By Jeff Becraft
Even though I had grown up with a dog as a kid, we had never had a dog once I had my own family. Until one fateful day.
We got our first dog at Walmart. You can get everything at Walmart.
Years ago, on one of the three-times-a-week-quota visits to Walmart, I was simply stopping to have my glasses adjusted. With me was our 8-year-old son, Josiah, and his friend, Josh. As we walked in, there was a kid and his dad out on the sidewalk selling puppies. There were four black ones and one that looked like Old Yeller. The kid must have worked as a vacuum salesman in his spare time and he started in with his sales pitches. As I straightened up from scratching one of the dogs’ heads, I simply quipped, “I can’t enter into such a commitment without talking to my beloved.”
We go in, I get my glasses adjusted, and we head back out. The vacuum salesman is still there. All the dogs looked lab-ish and I had always wanted a black lab. I bend down to scratch one of the dogs while the kid is giving his sales pitch. “Can’t today,” I responded and the three of us head to the car.
Josh then speaks up: “You could call Mrs. Becraft.”
I heard him… but since I didn’t know how to respond, I simply acted like I hadn’t heard him. As we got in the car, Josh’s words rang in my ears. This was before the era of cell phones. I found a quarter in the car and headed towards a pay phone. (Does anybody out there know what I’m talking about up in here?)
I called Brenda but there was no answer. The boys and I head home. There was a buzz in the car; they had seen me go to the pay phone.
We pull in the drive way and Josiah busts out of the car and goes running into the backyard where his mother is and blurts out, “Mama! They’re selling dogs at Walmart! Can we go get one?!”
Brenda looks at me. I look back and kind of hold up my hands and shrug and say, “We could at least go look at them.” Next thing you know, the Fab 5 is heading to Walmart. Corrie, who is five at this time is bouncing up and down in her seat and exclaiming, “THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!” To which I responded, “Look… I didn’t say we are going to get a dog. We are just going to look at the dogs,”… as though that would do any good at this point.
I knew that Josiah wanted Old Yeller. I wanted one of the black ones. I figured I would let them meander around and then I would start my lobbying. “Corrie, which one do you like?” “Old Yeller.”
I go to Hannah, who is two at this point, and when I ask her, she emphatically waddles over, emphatically squats down, emphatically points to Old Yeller, and emphatically says, “DIS ONE!” So much for my political career.
Old Yeller was getting a lot of attention from people going into Walmart. But there was no wag in her tail. In fact, she just sat there kind of drooped over. She didn’t run around, she didn’t poop on the sidewalk, nothin’. She just sat there… wilted.
We were wondering if something was wrong with the dog. But it was breathing and it was the one the kids wanted. “Ok,” I say to the vacuum salesman,”we’ll take one.”
“Which one do you want?”
With a look on my face like what-kind-of-question-is-that?
I reach for my wallet and before I can even get it out of my pocket, Josiah whips out two $20 bills of his own money and pays for the dog.
Brenda then goes into Walmart to buy dog stuff. Josiah picks up the dog and carries it to the van. The kids excitedly climb into the van and Josiah sets the dog down on the floorboard.
And I saw the dog transform in front of my eyes.
It was bouncing around, it was wagging its tail, it was…. I looked at the dog, I looked back up at the sidewalk, I look back at the dog… is this the same dog?
The dog didn’t transform because I said to it, “Now, listen… we paid money for you so get in there and act like a dog. Jump around, wag your tail, nibble on Hannah’s toes…”
It was like the dog knew. It had been bought, paid for, picked up by loving arms, and now belonged. It was now a Becraft.
On the sidewalk, in the hot Columbia sun, it had no name, no identity, the attention of all the people did not bring it any joy, it didn’t belong… and the people who had it were trying to get rid of it.
She sensed that she now belonged. She could live loved.
And just a side note… while we were pulling out of the parking lot, she was not staring out the back window wishing she could be back on the sidewalk.
Jeff Becraft is the Executive Director for Youth Corps and has dedicated much of his life to helping shift the vision of people’s lives. Youth Corps is a life-changing leadership development experience that inspires high school students to be leaders in the Midlands and beyond. You can connect with Jeff at [email protected].