There once was a little boy named E who owned a dog named Heart. The boy and Heart would do everything together from eating, reading, sleeping, and even bathing. Everywhere that the boy went, his dog was sure to go. He would even bring the dog to school during the day and it would make the children laugh and play. The boy and his dog were so close in fact that his mother often joked that he was a dog himself. It seemed that nothing in this life or the life to come could ever separate the boy and his dog. Until one day, something terrible happened…
The boy’s next door neighbor was a little girl who owned a larger, much less trained and much more wild dog. This little girl’s dog was known to attack passerby and their dogs whenever they walked too close to her fence. Thankfully, however, this dog was normally chained and much too far away to do any damage.
But one day, as misfortune would have it, when the little boy was walking Heart, he came too close to the girl and her dog and her dog attacked. And when she attacked, she attacked viciously. The little boy managed to escape, for he was quite a scrappy young lad. But Heart wasn’t as lucky. The dogs fought ferociously, but in the end, Heart was severely injured. And disoriented and bleeding, he limped away from the scene.
When the boy made it home and gathered his bearings enough to tell his parents what had happened, he realized that Heart was gone. He and his parents searched for him, called their friends and family to help look for him, but the dog could not be found.
The boy, as you might have guessed, was devastated. But although he was separated from his beloved dog, he found it within himself to forgive the little girl and her dog. But days came and went with no sign of his own dog. He would stand at his window every night staring into the distance and his mother would reassure him over cups of tea, “Don’t worry, son. Heart will find his way back home.” But little did she know that something was changing inside the little boy.
One day, little E woke up and when he looked out his window, there was a figure limping down the road in the distance. It was Hart. He had found his way back home, just like the boy’s mother had said. The boy’s parents saw Hart as well and ran outside to meet him, picked him up, and brought him back in the house. But the little boy refused to go down.
“Don’t you want to see Hart?” his father asked. “Didn’t you miss him?”
But the boy stayed in his room and refused to see the dog he had once loved.
“I don’t want a dog anymore,” he told his parents. “I don’t need a dog.”
That night, for the first time in Hart’s life, the little boy slept in his room while Hart slept in the living room. But the little boy found it difficult to get any sleep at all. The reason for this was that Hart’s leg was still severely injured and the boy could hear his whimpers from his room. Irritated by the noise, the boy got up in the middle of the night, walked downstairs, picked up Hart in his arms, carried him to the basement, and locked him inside. Then he returned to his room, tucked himself in, and slept soundly for the rest of the night.
Of course, the boy’s parents weren’t too fond of his treatment of his dog and they scolded him for being so cruel. But Hart was too weak to move anywhere so they decided it was best to leave him in the basement and feed him from there. But naturally, the boy was never the one feeding him.
“Why are you treating him like this?” his father asked. “Don’t you love him?”
And the boy replied the same way he had before. “I don’t want a dog anymore. I don’t need a dog.”
As the days went on, the dog continued to eat and although his leg did not fully heal, the food was helping him regain his strength. In time, he climbed the stairs, found his way to the little boy’s room, and sat at his feet. And as most dogs who love their masters do, he licked the boy’s shoes and looked up at him with impossibly adorable eyes, whimpering for affection. But the boy scolded him and demanded that he leave. He turned it out, turned it out, and turned it out, but still it lingered near. And when the boy used the toilet, the dog waited patiently about until he did appear.
When the dog refused to move, the boy left the room himself. But the dog followed him outside. As a matter of fact, the boy found that everywhere he went, his dog was sure to go. He was, however, no longer appreciative of Mary and her cursed nursery rhymes. Finally, exasperated that Hart refused to leave him alone, the boy led him back down to the basement and chained him to the wall.
You might be tempted at this point of the story to assume that little boy E was a very cruel and unusual boy. And in one sense you would be right. Except that little boys, like many grown people, can do very cruel and unusual things when they don’t understand the cruel and unusual things that happen to them. But you might also be tempted to think that little boy E had developed quite a hatred for all dogs. And you would be wrong. For he had several friends who owned dogs as well. And these friends began visiting the house with their dogs. Whenever they came, the boy would have a positively splendid time playing with his friends’ dogs, feeding them, washing them, and grooming them.
“Why are you taking care of your friends’ dogs?” his mother would ask. “But you don’t want to take care of Hart?”
The boy would never respond, except with that look of shame little boys give when their mothers have caught them in their hypocrisy. And all the while, Hart’s whimpers could be heard rising from the basement floor.
This pattern of neglect went on for several months. Then one day, the town veterinarian paid a visit.
“I heard your beloved Hart has returned home,” he said to the boy. “May I see it?”
But the boy refused to let the vet see his dog.
“I’m sure you would rather have a healthy Hart than an injured one,” the vet insisted. “So tell me. Where is your Hart?”
But the boy refused to tell him.
And after much back and forth, prodding, bribes, and threats from his parents and what have you, the boy finally agreed to let the vet see his dog and brought him down to the basement. Then, approaching Hart very gently—for after so much time chained to the wall, he had become quite timid—the vet touched him. With the boy and his parents watching nearby, the vet got to work. He first unlocked the chain on Hart’s neck—using a key he seemed to have drawn out of thin air—then fed him some food—again, morsels that he seemed to pull out of his coat sleeve. When Hart seemed to be more or less properly nourished, the vet worked on Hart’s wounds, applying bandages and ointments where needed until the whimpering ceased and was replaced with pants of anticipation.
Soon the dog jumped to his feet, licked the vet, then rushed over to the little boy and jumped onto his chest. Shocked at the recovery of his beloved dog, little boy E laughed and rolled on the floor with him. The adults stood by watching with looks of smug satisfaction on their faces. They were glad to see the boy reunited with his dog again. But more importantly, they were glad that little boy E had learned the lesson to never neglect his Heart again.