Peanut

Their mother parks the minivan in front of a drab building in downtown Corpus Christi.

“All right, everyone out. You have to come in and help decide.”

“Decide what?” Ruthanne says.

“This is animal control. We’re going to see if we can find a new dog.”

“Really?!” they all yell.

They have two cats. They used to have another dog named Cubby, but Cubby was too aggressive and they had to give her to a vet who, according to their mom, promised to try to place her with a rancher to watch over flocks.

They head inside, and the place smells of dogs and cats. There’s a wall of noise–barks, hisses, meows, howls. Their mother talks to an attendant, and then they head back to the cages.

The boy, Stephen, and Ruthanne all gravitate to the puppies, and they take turns having the attendant bring puppies out, holding one, passing it around. But their mother does not look at the puppies. She walks up and down the rows of cages. At last, she points to one with a golden-colored mid-sized dog and says, “Can I see him?”

The attendant brings the dog out of the cage. He is panting and appears to be smiling. He hops forward, then pulls back in a crouch, then runs over to Mom. She shows him her hand to sniff and he starts licking her hand.

“What do you think of this one?” she says to the kids.

“He’s not a puppy,” says the boy.

“Look at his personality, though,” she says.

They gather around, and he hops between them. He’s a mutt–part cocker spaniel, part terrier, maybe some dachshund. He licks all of them several times.

“He’s okay,” says Stephen.

Mom looks at the attendant. “This guy,” she says. They name him Peanut.

That night, their dad arrives home from work. Mom is making dinner. All three kids are running through the house, and when they hear the door open, they try to grab Peanut. But he’s too fast– he bolts and sprints into the family room where their father stops dead in his tracks.

“What in the world is that?” he exclaims.

“It’s a dog,” the boy says.

“I can see that it’s a dog. What’s it doing in my house?”

“He’s our dog.”

“Where’s your mother?”

She emerges from the kitchen with a sheepish smile on her face. “If you’d been there, you would have agreed.”

“Oh for crying out loud,” he says and loosens his tie.

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