Greta plays with us in the sun and her tail wags frantically as we throw
the ball to the downgraded side of the yard. It
bounces into the trees and underbrush and she plunges into them, unmindful of
the stickers and spiders. She emerges, happy and
panting, scrambling back up the steep incline to meet us at the top.
Playful and happy, she shies away from my hand as I try to pry the sopping
green tennis ball from her grassy teeth. She twists her head this way and
that. My fingers are too small and weak to work any real progress against her. Eventually, she tires of the game and opens her
mouth wide- she’s won. The ball drops and my hands are covered with wet, cut grass when I pick it up.
Her front legs drop, leaving her hind end and wagging tail at eye level
with me. She watches only the ball as I draw back and fake a throw.
Again she bounds away from us down the incline, stops almost immediately, and
turns back to me. She may be dumb, but not that dumb. Her nose prods
around my back, her cold, wet snout smearing across the back of my hand.
I throw it quickly, before she can take it from me, and she bounds again
down the hill. I love this dog.
“Ok,” My father says. He puts a hand on my shoulder and squeezes gently.
“It’s time to go.”
Greta is a big German shepherd. She loves kids, she loves chasing cars.
The kids riding bikes in front of the house are terrified of her growling
pursuits. Her love is as big as she and we are too small. My brother and I
are too delicate for her bounding, leaping form of love. She’s possessive
and overly territorial - something I don’t understand yet. My parents
fear that she will attack one of us worse one day; they fear that her
excited leaps upon us will somehow hurt us or someone else. This is the last
time I will ever play with her.
I don’t look at her the last time she bounds down the hill because my eyes
are tearing up and I stare at the scabby bite mark on my arm. It was my
fault that she bit me but I can’t convince my parents to listen. I don’t
have the words to change the past. I’ve begged them to change their minds but
they can’t listen to me. I don’t realize this at the time because
this is so hard and I am so young.
“She might bite someone else.” They say. “We can’t take that
chance. It would be a mistake.”
The dog runs back to us with the ball, again she wants to play the game of
“take it, if you can.” I don’t play.
“C’mon, Girl.” My father says in a somber voice. He loops his fingers
in her collar and clicks the leash into place.
Greta drops the ball and I pet her slowly. She turns and licks my face, the
force of her body against me nearly topples me to the ground. I'm forced to step
back against my father’s legs.
Greta’s coat always sheds tons of fur and I have a handful of it when
my father leads her back to the car. When they are gone I smooth the tufts and