I had always wanted a dog, a big dog that could be my friend and help me out when I needed it. Sometimes a kid like me needs some help because the other kids don’t always understand me. You see, they think I’m a little different because of my leg. I have one leg that’s shorter than the other one, and right now I have to wear a brace.
It’s real hard dragging a stiff old brace around with you all the time. Sometimes the kids call me Peg Leg or Hopalong. They think it sounds funny, but it sure doesn’t make me feel very good. And when we play at school, I’m always the last one chosen on a team—if I’m chosen at all. Sometimes I “get to be” the referee or the umpire, but that just means I’m supposed to stand around and watch the others play.
Dr. Monroe says I’ll get my brace off in a year or so after an operation and some therapy, but that doesn’t help me much right now.
Brother Lewis has a dog named Lady. Lady’s an Alaskan malamute, and she has five pups. Brother Lewis said that for fifteen dollars I could choose the pup I wanted.
Now, fifteen dollars might sound like a lot of money for a dog, but Lady’s pups aren’t just ordinary dogs. They all have pedigree papers, and Brother Lewis is going to sell the rest of them for a whole lot more than fifteen dollars.
When I first saw Lady’s pups, I knew which one I wanted. He was white and gray with lots of fur, and he was the biggest one. I decided I’d call him Major. I’d already saved over fifteen dollars, so I was just waiting for Major to grow a little bit so I could take him home with me.
I don’t have a lot of friends. That’s why I wanted Major. Pamela Roundy says she’s my friend, but she’s just a girl who lives down the street and is always hanging around. The thing that really bothers me about Pamela is her dog Lolo. Lolo’s just a mutt. Pamela doesn’t even know what kind of dog she is. She doesn’t have any papers, so she can’t be very special.
Lolo had pups a week before Lady did, and since Pamela knew I wanted a dog, she asked me if I wanted one of Lolo’s. She said I could have one free, so right away I figured that those pups weren’t any good.
On the day I was to pick up Major, I raced home from school as soon as the bell rang. Then I put my money in my pocket and went over to Brother Lewis’s house.
There was Major! He was bigger than his four sisters, and he sure was pretty. I paid Brother Lewis the money and started home. Major ran beside me for a while; then he took off and began sniffing at flowers, digging in the dirt, barking at everybody who passed, and chasing butterflies. He was fun to watch, but it made me sad that Major wanted to play with everything but me. I guess that’s what important dogs do.
When I got to Pamela’s place, she was out with Lolo and her four pups. They were as ugly as Lolo, and I told Pamela so, but she said looks didn’t matter. She said the thing that was really important was how good a friend your dog was.
Well, one of her ugly pups started following me and Major home. He wasn’t nearly as big and strong as Major, and I could tell by the way Major sniffed him and chewed his ear that he didn’t like that scrawny pup either. But that dumb dog of Lolo’s didn’t care; he just kept right on following us, flopping along and tripping over his own nose.
“Go home, dog!” I shouted at him, but he didn’t pay any attention to me. “Call your old dog back!” I yelled at Pamela. “I don’t want him hanging around me and Major. He’s probably got fleas, and he’ll teach Major bad habits.”
“There’s nothing wrong with him, Travis,” she said. She had a big grin on her face, and she thought it was pretty neat that that pup liked me.
“There sure is something wrong with him,” I called back. “He’s the ugliest dog in the world. And he doesn’t even have any papers.”
“I think he likes you, Travis.”
“I don’t want him to like me!” I shouted. “I have a dog—a good dog.” I picked that pup up and carried him back to Pamela and dropped him in her lap. “Here,” I said. “Keep him till we get home. I don’t want your mutt hanging around me.”
I could tell right away that Major was going to be a good dog. When he grew up and had big teeth, no one would bother me any more, even if I still had my brace on. And when the kids at school chose up teams, they’d have to pick me, or I’d get Major after them.
Every day after school I went home to play with Major and to teach him some tricks. But he didn’t want to play with me or learn tricks. In fact, a lot of times he wasn’t even home. He’d be off chasing around in the park or digging in Brother Bradley’s orchard. One day he dug up Mom’s petunias. Another time he chewed the finger off my baseball mitt. Mostly I had to just watch him. But he was still a good dog. He had papers to prove it.
Every day when I came home from school, that ugly pup of Pamela’s would be waiting for me. I’d cross to the other side of the street to miss him, but he’d come barking after me. He’d jump up on my leg and try to lick my hands. He ran circles around me and made a real nuisance of himself. Whenever I sat on my lawn to watch Major play, that old pup would be right there, nipping at my ears, jumping against my back, or pouncing on my fingers. Sometimes when I lay down, he’d poke his head under my shirt and try to crawl inside to get warm. Nothing I could do would keep him away. I yelled at him and pushed him aside, but that didn’t stop him. He just didn’t know when he wasn’t wanted.
After school one day I couldn’t find Major anywhere. I called him and looked behind the bushes where he liked to sleep. I even went over to Brother Bradley’s orchard, but he wasn’t there. I looked along the streets to see if he’d been run over, but I couldn’t find him anywhere.
That night when I said my prayers, I asked Heavenly Father to help me find him, because I needed a friend. I just didn’t know what I’d do without Major.
The next day was Saturday. All day long I looked for Major. Sister Miller, who lives two streets over from us, said that she saw a dog like Major running with another dog toward the Cherry Heights subdivision. I went there and looked, but I couldn’t find him.
I usually don’t cry. Even when Doctor Monroe took off the cast from my first operation, I didn’t cry. But when I couldn’t find Major, I didn’t know what to do, so I sat down behind the bushes where Major used to sleep, and I cried.
That’s when Pamela’s ugly pup came snooping around. “Get out of here, dog!” I yelled. “I sure don’t want you hanging around me.” I kicked at him, but he just thought I was playing, so he got real happy and started chewing on my shoe. I pushed him away, but that just made him friskier than ever. Finally, I crawled out of the bushes and went into the house. When I came outside a while later, that old dog was still there sitting on the step, waiting for me.
Every day for a week I came home from school and went out into the bushes and sat and thought and wished that I could get my brace taken off so I wouldn’t need a dog. And every day Lolo’s ugly pup came snooping around to see if I would play with him. Sometimes I did because I didn’t have anything better to do, but most of the time I just tried to get rid of him.
About two weeks after Major disappeared, I passed Pamela’s house, and she was sitting on the lawn, crying.
“What’s the matter?” I asked her.
She just sat there and sniffed for a while, and then she said, “Daddy said that when he comes home from work, he’s going to take Lolo’s pup to the vet and have him put to sleep. I can’t have two dogs because they eat too much. I gave all the others away, but no one took this one. Don’t you want him, Travis?”
Her eyes got real big, and she was excited all of a sudden. “He’s the one that really likes you, Travis, and you don’t have a dog now. Don’t you want him? Then he won’t have to be put to sleep.”
I shook my head. “I don’t want a dog like that. He’s just an old mutt.”
“But he’s a good friend.”
“But he’s sure ugly.”
“But he can be a real good friend. You don’t have to be pretty or have papers to be somebody’s friend. He can be a better friend than Major ever was.”
I shook my head again and started home. And guess who followed me—Pamela’s ugly pup. “Go home, dog!” I shouted. “I don’t want you hanging around. You aren’t good for anything.” He didn’t understand, though. He kept tagging along.
I went into the bushes to think, and that ugly pup came right into them behind me. He lay next to me and put his head in my lap. Then he looked up at me real sad-like. Usually he was happy, but this afternoon he must have known what Pamela’s dad was going to do to him. I tried not to look at his sad eyes, but I couldn’t help it. Finally I scratched his ears and said, “Nobody wants you hanging around, either, do they?” He thumped his tail on the ground a couple of times and licked my hand.
Just then Pamela started calling him, and I could tell by the way her voice was shaking that her dad had come home. I came out of the bushes, and the dog followed me. Pamela didn’t say anything to me. She just reached down for the pup. But he ran away from her and hid behind me.
“Is your dad here?” I asked. She nodded and wiped her eyes. “Is he still going to take the pup to the vet?” She swallowed and nodded. I reached down and picked up Lolo’s pup and held him close. I could tell he was my friend because he started to lick my neck and nibble on my ear. I wanted a friend real bad, and I’d asked Heavenly Father to help me find one. Now I knew He had.
“Pamela,” I said, “tell your dad that he doesn’t have to take him to the vet. I guess I’ll keep him.”
“You will?” she said with a grin. “He doesn’t have any papers, you know, and he’s just a mutt.”
I nodded my head without looking at her. “I know, but I don’t have any papers, either, and like you said, you don’t need papers to be friends. You just have to like each other. Well, he likes me and I guess I like him, so we’ll just stay together.”
And we did.