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My dog is obsessed with me. My dog's name is Munchkin. When I turn on my computer, he looks at me through the screen. And when I open a folder on my computer, he stares at me through the folders. I love him more than I have ever loved a human. He deserves all my love and attention, and more.
But the problem is, he's also, and at the same time, crazy. The first time I heard him howl, he must have been a little over a year old. We had just moved to an apartment on top of a mountain in southern Colorado, and he lived with us while we found a house we liked. He kept howling at night, sometimes in his sleep.
"Is he okay?" our neighbor asked.
"We don't know," I told her.
"He's never done that before," she said.
It had never occurred to us that Munchkin might be howling at night because he wasn't happy about the move. We didn't realize the howls were because of us, and not him.
My friend Kate, who was renting a room from us, had a cat named Kitty. When we got Kitty, we brought Munchkin home. She thought it would be fun to let him share her bed, especially after we had fed them breakfast together in the morning. The three of us would curl up together and sleep in a big, soft ball. When I woke up the next morning, I saw Kitty lying under the covers, snuggled into Munchkin.
"How do you do that?" I asked Kate.
"Do what?" she asked.
"Sleep with him in your bed. I'm not kidding. Look, he's all snuggled up next to you. He's snoring and nuzzling you."
"It's the cat," Kate said. "It has an insatiable appetite for cuddling. He won't let anything get between him and a human body."
He was a different cat after that. He didn't growl if you got close to his food bowl. He didn't stalk when he wanted to be fed, and he never woke us up by running all over the house at night, yowling at the top of his lungs. He also stayed out of the way when we got up to go to the bathroom. He just kind of watched. He wasn't afraid to come over and pet us. When he saw that we were awake and happy, he knew we were on his side.
After a week of moving, we still hadn't decided on a new home.
"No news is good news," Mom always said. "We'll wait until you stop having to pee in the bed every night. Then we can start looking."
I know it's not the same as finding a home. It's not the same as moving into a house and getting to make the rules and choose the furniture. It's not the same as deciding where to go to school and making friends. I don't know anything about any of that. But it would be nice to have someplace that belonged to us. Someplace where we didn't have to worry about anyone breaking into our stuff.
Mom had told me about a house for sale in a new development at the edge of town. It was only a few miles away from the park, but it was tucked away, and it was a two-story house with a yard.
"We're going to buy it," she told me the night before I went to sleep for the last time. "You've worked really hard, Cole, and I don't want to leave you a house that you can't live in."
"That's really nice," I told her.
She gave me a hug and smiled. "Good night, sweetie. I love you."
"Love you too," I said, and I did.
I didn't cry when Mom left that morning.
"I'm going to miss you," I told Beezle.
"I know," he said.
"You guys are really going to miss me, right?"
"As a matter of fact, we are," said Beezle.
"But you'll come and visit me? Sometimes?"
"Of course," said Beezle. "Don't worry. It'll work out. It always does."
I didn't know if he was talking about the house or me, but I took it as a promise. It was good to know that someone would be here for me. I didn't feel so alone.
I had always been pretty sure that the house would be mine. I knew Mom would want me to have it. But for some reason I couldn't explain, I had never been sure whether Grandma Coolidge was going to let me keep it.
I had thought I'd hear from her. But I had written to her and called her on the phone, and she hadn't responded, not a single word.
But I figured she had moved on.
"Mom's going to miss me," I said. "But it'll be good to be away from her for a while. I think I can handle it."
"You can't think," said Beezle. "You must plan to be happy. You've lived with your mom for too long, and you've made her into your mother. You need to think about what it will be like to live with a mom and a dad. And there are going to be some kids to contend with."
"I'm not sure I'll like any of them," I said. "Maybe they can be my friends. But it'll be better than living in this house."
"But you've never even seen them. It's going to be weird to have strangers around. Especially if they think they can boss you around."
"But I have my magic," I reminded him. "I can be tough."
"No, you're just hard to please," said Beezle.
"And you're the hardass," I said.
"You'd make a great little brother," I told him.
"Thanks," he said, and he was quiet for a while.
I didn't have a TV or a computer. Maybe I should have been feeling deprived. But really, the silence didn't bother me. I didn't mind when Dad was away from home, though I missed him a lot. There were too many nights when Dad was out in a field or something, and I'd be at the kitchen table reading my book and the phone would ring and I'd feel a little stab of anxiety, thinking it was him and that I'd made him angry. I could never really explain it, because it wasn't like the thought of Dad being angry with me was really a scary thing. I mean, I could deal with that.
It was when he was gone for a few days or even a few weeks that the void was more difficult to deal with. I was used to knowing that he was there when I woke up. And he would be there in the early afternoon to pick me up after school. And then he'd pick me up when I got home from his job.
I'd never known my father to be gone for days on end or even hours. It was the most normal part of my life, and now I had no idea what to do with myself when he was away. But I was learning, I suppose. I was getting used to not seeing him