Three years and a handful of weeks ago, my family of four settled into Mom’s sedan for a long drive into the Pennsylvania mountains. We sped alongside rivers, passed Turnpike exits for Harrisburg, dined at a not entirely mediocre roadside diner, as one does in the Northeast. Three-plus hours into the Penna-boonies, we got lost once and made the same wrong turn twice before arriving at our destination: a pastor’s house, high on a hill. Below it, in back, was a kennel. We’d found the breeder. Now we just needed the puppy.
A cheery woman on a golf cart ferried crates of pups to and fro. They ambled around, leaving pintsize paw prints in the remnants of a late winter flurry. There was one, though, that stood out. He didn’t walk or run or roll, he hopped. You walked away to ruffle another youngin’s fur and hop hop hop, there he was. It wasn’t long before we were writing a check for this cinna-ball of fluff. Done—paper signed, puppy food handed over, pooch tucked into my arms.
And then we looked down. There sat cinna-ball’s littermate, with his head cocked in that evolution-perfected way dogs do. He was white right down to his paws—he’d been so quiet while we were playing with the puppies, he hadn’t frolicked enough to muddy up his pads. As we looked, all four of us, at what must have been a planned plus-one puppy caper, his scrawny little tail waggled once or twice and his ears pinned back in what we assumed was a pleading “take me with you!” expression.
It was Dad who said the surprising thing: “How about two?”
I don’t have to tell you that another check was written and another bag of puppy food was tossed in the trunk and another doglette spent the three-plus-hour trip back home curled up in the backseat. Now, Cinna-ball is my eternal toddler, the one who curls up around my head come bedtime and drops the slime-slicked ball at my feet again and again. But his brother? You could call him Mr. Peabody. But I prefer Mr. Ingenue.