me.  All I wanted was my dog back.

"Terry!  Where are you?!"   

I peered vainly into the dark.  Oh no.  This was my worst fear.  He had no intention of returning.  Where in this god-forsaken night was my dog? 

My heart was numb.  Fear of losing my dog overwhelmed.  I mumbled to myself, "Terry, please come back, I beg you.  Don't do this to me."

Sure enough, Terry was nowhere to be seen in this windswept darkness.  Now I was certain Terry had no intention of coming back any time soon.  In his mind, no doubt this was the best storm ever!!  What a great adventure!

There was no way I could chase him, not at 10 pm with that drenching rain and those winds whipping dangerous debris in every direction.  I didn't even know which way he went and it was pitch dark.  I was totally helpless. 

With the heaviest heart I have ever felt, I went back inside.  I was certain that Terry had planned this.  He would have never bolted on me.  He knew I would chase him to end of the earth, so the damn dog waited... that's right, he waited!... till he had an opportunity to con my mother instead. 

When I came back inside, Mom confirmed my suspicion.  She said his urgency had hit the moment I had closed the bathroom door.

I stared at my mother in disgust.  She knew the tricks that dog was capable of.  Why wasn't she more careful?  I could not believe she fell for Terry's trick.  Now I couldn't hold it back any longer.  Losing my temper, I glared right at my mother and said with contempt, "Just how stupid can you be, Mother?  What if the dog gets hurt?  What if the dog gets lost?"

Those were strong words from an 11 year old kid.  Ordinarily my mother would have lashed back, but this time she was strangely silent.  Seriously, for an intelligent woman, there had to be a wire loose in there somewhere.

In disgust, I went to my room.  I did not sleep that night.  I nearly went insane with worry.  Every fifteen minutes I went back outside and called for my dog.  I was so pitiful.  I was sick beyond sick with worry and grief. 

How would my dog ever survive this wild night??  How would he ever find his way back to this house he had never visited before in an unknown neighborhood?

The hurricane's force abated by morning.  The moment there was light, I was out in that strange neighborhood calling for Terry.  The dark gray foreboding sky was the perfect reflection for my mood.  I could not believe the devastation around me.  Huge trees had fallen to the ground. 

Tree limbs, leaves, and all kinds of debris covered the landscape.  Many of the streets were flooded and impassible.  Not that it mattered.  There wasn't a moving car or human in sight.  The people of Houston were still hunkered down.  I was absolutely the only person moving in this deserted world.  Terry was nowhere to be found. I noticed the nearby bayou was swollen beyond belief.  I worried that my dog had drowned in that bayou.

Under the dark cloudy skies, I continued wandering in different directions around the neighborhood.   I covered miles and miles without a shred of luck.  I would check back in every now and then to see if Terry had returned in my absence.  He never showed up. 

I continued my non-stop searching for Terry till 5 pm that afternoon.  After an entire day of disappointment, my heart was heavy with dread and loss.  My best friend in the entire world was gone.  I did not think I would ever see him again.  I was forlorn with grief.

I had dark thoughts for my mother.  Needless to say, this incident was typical of my childhood.  Terry was my dog.  Knowing my dog loved to escape, she had no business putting my dog at risk.  All she had to do was tell the dog to wait five minutes and I would take Terry out myself.  But no, like a thoughtless idiot, she opened the door and out he went.

There were times during my childhood when I absolutely hated my mother.  This senseless incident was something I never forgave her for.

When I returned empty-handed at 5 pm, Mom said it was time to give up waiting for Terry to return.  Let's go home.

The dog had been gone now for nineteen hours.  Mom said there wasn't much point in waiting any longer for his return.  I didn't want to go, but Mom said that if Terry did show up, her boyfriend would take him in and give us a call.  Reluctantly I gave up the search.

Please understand that Mom loved the dog too.  She was very kind to Terry and he was loyal to her.  I could tell she was crestfallen, so despite my overwhelming fury, I stopped chewing her out.  What was the point?

I cried softly all the way home.  I hurt so bad.  My body ached with grief.  How would I ever survive this loss?

When we pulled up to our apartment, I was shocked to see Terry sound asleep on the porch.  Not once this entire day had it ever occurred to me he might have come here.  It was too far!

At first I worried Terry might be dead because he didn't even look up as our car pulled in. 

I rolled down the window and screamed "Terry!!" at the top of my lungs. 

To my relief Terry came back to life.  I imagine Terry had not heard us because he was beyond exhausted from his adventure. 

I leapt out of the car just in time to catch Terry in mid-air as he jumped to greet me, practically knocking me down in the process.

It was a joyous reunion to be sure.  Oh, did I cry.  I cried my eyes out.  When I finally calmed down, I took a good look.  Terry was really bedraggled.  His hair was matted and entangled with an assortment of grass, mud, twigs and leaves stuck in his thick coat.

He was also very hungry.  As I put his food down, the joy I felt was indescribable.  I just couldn't stop crying.  Through profuse tears, I chewed him out fiercely for putting me through that ordeal.  "How could you do that to me, you stupid terrible dog!" 

I continued to sob giant crocodile tears with relief as I watched him eat.  Terry could not have cared less about the agony he caused me.  I still wasn't done being mad. 

"You stupid dog!  You are the worst dog ever!  I am so mad at you!  I'm going to make you sleep in the yard tonight on the muddy wet grass!!  I hope you are miserable!  I've made up my mind for sure.  Tomorrow I'm going to have you fixed.  Serves you right!!"

After his meal, it was time for his bath.  Terry licked my face and I started crying all over again.  Terry slept in bed with me that night with my arms wrapped tightly around him.  The thought of losing him had been the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. 

I wasn't going to give that damn dog a single compliment to his face, but privately I was incredulous at Terry's accomplishment.  Our neighbor said Terry had been sleeping there on our doorstep all afternoon.  I was amazed.  Left to my own devices, I could not possibly have made the same trip without a map.  From that house, I would not have the first idea which direction to go.  East?  West? 

How did Terry know which way to go?  Terry had accomplished something that I could not match.  Yes, using maps or asking for directions, I could have done it.  But without help, there was no way I could have found my way home from where we had spent the night, much less during a hurricane. 

Ten miles is quite a distance under the best of conditions, but Terry's journey had taken place in the dark of night amidst a blinding, drenching storm.  Where did this homing instinct come from?  How did he ever find his way back under those conditions? 

When I was five years old, I cut my eye out with a knife.  For some reason, they bandaged both eyes.  While I lay blind in the hospital bed, I asked Aunt Lynn to continue the book I had been reading, Lassie Come Home.

It was a story about a collie that crossed Scotland on her own.  A poor family had sold Lassie to a man who took the dog to his farm a hundred miles away.  He proceeded to mistreat the dog badly.  Lassie missed her boy and his family, so the dog escaped and began the long journey home.

I cried buckets as Aunt Lynn read the story.  Hearing me cry, poor Lynn didn't know whether to stop or continue.  She tried to stop, but I begged her to keep reading.  I couldn't bear not to know what happened next.

Unbeknownst to me, Aunt Lynn was sobbing as well.  She later told me she couldn't decide whether the tears were for me or for the dog in the book. 

Despite my tears, that story had seemed ridiculous to me.  Good story, but total fantasy.  No dog can possibly travel hundreds of miles without getting permanently lost.  But after what Terry had done, I changed my mind. 

How my own collie found his way home in that storm is one of the great mysteries of my childhood.  Terry made me believe every word of that book.

Terry meant the world to me.  I loved that dog with every fiber of my being.

Lassie Come Home




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