The most notorious creature I ever knew was our dog, Tiny.

He moved into our house after having been orphaned twice. He fit in with the human orphans who lived here, our children who had been adopted from Nicaragua. They shared the orphan personality that combines great bravado with incredible neediness.

Tiny was an Australian Shepherd/Collie mix. He was white with red markings and had the dense fur of a sled dog. And he had glass eyes, not real glass eyes, but odd blue eyes that are called glass eyes by dog people. His eyes were flecked with yellow and sometimes, when the light was right, each eye looked like a thousand little panes of glass.

Tiny used his eyes to watch us. He followed us from room to room but unlike other dogs that would settle at one’s feet and go to sleep, Tiny positioned himself where he could watch us. He lied down, crossed his front legs, and gazed.

When our children walked upstairs, Tiny herded them, occasionally biting their ankles to get them moving faster. Finally, I realized, after months of being watched and herded, that we were all Tiny’s sheep more than he was our dog. And we let that be since there wasn’t much we could do about it. How does one stop a dog from shepherding? Besides, we didn’t mind. It felt good in a way, tended to.

Then we learned that Tiny had been expanding his herd.

We were gardening. As was his habit, Tiny was lying with his front legs crossed, watching us. Peaceful. Serene. Until a little girl on the sidewalk saw him and screamed. Then she ran. Tiny raced across the yard to catch her while her mother stood frozen with her hands over her face. Somehow, my husband got to the girl first and lifted her high in the air while Tiny nipped at her tiny feet. The girl was wearing a white dress with a blue satin sash, her black hair tied back with bows; it was Saturday and she was dressed up for Shabbat. After being chased and rescued, the little girl cried and so did her mother.

Later, her father, a rabbi living three doors down, stood solemnly in our driveway. He wore a black suit and fedora like all the other rabbis in the neighborhood who taught at a nearby yeshiva. He looked stern but had always been kind to us. Still, I was worried that he would call the police, worried that we would have to do something terrible with Tiny. Like get rid of him.

“You’re saying all the right things,” he said, after we’d apologized a hundred times for our dog’s terrible behavior.

“I can’t believe I froze. I’m so embarrassed.” said the little girl’s mother. “Thank you for saving her,” she said, nodding at my husband with tears in her eyes.

We hoped that the rescue would be enough to save our dog.

“You know, your dog has been chasing our kids for a long time,” said the rabbi. “Our son told us about running from house to house just last week with your dog chasing him.”

We didn’t know this. Sometimes Tiny would leave through holes in our fence and roam the neighborhood but he always came loping back, big plume of a tail waving like happiness itself.

We lived from then on as if harboring a criminal. We had a new fence built with gates that latched. We tightened when a door was opened lest Tiny escape to visit the neighborhood herd. And we apologized again and again when we saw the rabbi and his family on the street, not out loud, but silently, like a little prayer.

And Tiny kept watch as was his habit.


Notorious – The Daily Post

Photo: Ariana Prestes