A Tale Of Shep

Dan Berkey

© Copyright 2002 by Dan Berkey

Some neighbors of ours in Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, the Marengo’s, had a son named Tom who let me shoot his bb gun. he never became a close friend though because he was in high school, and I was only ten. He wanted to hang out with guys his own age. That was ok, i guess. After all, he’d let me shoot his gun, and I liked his sister, Jen. We played together a lot, not like you might think. We swung each other in my dad’s hammock that was set up in our backyard between two huge Oak Trees every day when it was nice. We never actually ended up in the hammock together, which was fine. I didn’t want to; neither did she. The thought of it was too icky. I hung out with all the neighborhood girls because there were no guys around, and I always thought that was weird. The girls were all older than me, and they pretended to be my sisters. They often fought amongst themselves over who was going to be the big sister. It made me laugh. Sometimes it made me uncomfortable, but only occasionally. I actually got a kind of a kick out of it. They made me feel important in a way I never felt at home with my dad and mom. I felt kind of empty around them like I’d been eaten up or something. I know that sounds weird, but that’s what it felt like. The girls were all good buddies. They made me cupcakes. I ate all of them, and I got kind of fat.

The Marengo’s had a big German Shepherd named Shep. She was the sweetest Shepherd I‘ve ever known, never mean or feisty. She ran away from fights. It’s true. I saw it happen once. She could’ve whipped this loud little dog that backed her against the house once. I saw it from across the street, and it made me real angry, but before I got there to help her out the little dog fled. I guess it got bored or something because Shep didn’t want to fight. Just as well. I loved that dog. I didn’t have one of my own yet, so I spent a lot of time with her. She was really Tom’s dog, but since he was gone all the time with his buddies from High School the Marengo’s were glad to have me around.

 Then one day Shep had pups, ten in all. No one ever knew who the father was; another Shepherd, I guess, since all the pups looked like Shep. One died the first day. The birth was a big to-do. No one even thought she was even pregnant. It’s funny how dogs can sort of hide the fact, which is remarkable in Shep’s case considering the size of the litter. I remember the whole Marengo Family standing around Shep’s bed with all the pups cuddled close. Shep was very happy. You could tell by how she held her head and flapped her tongue. Jen let me play with the pups after the first week when they were stronger. She was afraid anyone playing with them too soon would hurt them, and she was probably right. I thought that was cool. They felt so small and helpless in my hands. Their bright eyes seemed to laugh though, and that made me happy. I laughed along, then I became sad, even a little angry, and that made me feel weird. I didn’t like the feeling, and I didn’t know what to do about it. When they were in my hands their tiny bodies squirmed and quivered, and their little mouths craned. They made me yawn. Jen saw this and laughed. That made me angry but I didn’t let on. I just put the pups back in their crib. Every day for a week thereafter I went over to play with the pups, and it always ended the same. At first I’d be so happy to see them and play with them, then I’d become angry and sad and go to my room and cry. Every day it got worse. Then the Marengo’s went on vacation. The father, who was in sales, had to go to a convention in Memphis, and he decided to take his whole family. They hadn’t gone on a vacation together for many years, and the prospect of this excited everyone, jen particularly. Tom was sort of indifferent, but I could tell he was excited too. The only problem was what to do with Shep. They couldn’t put her in a kennel with all the pups. So they decided to ask Mr. Marengo’s brother, who lived in Wayzata, to come over twice daily to tend to Shep. I said I would help, but since I was so young they were skeptical. They did, however, say I could come over when Mr. Marengo’s brother was there.

It was weird being inside the Marengo home without the Marengo’s, but I had Shep to keep me company. Bill, Mr. Marengo’s brother was a good guy, easy to be with and funny. He broke me up all the time. We had been looking after Shep for three days. It was always good to see her and the little ones. I played with them, and they seemed to like me. Bill and I bathed Shep with sponges in the crib. She would not move. When we tried to move her she flared up and got real vicious. It scared me, but Bill said it was her maternal instincts, and that made sense so I stopped being scared and all. I wondered why she didn’t flare up when I played with the pups. I guess she trusted me. I wanted to figure out why I always got so angry and sad after playing with them. It didn’t make any sense. It got to the point that I wondered if there was something wrong with me. I had to figure it out. So, while Bill was in the bathroom once I took his copy of the Marengo’s keys. When he came out he didn’t notice it. We had peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch and that made me laugh. I didn’t think anyone else liked them.

That night I went over to the house. It was late on Saturday, around eleven. I snuck in and the sweeping shadows from the passing cars looked beautiful on the walls. I sat in the living room twenty minutes before doing anything. It calmed me. I had been really nervous. As I opened the front door I felt as though my heart was going to explode. I guess it was because I’d never done anything like it before, breaking and entering, and I was only ten. Jees. It made me feel sort of strong in a way that was strange to me. I enjoyed it and resolved to keep it going for as long as I could. I went upstairs and drew a bath. It surprised me. It made sense, though in a weird way. It made that powerful feeling even stronger. Then I went downstairs to Shep. She was fast asleep. One by one I took the pups upstairs. I guess I wanted to wash them or at least that’s what I thought at the time. It took a long time to get them all up there. when I was done I sat on the toilet a long time and looked them over. They lay in a big quivering, brown pile, mouths all agape squeaking from time to time. They hadn’t learned how to bark yet, which was good for me. It felt wonderful as heck to be up there. For a brief second I even felt like their second mother, and that’s when I made my move. My whole body felt hot. I took each little trembling ball of brown fur to the bath. They didn’t like getting wet at first, but they got used to it real fast. I washed the first pup very carefully. It was a good thing to do, and I was glad I’d had the impulse to do it. They were all pretty dirty. I realized I had to be quick about it though. I’d slipped out my bedroom window, and it would be only a matter of time before my parents would see I was gone. My mother had a habit of coming into my room late at night, or at least I thought she did. It always seemed like sort of a dream. I could never remember what she said or did, probably just tucked me in.

After washing the pup I looked for a while into its bright eyes, then I knew what I had to do. It was weird, and only made a little bit of sense, but I didn’t resist it. I just obeyed. I drained the tub and refilled it, all the while playing with the pups. They’d gotten used to me, and I could see they liked me, so I was glad I’d taken the responsibility of being their second mother, or at least, that’s how I looked at it at the time. When the tub was filled I took each little wriggling ball of fur and carefully held it under the clear water, but not too deep so I could still see their eyes. They flashed like little stars I thought, and their little bodies twisted and fought against my motherly hands, and it was good, I thought, though I was crying all the while. It was good to be doing this, I thought, it had to be good. I took each little ball and felt their little muscles rumble and wriggle in my grip, and it was good, and I noticed how hard I was, and I didn’t remember ever being so hard. It took about a minute for each little ball. I’d named them a few days earlier and gently said their names over and over till they felt limp in my grip. I dried each one off very carefully and laid them in an orderly pile in the center of the huge bathroom. I got undressed and carefully snuggled myself into the pile. It felt so good, and I was still so hard. I didn’t even touch myself, and I came and came in lush thick flows. I stayed like that for an hour and then washed myself, cleaned up the bathroom and the tub, of course, and carefully put the pups back next to Shep. I stood over her, and for a second I felt like I should explain myself, but I didn’t say a thing. she would understand. I was convinced of it. I cried a bit and suddenly became very confused, but I put that out of mind. The Marengo’s were due back the next day, and I knew they’d be kind of surprised. It still felt good and proper to be there and to have done what I did, though I was crying, and I felt so powerful. That was the best thing, the important thing.

 I snuck back into my room with ease. The house was dark. Johnny Carson was over, and my mother never came into my room that night. I slept long with a wonderful feeling of peace and calm.

Contact Dan

(Messages are forwarded by The Preservation Foundation.
So, when you write to an author, please type his/her name
in the subject line of the message.)

Story List and Biography For Dan

Book Case

Home Page

The Preservation Foundation, Inc., A Nonprofit Book Publisher