There was William, whom I named after the boy down the street. We were five years old, William and I, growing up in Toronto's Rathnelly Republic; the dog was tiny and new.
William-the-boy was very clever and I thought his household was particularly interesting because his parents forbade "fighting toys," a rule that was rooted in their disgust and distress regarding the Vietnam War, and I know now that they were ahead even of their time, which was the 1960s.
William-the-dog was an energetic black-masked papillon. We suffered annually through summer ear infections, which we picked up, strangely, in Lake Huron's pristine Red Bay, where we swam together. He loved being brushed and tickled and to swipe the sticky Farley's Biscuits my infant sister gummed.
The cottagers next door almost got him killed when their enormous dog leapt through a hedge and bit him. The disinfectant we spread over his wound turned his white coat candy-floss pink.
I truly believed my parents when they came home from the vet without him one day, having brought him in with symptoms they must have sensed were serious, and told me solemnly, and not untruthfully, that he had died (just... died!) when they got there.
It dawned on me slowly -- only on the third occasion that I euthanized a hopelessly sick schnauzer -- that this was not, strictly speaking, a faithful account of poor William-the-dog's fate. I sympathize with my parents for taking the easy route, and not just in dispatching William, which was itself, I'm sure, the right thing to do.
I had no more dogs until Dash, a brilliant and, for me, awkwardly-timed schnauzer (kindergartener, preschooler, baby, puppy.) Maggie, feisty Maggie, is our fourth (empty nest.) We are a schnauzer family, just as my father's were Scottish terrier people. Our dogs have made our children's hearts soft and given them much joy.
There have been other adventures: The rabbit was the smelliest pet, the moulting hedgehog a constant worry. The chameleon was often on the lam, squeezing itself out of some gap in the roof of its terrarium. It was hard to find because... it was a chameleon.
William (again, the dog -- and I certainly hope the boy enjoyed being parented so thoughtfully and is now happy in middle age) had a sort of cousin in my great-aunt Claire's papillon, whose ears and face were a sandy colour -- though I have just Googled the breed and found that this colouring is rather wonderfully called "lemon," which makes his name, Sunny, even lovelier.
He was inconsolable when she died, when I was still a child, becoming listless and prone to fits of distracted barking. Claire had a memorable voice, with a broadcaster's depth and crispness, and when I thought of the little papillon yearning to hear it again, those silky ears tilting at every footfall and opening door, I felt sadder for him than I had for my own, and still do.