Seth is our middle child. He was born between his sisters, Erin and Carrie, during a three-for-one delivery special that ran for six minutes. That was December 22, 1978, so it’s a stretch to refer to him now as a boy. The use of childhood monikers, however, is a perpetual right of parenthood.
Boy was not a pet name, but sometimes I employed it during conversations with his mother. When thunder rattled our windows or winds fiercely howled, I could not resist quoting from old westerns. “There’s a storm brewing Ma. You and the boy best get in the cellar.” So, boy was never a nickname for Seth, but “Two Dogs and a Son” sounded odd for a title.
When he was growing up, I rotated between Seth, Bubba, and Son. Son was what I called him when I wanted to emphasize a point, as in what type of screwdriver I needed. He was probably seven or eight when I sent him on a mission from our den to the laundry room, where our toolbox was kept.
I was trying to connect a home-movie video player to our television one day. TVs in the 1980s weighed more than today’s subcompact cars. I had the heavy TV awkwardly balanced as I reached around back to connect the cables. That’s when I realized I was holding the wrong screwdriver.
Seth was nearby, so I sent him to the laundry room with detailed instructions. I told him to look in the red toolbox and find a small Phillips head screwdriver. “I need a Phillips head,” I emphasized, “not a flathead like this one – a Phillips head. It’s the one with the star shaped end.”
He said he understood, left the room, then quickly returned. In his extended hand was a huge flathead screwdriver. “Son!” I said with exasperation, pausing for a moment to gather my thoughts. Before I said more, he grinned and handed me a perfectly sized Phillips from behind his back.
As we laughed together at his prank the TV didn’t seem nearly as heavy. He had ended the ruse quickly, explaining he didn’t want to hear the lecture he knew was coming. It was not one of life’s defining moments, but little memories can accumulate into bigger stories.
Seth moved to Los Angeles in January 2008. Twelve years later, in April of 2020, he let us know he was thinking about coming back to Georgia. We were delighted and invited him to live with us for a while. Jane and I were overwhelmed with joy when he said he would. Then we heard the faint bark of a small dog in the background, and I remembered the screwdriver he once held behind his back.
My wife and I have loved several yard dogs, but our wedding vows stated that no canine would ever live in our house. Louise, however, scampered through the loophole of love. She’s a deerhead chihuahua with a sweet disposition who is content in the lap of anyone who will hold her. She was wandering the streets of LA when Seth took her in. Jane and I are both glad that he did.
A few days before Seth left California in a rental van, he texted and asked if we still had the fenced area in the backyard. That’s when we learned about Dude, a 67-pound mongrel. His DNA shows markers of seven known breeds, 12 of indeterminate origin, and traces of brown bear or wolverine. UPS brings dog food every morning. FedEx comes in the afternoon.
Dude was homeless before serving time in the pound. He was released twice on probation but quickly returned to the slammer. The jailer told Seth that Dude was running out of options, so that’s how a monstrous dog ended up living with the boy in California before migrating to Georgia.
Dude has climbed our fence nine times but hasn’t run away. He’s doesn’t try to escape. He just stares through the glass door as he wonders how Louise managed to get inside. Dude only scales the fence when he thinks we can’t see him, then he pretends he doesn’t know what happened. Yet even with his incorrigible ways, he’s already found the soft spot for canines in our hearts.
Two dogs and a boy left California. Two pets and a son came home. Despite all the problems our world is facing, life now seems a little sweeter to Jane and me. There’s one thing the boy’s mother and I hope he understands and will always know with certainty. If he sees a stray dog in need of a good family, we want him to take that dog straight to the Flint Humane Society.