What I really wanted was a dog. And I wanted a leash. I wanted a dog and a leash. So that I could take that dog for a walk. I was fifteen years old and in my opinion at the time, halfway to middle age, when that dream came true. But it wasn't my dream alone. There were eight of us jammed into the cracker box house on the corner. Six of the eight happened to be offspring. And we offspring all wanted a dog. Even the baby. But we also enjoyed eating. So I suppose it would have been hard for my parents to choose which one of us would have to go without breakfast in order to take on another mouth to feed. And we might not get that second book read to us before bedtime with another creature looking for attention at the same time. My guess is these were the reasons that the answer was always, "No dog." At least my parents tried to suffice. They did what they could with a limited budget and limited space. Calvin, my older brother came home from the pet store with a couple of tiny turtles. We tried to convince those turtles to have races across the living room carpet. But they weren't really that interested in it. They were turtles. Except for the one named Speedy. Speedy could have won every race handily, if he would have ever run in a straight line. It was exasperating. I accidentally caught a hermit crab. I dropped my line and hook through a slit between a couple of pier boards and left it sit down there on the bottom of the lake. I had no idea that this is where hermit crabs like to hang out. But they do. And hermit crabs do not fit through the slits between a couple of pier boards if you try to reel them in. So this is when your grandpa is going to have to get into the water to get your hermit crab off your hook. My hermit crab was adorable. I named him Herman and I kept him in a bucket out on the breezeway. I filled it with all kinds of wonderful things, like grass and sticks and a bowl of water. I caught bugs and worms to feed him. After my week stay at my grandparents, I brought Herman home to live in that same bucket, outside on our cement patio at our cracker box house on the corner. And even though Herman was really cute, he kind of freaked me out with those beady eyes, those antenna things and those big claws. Calvin enjoyed chasing me around the back yard, with Herman. "AHHHHHHHhhhhhhhhhh. AHHHHhhhhhhhh! Stop it. I am telling!" I would yell. "Come on Millie. He's your pet. You can touch him." One evening near the end of that summer, after a fine meal of bean goulash, we all climbed into the station wagon. Even Herman in his bucket. And my dad drove us to Spring Harbor Beach. Calvin set Herman down on the sand. At first Herman just stood there looking dumbfounded. Then he inched sideways toward the water and he touched it. And then he scampered away into a clear wave and he disappeared forever. He never looked back. I have since wondered if Herman ever met another creature in that lake who believed his old worn out story about living in a God Damned bucket for an entire summer. A couple years later I sneaked a salamander into our bedroom, which was in the basement, which happened to belong to me and my two younger sisters, Louisa and Kiki, who were sworn to secrecy. Raymond, my black salamander with yellow spots, was all set up in a spacious palace I prepared for him, inside a shoebox. I fixed it up real nice. But he didn't live there for very long. Even though I was a magnificent mother to Raymond, and I gave him everything he ever wanted, he ran away from his shoebox while I was at school. I know. And it wasn't like I could report his disappearance to the authorities. About a week later a shrill scream coming from the laundry room was a clue that my sweet baby Ray had surfaced. But one person's good news can be another person's bad news. My good news about relocating my missing salamander didn't go over well at all. My mother was definitely not ready to be a grandma. Soon after the Raymond incident, there was a litter of guinea pigs born at the home of the leader of Girl Scout Troop 544. And my mom said, "Yes." Perhaps she thought a little bit of fur downstairs would stave off creatures that resembled miniature alligators from walking into her laundry room. It was a big help. Bunny and Peanut Butter moved into the cracker box house on the corner. They were set up in a big and luxurious wire cage that was situated right outside our bedroom. We three girls will always remember the sweet stench of shredded newspaper saturated in guinea pig pee, cleaning that cage and the high pitched calls of, "EEEERRIIIEEE, EEEERRRIIIEEE, EEERIIIEEE," that they yelled every time they heard a footstep on the stairs. In guinea pig language, "EEEERRIIIEEE, EEEERRRIIIEEE, EEERIIIEEE," means, "WE WANT LETTUCE! WE WANT LETTUCE! WE WANT LETTUCE!" So we gave them lettuce. One tragic night, Bunny came down with the stomach flu. She started ralphing. She kept on ralphing. And then she croaked right in front of our eyes, on top of the checker-board table with the lion feet. "Louisa, I am trying to tell a story here. And, I said I was sorry. I still don't get it. Your name doesn't even sound like Bunny." You will have to excuse my sister. She has always been touchy about this because there was a slight misunderstanding the next day in school as to who exactly had passed away when I tried explaining the situation to my teacher through sobs. Fortunately there was another litter born in the home of the head of Troop 544. Squirt moved in to keep Peanut Butter company, yelling for lettuce and peeing twenty-four seven. But all of these pets, important as they were to me, were part of my life a very long time ago. And by the age of fifteen, halfway to middle age, they were but a distant past. It was a beautiful summer evening. We were all out on the same patio where Herman had resided in his bucket, after a fine meal of sweet corn. Calvin's friend was on the patio too, with eight Airedale puppies. I don't know who was more shocked when John went home that night, taking only seven puppies with him, me or my dad. But John was gone and there stood the runt of the litter. "Uh-oh, John forgot one of his puppies," says my dad. "No, he didn't," says my mom. I can't believe I didn't faint. If I would have been in church I would have fainted. My youngest brother Pitter, at seven, named our puppy, George Meyer Taliesin. But he simply went by Tali. Finally my dream was realized. I had a dog and a leash. And I was going to take that dog for a walk on that leash in the morning. I was up real early the next day, before the noon whistle. And it was hot. Hot and humid. But I didn't care. I was taking my dog for a walk. After eating a piece of peanut butter toast, Tali and I set out for our first walk together around the block. Now, his legs were pretty short in comparison to mine. And he didn't seem all that interested in walking. He seemed to be more interested in sniffing. His nose was to the ground. It took us five minutes to get out of the yard, which on a run would have taken under two seconds. He lifted his leg and he peed a single drop every other step. Finally we were past our willow tree and we were on Belin Street, heading toward the park where we would take a left. My shoulders were back. My feathers were spread. I strutted my way up that road with George Meyer Taliesin at the end of my leash. Did you know that on average a person must untangle a leash from in between dog legs around seventy-five to eighty-five times per walk? I didn't either. A few days later Tali and I took that left when we got to the park. And that is when he first laid down. This was rather discouraging because I wanted to do the same thing. For the next section of the block he would take two steps and then he would lie down. He would rest. He would take two more steps upon my urging. I would untangle the leash. He would lie down. Time to rest. A week later the two of us took another left onto the next stretch of the block, and that is when I picked him up. He had thoroughly convinced me that he was not one bit interested this stupid ass walk on the end of a leash, any more than I was. Our family moved out of the cracker box house on the corner, into a spacious new home a year later. And Tali spent every meal there on Pilgrim Road, under the dining room table. Each summer he had to have his hair shaved, due to skin allergies. "Don't laugh," my dad would say. "It hurts his feelings." Tali wasn't allowed on the furniture. He was very respectful. He always waited for everyone to leave before climbing up on the couch. Tali loved people and he love treats. He loved treats and he loved people. He wagged his tail for every treat and every person. Unless that person was in a uniform. He did not care for uniforms. Uniforms and doorbell ringers pissed him off. He hated the mailman. He hated the meter man. And he absolutely could not stand the UPS guy. But he did love treats. But not from those people. My sister Kiki said, "Laaaaaayter, Tali. Laaaaaayter," every day. It was her promise of their walk to come. And he would settle down on the floor and wait. We offspring all grew up and sequentially we all moved out and on. But not Tali. He decided to stay right where he was. He didn't need no college education or no bachelor pad. He had it made. He had a stray-cat-sister named Sassparilla who hung out and napped with him all day long. And Poop Hill was right outside the sliding glass door next to the patio. If that wasn't enough, we offspring and our significant others came home for dinner there on Pilgrim Road, every Sunday. And he was right there in his spot under the dining room table for every party. He was pretty blind by the time my boys were crawling all over him down on there on floor. But he let them. Tali went on thousands of walks through out his life. And that is a hell of a lot of leash untangling and single drops of pee. George Meyer Taliesin never changed a bit from that first morning I sprang out of bed before the noon whistle. If a person was ever looking for a little exercise, a person would not find it on a walk with Tali. Because Tali knew how to stop and smell the flowers. EVERY one of them. Always. He never missed a one. Not ever.