G a i l

Age 5, part 1

5 years, 1 month (October)

I keep a close look-out for Jewel, the neighbor cat.  She comes to explore our yard.  Her fur is snowy-white with patches of gold-brown and black.  One black patch starts on the side of her neck, goes up over her head and covers half her face.  Her eyes are emerald-silver.

Jewel comes looking for me a lot.  She used to just run past to cross into the woods.  But now, she wanders around in our backyard and sometimes comes up close to the porch door and looks inside.  If I’m ever in the yard, I can be pretty sure that Jewel will show up.  I love to sit in the grass and pet her sweet-smelling fur.  When she feels playful she reaches out to me with her velvet paws.  She tries to keep her claws in, but sometimes she can’t help herself, and they come out and dig into my clothes and skin.  There are days when I’m full of little scratches.  Sometimes I talk to her, and she looks at me with her sparkling, wide-awake jewel eyes.

One evening, I was sitting in the grass in our backyard.  Jewel was climbing in and out of my lap, purring.  Suddenly I heard a sound in the woods.  It was like shy paws in the leaves.  Jewel froze.  I got up and tried to see into the trees.  The sound stopped.  I walked closer to where I had heard it.  Then there was a voice – small and lost.  I went toward it, but Jewel stayed back, keeping watch.  I followed the sound until I saw something that was the same light-brown as the leaves.

It was a puppy.

I stood still and just looked at it.  Daddy knew how much I loved animals, and he was always telling me not to pet strange dogs and cats.  The puppy’s mama or daddy might have told it not to get close to strange humans, because it just sat there, too, looking back at me.  It was sandy-brown all over, except for three of its paws, which were white.  Its ears flopped unevenly, and its eyes were serious, dark and deep.  They looked right into mine.

Very slowly, I knelt down to have a closer look.  I moved in so close, that I could feel the puppy’s quick breathing through its black nose.  Its ears were alert, and it was shaking all over, but it didn’t run away.  I guess I forgot all about what Daddy had told me.  I put my hand out to the puppy because I knew that that was the friendly thing to do.  The puppy sniffed it.  Then it looked at me and wagged its tail a little.  It let out a closed-mouth whine mixed with a half bark-yelp, followed by another long whine.  Then it wagged harder.  I pet its soft head.

I must’ve stayed there a long time because I didn’t notice the sun going down.  But then I heard Daddy calling to me from the porch.  “Be right there!” I yelled.  I turned to the puppy.  “I have to go inside now.  Come visit me tomorrow again, and you can meet my friend, Jewel.”

As I ran back to the house, Jewel scampered after me part way, before returning to the neighbors.  I looked back to see if the puppy had followed me, too.  But it wasn’t there.  The colors of the sky were almost gone, and darkness got thicker and more complete.  I stepped inside and closed the door.


The next morning, my first thoughts were of the puppy – its tiny paws lost in the dry, dead leaves.