Puff-Puff was my best friend. No matter that she was a small fluffy dog. She understood me; she graciously indulged me in my childish play. After dinner many nights, I would cross the yard from the little yellow house we rented on Causey street in southeast Portland, to our neighbor's house - an older couple whose names I don't remember - to ask them if Puff-Puff could come out and play. If they said yes, I'd race happily to our backyard with Puff-Puff trotting at my heels.
My family didn't watch a lot of TV growing up, but we did love our Little House on the Prairie episodes. So naturally, I'd pretend to be Laura Ingalls in the opening credits, running through a grassy field in a gingham dress and pinafore with long brown braids flapping in the breeze, faithful Jack tailing close behind. Puff-Puff and I shared many prairie adventures in that gopher hole-filled backyard, playing underneath the crab apple trees.
Sometimes, Puff-Puff's mom would tell me she couldn't play because she was eating dinner. So I'd ask to come in and sit with Puff-Puff while she ate. The lady must have been sweet and obliging with me because she usually opened the door and let me in. I'd come in and plop down beside Puff-Puff on the berber carpet of the entryway while my doggie BFF daintily crunched her kibble.
I watched her with curiosity. I watched her with a longing to be part of her world, even for a few moments. One time, I couldn't stand the curiosity, and, feeling left out, looked both ways before snatching a piece of dog kibble to munch on. I chewed, stopped, scrunched my face, and looked for a place to spit it out. So much for that bonding experience.
Years after we moved from Portland, we returned and revisited the neighborhood to see if our little yellow house was still there. I think it was remodeled (it was kind of a dump), and it was no longer a little yellow house. But our neighbor's house was still there, much unchanged. We knocked on the door and discovered they still lived there and remembered us. I asked if they still had Puff-Puff. They told me she'd died a few years before.
As I stood on that old street in the midst of a facelift, surveying the neighborhood to access memories from that one year we lived there, I closed my eyes and envisioned a scrappy five-year old with short blonde hair and her fluffy canine best friend, romping through a backyard that no longer existed.