I am so pleased to present this terrific post by my dear friend Holly Robinson. Immensely talented, Holly has published a wonderful memoir, A Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter, as well as a fabulous new novel, Sleeping Tigers. Please check out her books – you’ll be engaged and enchanted! She is an absolute treasure!

How Puppy Love + One Shy Kid = School Success

by Holly Robinson

Holly Robinson

Holly Robinson

In second grade, my son fell passionately in love with a ball of fluff the size of my hand.

We were vacationing in Florida when we visited a pet store that was more of a puppy palace, where dogs slept in cribs and had bows in their hair. ‘I want that one!’ Aidan pointed to a lone white puppy.

It was a Pekingese. It looked like a mutant, with a squashed face and black chimpanzee eyes. ‘He’s too little to climb our stairs,’ I said, and made a soothing promise about getting a Pekingese ‘if we ever move.’

Fast forward one year. My husband lost his job and our older kids were in college, so we downsized to a smaller house. Aidan had to change schools and leave his friends.

Aidan has always been anxious. We moved in June, and his school fears escalated over the summer. He upped his requests for a puppy. ‘You promised that I could get a white Pekingese if we moved,’ he reminded me.

God help me. When I pictured owning a dog, I imagined a mutt I could hike with, not a simpering lap dog. ‘I don’t know,’ I hedged. ‘I’ve never seen a white Pekingese in Massachusetts.’

In August, though, we shopped at a mall for school clothes and passed a pet store. Aidan pointed. ‘My Pekingese is in here,’ he said.

‘You’ve seen too many movies,’ I said.

Too late. Aidan was already running toward one of the cages. ‘There he is!’

‘We can’t buy him,’ I said, eying the price tag. The dog cost twice my monthly car payment.

The white Pekingese made googly eyes at us, baring its bottom row of crooked teeth. It looked like those horrible animated Furby toys. But I had never seen Aidan so happy. We brought the puppy home. If I squinted, I could pretend it was a rabbit.

A Pekingese is even less intelligent than it looks. One dog trainer’s survey ranked the breed #73 in intelligence out of #79 different dog breeds. Our dog Leo is dumber than rocks. But Leo looks like a stuffed animal, so he’s a kid magnet. Aidan went to school that first day only because Leo needed a walk. Other children immediately ran up to pat the puppy. After a few days, even the kids on the bus were leaning out the windows, calling Leo’s name and Aidan’s, too.

After that, Aidan was the one urging us out the door. ‘Leo doesn’t want to be late to school,’ he’d say.

And me? I now hike with a Pekingese. He isn’t smart or fast, but this dog sure is a friend of mine.

About Holly Robinson

Holly Robinson is a journalist whose work appears regularly in national magazines. She is the author of The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir, a Target Breakout Book, and the novel Sleeping Tigers. Her second novel will be published by Penguin in spring 2013. To learn more about Holly Robinson, please visit her website.