When my brother was 15, he hid a pit bull in his closet. Some might find this strange, but I knew he had been planning it. Richie informed me of his intentions while I was home on a college break. I dismissed the thought, figuring no one was crazy enough to break the "no dogs allowed" rule in our house. While Dad was not allergic to dogs, he was afraid of them. I had to wonder why Richie would choose a pit bull out of the many breeds available, but I suppose a pocketbook-size dog wouldn't have had much appeal to a boy of 15.
I forgot about this plan until weeks later when, back in college, I received a call from my father. Without greeting me, he launched into a tirade.
"Do you have any idea what we found in your brother's closet?" he bellowed.
"Your mother called me at work! She said it so quietly I thought it was something terrible! Like he's gotten into drugs! No! It was worse!"
My curiosity was piqued.
"It was a dog! Not any dog - a pit bull! It was here for three days!"
"Oh ... yeah. He told me about that."
This was obviously the wrong thing to say, because the blustering on the other side grew louder.
"You knew? Why didn't you tell anyone? We could have avoided the biggest fight we ever had! I told him he could move out if he wanted to keep that dog, but there are no pit bulls in my house!"
"Uh ... where's Mom?"
"She's with your brother. He's moving in with Grandma, and he took the dog."
This couldn't be true. My grandmother was more terrified of animals than anyone I knew. I managed to get my father off the phone and turned to the dreadful task of writing a paper for philosophy class. The next morning, the ringing of the phone interrupted my studying. This time it was my mom.
"I heard a noise upstairs," she said. "I thought, 'Rich left the TV on.' The further I got upstairs, the more it started to sound like whimpering. The TV didn't cover up the sound. So I opened up the closet, - and I couldn't believe my eyes. There it was, this little puppy, blinking up at me."
I wondered at the wisdom of shutting up a pit bull in one's closet while away at football practice. "Did Richie move in with Grandma?" I asked.
"I took him over there with the puppy. She said that she would let Richie move in, but she didn't realize it would be with the dog. So when we got there she was pretty disappointed."
"The dog is gone, and Rich is mad at both of us. I have never seen someone cry so hard. No one is happy."
"Luckily for me, I'm 300 miles away."
"I wish I were with you!"
Four years later, things changed. My brother's girlfriend, Lindsay, had been campaigning for a puppy since Rich's 19th birthday. She asked my mom and me if we thought my Dad would ever agree to this. We both gave her a resounding no, citing the pit bull incident. But Lindsay persisted, and at Christmas she brought up the subject again, as she had decided a puppy would be the best gift she could give him.
I suggested Hawaii, clothes, a trunk full of gold - anything else. Lindsay said the puppy would live at her house at night, and spend days with my brother. They would share the responsibility.
Lindsay kept her word. She went to the pound and adopted a brindled female pit bull. She told Richie to close his eyes, and placed his dream puppy in his arms. When he opened his eyes, he burst into tears, exclaiming, "I'll never be able to keep her!"
Somehow, they sold Dad on the time-share agreement. This went on for about a week before Richie began wailing that his newfound love, Brandi, would not be truly his because she was spending all her time with Lindsay's family. Soon, Brandi was squirming her way into all of our hearts.
Brandi licked toes, romped in the kitchen, and barked at tomatoes.
Then one day, Mom caught Dad doing the unthinkable. She was in the basement when she heard suspicious conversation upstairs: "Who loves you, Brandi? That's right, Brandi - I love you!"
The same dog-fearing daddy was proclaiming his love for Richie's puppy. The same father who would not allow any dog in his house was standing outside in 10-degree F. weather, waiting for the puppy to go to the bathroom, and asking slyly, "Who's your real Daddy?"
Lindsay ended up giving our family the most important gift it had ever received. Brandi brings everyone smiles. A 40-pound dog who still thinks she's a five-pound puppy, she has given us nothing but unconditional and slobbering love that has warmed all of our hearts.