By Corwin Holzman-Crass
His name was Casper.
We adopted him from the pound right after I had seen the Casper movie that came out in the late ‘90s. He was an all white dog with one light brown spot on his back. His eyes were too far apart and cataracts made them shiny and reflective. He was also deaf and smelled a little funny.
He was my first dog.
It’s supposed to be dogs help little boys get into all sorts of trouble and ferret out the secret treasures hidden in the woods behind the house. I was convinced there would be a chest buried just beyond the border of our property. Or maybe in the middle of the picker trees that I didn’t want to go into alone. Perhaps there would mammoth bones and dinosaur eggs in secret caves that I just needed a loyal hound’s nose to find.
When Casper came home with us I tore out of the house and flew into the woods, Casper trundling after me. Once there, I spun around and waited for the magic to happen. Visions of secret caves and hidden mysteries sleeted through my head as the creek burbled behind me. Casper wandered around a little bit, turned his head this way and that. There was some myopic staring at a tree trunk, and he steered plenty clear of the creek. But there was no barking. There was no nose down to the ground with tail wagging. There was just a lost, frightened, and overstimulated dog in a brand new, and scary place. With my heart in my sneakers, I called him gently and led Casper up to the house. Helping him over the steeper sections of the hill.
In the next few weeks I helped Casper figure out how to get home from the front yard and the finer details of not walking into the screen door. He never did muster the bravery for stairs. After a few weeks he was a constant, shivering, mess, I would find him pressed into corners and under chairs in odd corners of the house when the vacuum was on or when the t.v. was too loud.
So I took steps.
I made him a house out of a box. It was small, barely bigger than he was. I stuffed it with an old sleeping bag and watched him slither in. There were some exploratory snuffles and then the box rocked with a few thumps emanating from it. Then a contented wheeze and Casper, for the first time, seemed genuinely at peace. There was no shivering, no whimpering. I reached a hand to stroke his flank and was rewarded with a lick across my fingers.
As I sat with one hand in the box I smiled. “You’re home, boy.”
We never found dinosaur bones or a mammoth tusk. But Casper showed me how to find something far more precious and rare.
Casper showed me how to find peace.
(Honorable Mention Winner of the 2015 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest)