This massive beast slid to a stop mere inches from me. He large black face was level with mine. We stood there looking each other in the eye. His chocolate brown eyes peered deep into mine; they seemed to be telling me that from now on everything would be ok. He smiled and sat before me and looked around to see my father standing beside me. My dad stood there in shock. Here was the biggest, ugliest looking dog we had ever seen, and he was grinning at us.
The young woman came bounding around the corner to find me and my father with our arms slung around the dog's neck. She looked back and forth between us and started to cry. She led us to the adoption room still crying and began to tell us about this dog.
His name was Caesar (spelled like the roman emperor). He used to be a herd dog on a horse ranch. But when the owners of the ranch got divorced they brought him to the pound. He was just a mutt, but they were pretty sure that he was at least part german shepherd and part black lab, but the black spot on his tongue said that there was another breed mixed in, probably some sort of spitz. He was about 3 years old and he was so ugly that everyone thought he was mean. In reality he was the most even tempered dog that had ever come through the pound. Everyone there loved him so much that they kept losing his "discharge" papers, He was 3 weeks over due to meet his maker. The director of the pound had found out that morning and personally ordered for Caesar to be put down. We had showed up less than an hour from that scheduled time.
We couldn't sign the papers fast enough.
When we got him home. We introduced him to my sisters through our sliding glass door. He seemed unconcerned, but the 2 year old screamed and ran away yelling about monsters. The Baby, who will later grow up to become Sparky*, was still too young to even care.
We were never burglarized again.
Caesar become my constant companion and my best friend. Everyday after school I would rush home, do my homework and then I would be out side with my dog. He was my biggest confidant. I could tell him anything. He and I would sit under the shade of the apricot tree that grew in our back yard and I would tell him everything. With out him I doubt that I would ever have survived the next few years.
My father spiraled into alcoholism, my mother became the typical wife of an alcoholic. The care of my younger sisters began to incrementally fall to my shoulders. All the while I was dealing with biggest secret of all. One that only Caesar knew. I was being sexually abused by my uncle. When the truth finally came to light it was Caesar who kept me sane. He never treated me any differently, He still looked at me with love in his eyes. He never whispered that maybe I did something wrong.
We moved to Lubbock, TX shortly after the trial was complete. There I learned that sometimes teachers are not nice. Once again Caesar was there to listen to my fears and worries. A year later we moved back to our little house in Grand Prairie. Soon after that we moved to Oklahoma City, and a year after that we moved to Las Vegas, NV.
Through it all Caesar was there. Smiling his ugly dog smile. He was the only constant in my life. Through all the shifting faces and changing places around me. Through all the trials of growing up as the child of an alcoholic. Through all the strangeness of being both a big sister and a mother-figure. Caesar was there.
It was he who listened to me ramble on during high school on all those nights I couldn't sleep. It was he who comforted me when my first ever boy-friend broke up with me. When I made my decision to join the military he was the first one I told.
The summer I turned sixteen I came home from a road trip with my dad and sisters and after all the bags were in the house the first place I ran too was out side. Lying in the shade next to our disused above ground pool was Caesar. But instead of bounding up to greet me as he usually did he simply laid there watching me with his tail wagging.
I knelt down to hug him and began running my hands all along him to scratch his favorite places. When my hand passed over his thigh I felt an unusual hardness. After a more in depth search I found a small lump dead center on his thigh.
At the time I wasn't worried; afterall what sixteen year old worries about a minuscule lump? It was probably just another mosquito bite.