No pup! No puppy! Umm … Well….

I did want another dog.

But I did not want a puppy.

Yet Yogi the puppy is on our porch, gnawing the rung of a stool.

Why? I blame canine ghosts.

The ghosts are those of Ralph, our goofy, friendly, loving Aussie/Lab mix, and Buddy, our serious, mostly silent, “night shift” discourager of deer from our crops and varmints from our chickens.

Both dogs died recently, Ralph last year and Buddy this year. Their long, full lives enriched us and the lives of children, grandchildren, extended family members, friends, neighbors, even the mail and package delivery folks.

Friendly dogs do that. They are gone. I ached.

“You should get another dog,” said well-meaning folks, including my wife and some children.

Well, sure.

But acclimating a new dog to our rural acres takes work, every day, rain or shine. If the new dog is a puppy, the work load doubles.

To be effective, our dogs must be free to roam. A paved road curves around us barely 30 yards from our front porch. Its vehicles have been deadly to dogs (the dogs’ fault, or the dog owners’ fault, not the drivers’ fault).

For more than 12 years, nearly every day, Buddy, Ralph and I walked the six-acre perimeter lapping our house and barn. Within that circle is where I want our dogs to stay.

How do I get them to know that — and do that?

Work. Work. And more work.

Those walks were on leash and then off leash but trailing 20-foot braided cotton leads used by hunting dog trainers.

A year later, dogs were loose — but connected to me via “shock collars” equipped with buzzers as well as electrical contacts. Soon, the buzzer alone would bring Ralph or Buddy up short if they got too near the road or too far into neighbors’ fields.

By age two, the training collars were also relegated to storage. Both dogs could be trusted to stay home — mostly.

Dogs are like kids, except that they conspire with body language instead of words.

They do remember, “That guy said to not do this.” Then they peek around. Tongues lolling, they catch each other’s eyes and exclaim, “That guy is not here right now! Let’s cross the road!”

So, on occasion, the shock collars were re-employed for a day or two.

What followed was years of companionable coexistence. We greeted each other. We played. We walked. Sometimes, we just glanced at each other, dogs lying on fresh white snow while I cleared the driveway or rode the mower across green grass.

Those were good years for dogs and us.

After they died, I thought about an adult dog, perhaps a calmed-down senior dog.

But not a puppy. Puppies chew shoes. They play-bite. They jump. They bolt after this or that. They whine (or even scream, sort of) after midnight.

Puppies are just too much work.

Then I saw the classified ad: “Aussie/Lab puppies.” Our dog Ralph was Aussie/Lab. Should I…?


The pups were an hour away, near Punxsutawney. Initial asking price, $700.

No. No, no, no. Too much money. Too much work.


Then the ghosts got to work.

Our “frost-proof” outside faucet sprung a leak. Plumber Bill Green said a replacement could be bought in — Punxsutawney. I could pick it up myself for less than he needed to charge for his time and gasoline.

Hmm. Plumbing. Puppy. Punxsutawney.

“It’s a conspiracy!” I muttered.

“No,” said a quiet voice inside me, the voice of an old man who misses the dogs he has had in his life ever since his own childhood. It’s not a conspiracy. Just call it a suggestion from those ghosts of Ralph and Buddy.

I put the damn checkbook in my pocket. I got into the damn car. I drove to get the damn faucet and then to just look at the puppies, but not saddle my wife and me with months of work.

I looked. The pup crawled all over me. I sighed, and hauled out the checkbook.

Back in the 1950s, I liked the New York Yankees and their long-armed, stocky catcher, Yogi Berra, perhaps the best bad-ball hitter in baseball history, a fierce competitor and all-around nice guy.

So the puppy is Yogi. He is here.

I am bleary-eyed, sleepless. I am weak in the knees and back from all the chasing after him. I am hopelessly behind in mowing and household chores. In Yogi’s second day here, with my wife out of town, I logged an exhausting 12,125 steps, according to my cell phone’s app. Pre-Yogi, that might have been 5,000 steps.

I was not going to get a puppy. No, no, no.

But we don’t “have” a puppy.

We just have a larger family. Our dog and us humans will suffer through that chewed-up stuff, console that post-midnight whining, trip over leashes, get soaked by going out in rain.

Yogi is here. He is ours. That’s just how it is. The ghosts approve.

I am happy.

Denny Bonavita is a former editor/publisher at newspapers in DuBois, Brookville, New Bethlehem and Warren. He lives near Brookville. Email: notniceman9@gmail.com.


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