By Kenna McHugh
“It was a splendid summer morning and it seemed as if nothing could go wrong.” John Cheever
One early summer morning, when I was nine years old, I had my first unexpected lesson about the birds and the bees. When I was young, kids went outside and played in the neighborhood. Today, with the overscheduling of kids and dangers that lurk around us, these aimless mornings seem like a thing of the past.
“Let’s go fence walking. It’s still so early. It’s the perfect time,” I whispered to my older brother. Two years seemed a big gap back then and he was pretty much in charge. Fence walking is when we would take short cuts through neighbors’ yards to get to a friend’s house to play or say hello. Not every neighbor wanted children cutting through their yards so there was a little thrill to not getting caught.
My brother thought for a moment. “We can walk the fences to Randy’s house, and he can walk back to our house.”
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Our dog, Tami was scratching and whining at the sliding glass, refusing to be ignored or left behind. “Shh, quiet… you, stupid dog,” my brother said. Then, he looked at me. “She’s going to wake up the whole neighborhood. We’ll have to bring her. Fence walking is out. Let’s go.” My brother grabbed her leash and we set off.
“To the park?”
Tami was straining, pulling us toward the park. The sun was quietly starting to shine on the horizon, but we didn’t experience any moment of serenity because Tami was dragging us behind her.
I looked at my brother, “I’ve never seen her so excited.”
She pulled us to a house we didn’t know. Tami fixed her eyes on the house and barked. We heard a loud bark from the backyard, then a dog suddenly leapt over the fence and came running at us. We were so startled that we took off running. Tami pulled us to stop a couple of times, but my brother yanked the leash, pulling her along.
The other dog caught up to us and before we knew it, the two dogs were locked butt to butt. My brother yanked and yanked, but we couldn’t pull them apart. We had never seen anything like it. My brother pulled and pulled on the leash, but he just couldn’t get Tami free.
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Finally, they came unlocked, and we went home. Our mother was up, and we told her what happened.
“Oh no…Tami is going to have puppies.”
Two months or so later, my brother and I sat together and watched Tami give birth to 5 puppies.
Looking back, I was fortunate to be able to learn about life as it opened up to me. I hope the same scenario can unfold for my children. That they can learn a life lesson naturally, and, without anyone scheduling it in. But, I do need to be aware of their safety while giving them enough freedom in the summer for these opportunities to occur in their lives.