Diane Payne



DON'T SAY IT, TIM.  Just keep walking.  Come on,” Jane says dragging the dog to quicken their pace.

            Tim slows down and looks at the Golden Retrievers tied up in the yard. 

            “Tim, come on.” Jane keeps moving until she’s up to the next house, leaving Tim behind to look at the dogs.  Ralphie, the beagle, tries pulling him ahead so they can catch up with Jane and the lab, Scooter.

            Every time they pass the yard with the Golden Retrievers, Tim stops and stares at the dogs, even if the residents are in their yard glaring back at him.    Every day same sad commentary.  Until a few months ago, the dogs ran freely in the backyard, running up to fence to bark at their dogs when they passed the yard.  Then, for no apparent reason, the owners started keeping the dogs chained up, never bringing them inside, even when it rained. 

            Tim catches up with Jane and asks the daily question: “Why do they have dogs if they’re going to treat them like that?”

            “I don’t know.  One of the neighbors said the dogs turned mean.”

            “Golden Retrievers don’t just turn mean, Jane, unless they’re getting abused.  Look at those dogs. They’re saints.”

            “What are you going to do?  Steal them?  They’d probably run away from our home and go straight back here.”

            “ I doubt it.”

            “They’d notice us walking their dogs.  Don’t you think they’d want them back?”

            “Why? To keep them tied up on the leash?” Tim shakes his head in disgust.

            Tim and Jane had started living together earlier in the year, had tentative plans to marry, but they weren’t quite ready to make any announcements, nor any serious plans, beyond a better safe-that-sorry lengthy trial living together arrangement. When the Golden Retrievers ran free, things were fine.  They both looked forward to the evening walks, but ever since they’ve been tied up, Tim can’t get them out of his head, even when they’re making love.  Just the past night, Tim made a feeble apology, saying he wasn’t in the mood after Jane had made endless attempts to keep him aroused.  “I’m sorry.  I can’t stop thinking about those dogs.” 

            “You’re unreal,” Jane grunted before rolling over to her side of the bed.

            On one of their walks, Tim told Jane how he’s always wanted a Golden Retriever, ever since he was a boy, but he just opens his door to strays, and there’s never been a Golden Retriever at his door. 

            “You can get one through their rescue group,” Jane pointed out.

            “I know. I know.  But I’ve always had at least two dogs, and a third just seems like too much with all the cats, and I like the idea of the dogs picking me.”

            Jane wondered if he viewed her as one of the strays that came to his door, picking him.  It’s not the way she remembers how things went, but until hearing that explanation, she never considered that as a possibility.  Jane, the stray, appeared at my door.  They really met at a party with mutual friends.  Surely, he knows that.  Believes that.  But, the more they walk past those dogs, she’s not sure she believes this to be the way things really happened between them.  Late at night, she wonders if she did knock on his door, ask for directions, a signature on a petition, something, anything, unsure if they had met before the party, the party she now questions if it ever existed.  It is possible she was just another stray.  If only they could make love without Tim bringing up those dogs, then things would be more clear, more real, the way things fell in place so simply at the party that surely did happen. 


            The next morning Tim is up early cutting something out of the newspaper.  Jane hears him and asks why he’s out of bed.

            “ Couldn’t sleep.  What about you?”

            “I heard you and couldn’t fall back asleep. What are you doing?”


            Jane walks closer and sees he’s cutting the Humane Society notice from the classified section, the ad that warns that it’s illegal to keep a dog chained twenty-four hours a day without any reprieve.  She sees the envelope addressed to Resident. “You’re going to mail that to them?”

            “Maybe, if they know they’re being watched, they may untie the dogs.”

            “Or shoot them.”

            “Don’t be so dramatic, Jane.  They need to know it’s illegal.”

            “Do you really think they’ll care?”

            “I have to do something.”

            “Talk to them.”

            “No.  I’m sending this anonymously.  They could be rednecks and do something to our dogs.”

            “Rednecks who will suddenly care about their dogs when they get this clipping in the mail?”

            “Ms. Cynical, what if it works?”

            “Then we may have sex again.”

            “Oh, come on.  Don’t bring that up again.”

            Jane walks to the sink to make coffee and mumbles, “Maybe you’d find me more exciting if I was a Golden Retriever.”

            “Very funny, Jane.”

            “It wasn’t meant to be.”


            At work that day, Jane looks at the calendar and realizes they’ve lived together six months.   She wonders if she should feel celebratory or distraught.  Half a year invested in this trial, and everything is deteriorating because of a couple of chained dogs.

            That night, she never brings up the anniversary.  It seems too pathetic to point it out.  They eat dinner, take their walk, and go to bed. 

            “Jane,” Tim whispers while they’re reading in bed.  “It’s our six month anniversary.  Six months of living together.” Then he kisses her. 

            “I know.”

            “I didn’t forget.”

            “Me, either,” she says.

            “You look sad.”

            “I expected more,” she admits.


            “I don’t know.  Something to mark the event.”

            Tim reaches beneath the bed and pulls out a wrapped gift.  “Here, maybe this will cheer you up.”

            “I didn’t get you anything.”

            “That’s all right.  You give me plenty by putting up with me.”

            She opens the box and finds a sweater.  “I love it,” she says while her fingers feel around the box looking for something else.  She loves it because it doesn’t have a picture of a Golden Retriever. Simple things make a big difference lately.

            “Put it on,” Tim urges.

            She pulls it on and really does like it.  She gives him a kiss, takes it off, and returns to bed knowing this trial period may last a very long time.


            The next night Tim is excited to walk the dogs.  “By now they should have received my envelope.  I bet the dogs will be free,” he says.

            “I hope so.  I really hope so,” Jane says putting a leash on Scooter.  Even the dogs seem hopeful, hurrying to reach their house.

            The Retrievers remain tied up.  Nothing has changed.  “Maybe they didn’t get the letter yet,” Jane says, picking up her pace, hoping to be spared another lecture.           


            That night, Tim searches Golden Retriever rescue groups on the Internet, and fills out the questionnaire.   Within an hour, the phone rings.  Tim signals to Jane that it’s the rescue group.  He grabs his pen and paper and sits down, ready to write the pertinent information.

            When the woman asks why he wants a Golden Retriever, he tells her how he’s always wanted one, since he was a boy, and how he’s loved the Retrievers that belonged to friends.

            She wants to know why he doesn’t have one, if he really loves them.  He explains his philosophy on strays finding him, and the woman groans.  He begins to feel foolish.

            When he tells her how he has two male dogs, and four cats, she tells him she would never give him a male, if any dog, because who would want three kids so one is always the odd one out, and she already knows which dog would be left out.  Tim explains how they have kept their friends’ dogs and never had any trouble, and how all the dogs who’ve stayed with them are males.

            “Tim, why do you want to adopt a Goldy?  Really?”

            He explains the grief he experiences watching the dogs tied up down the street.  “And you haven’t gone over there to offer to keep them when and if they don’t want them?  You get on the Internet and look for a dog that needs to be rescued when you have two right down the street!  What is wrong with you?” she yells.  She groans and grunts.  “I can’t believe you’re still on the phone with me.  I’d be down at that house right now.  You’re incredible.”

            “Well, well,”

            “Well, nothing. I can’t believe you’re still on the line.” More grunting.  She bangs something in the background.  “With that many animals at your house, I’m assuming they all live outside.”

            “No, no, they’re all indoors.”

            “And they sleep indoors?”

            “In the bedroom.”

            “You must have a very large bedroom.  Or would the Goldy sleep somewhere else?”

            “There’s room for everyone. The dogs have their own beds; the cats sleep here and there. They roam at night.”

            “I don’t care about the cats, I care about the dogs.  Do you have crates for your dogs?”


            “You would need to buy a heavy duty metal one so the Goldy could eat in peace, not one of those cheap ones from Wal-Mart. A big sturdy one.”

            “Okay what, Tim?”
            “I’ll buy one.”

            “Those plastic ones don’t work.”

            “No, only for the cats.”
            “I don’t care about your cats, Tim. I care about the dog.  You don’t understand. Why wouldn’t the plastic ones work?”

            Tim pauses.  He’s feeling sick by this conversation.  He makes a wild guess. “Because the dogs may break into it and eat his food.”
            “Are your dogs like that? We’d need to make a home visit and you’ll pay for that.  You don’t understand. Those plastic ones are fine. They’re sturdy for flying.  Nothing is wrong with them.  You just need a metal one because that’s our rule.”

            Tim wants off the phone.  He feels like a bad pet owner, certain she’ll come to the house and remove his pets after this conversation.

            “Do your dogs each have their own bowls?  Do they, Tim?” she quickly adds before he has time to respond.

            He tells her they have their own feeding stations, trying to make their food situation better than it really is.

            “Okay, okay, whatever.  Do they eat out of each other’s bowls? This is important.  You know, it’s the Goldy who will be deprived food.”

            He fibs and says they’re trained to only eat out of their own bowls, and feels a sickening guilt for fibbing to this woman.  They never fight over their food.  They’re grazers, not those well-trained dogs who have their food measured out just right, then set on the floor, and expected to eat it all within fifteen minutes. He realizes how lax he’s been with all his pets.  He doesn’t carry doggy treats on walks to train the dogs, or reward them, or whatever those other people are doing at the park.  Tim looks at all the animals scattered in the living room, sitting near Jane, and imagines how this woman would interpret their existence.  They’re not learning anything, playing anything, engaged in any activity, other than sleep. 

            “I can’t believe you’re not down the street!  Tim! I would be.  Tell you what, don’t fill out the online application until you hear from me.  Second thought, let me ask you again, why do you want a Goldy.”

            He repeats how much he loves them and thought since the hurricanes, there may be one dog that needs a home.  This sets her off on another tirade about how she’ll never give another dime to the Humane Society for sending all the dogs faraway, not letting their group have them because they wouldn’t keep all dogs, just Golden Retrievers.  Her tirade goes on and on and on and Jane keeps leaning over, trying to hear the conversation, until finally she does hear the woman say, “You’re not ready for another dog.”

            No goodbye, nothing.

            “That was bad.  Really bad,” Tim says.  “I’ve got to talk to the owners of those dogs.  I must.”

            “Now?  It’s dark outside.”

            “Didn’t you hear that woman?  She’ll probably call me back tomorrow to see if I’ve gone there.  She was frightening.  Am I really that bad?”

            “You’re not bad, Tim.  The animals love you. I love you.  Let’s take the dogs for another walk.  We’ll wait outside while you talk to the owners.  You sure you want to do this?”

            “Of course not!  Two more dogs. Where will they sleep?  And the cats?  Some cities won’t let residents have more than four cats and two dogs.  But if I don’t go there, well, I don’t know.  If anything happens to them.”

            The dogs come running, surprised they get another walk.  It’s peaceful at night.

Everything is so quiet.  Jane doesn’t say anything, doesn’t disturb the silence.  Tim dreads this visit and slows down before reaching the yard.

            “They’re not out here,” Tim says. 

            “Maybe they’re inside?”

            “Maybe they gave them away?” Tim walks up to the fence and searches for the dogs.

            Jane hates to think they’d kill the dogs.  Or dump them somewhere. 

            “Damn.”  Tim looks close to tears.

            “At least they’re not tied up.  Maybe something better has happened.”

            “I shouldn’t have sent that letter.”

            “Maybe they gave them to a friend who lives in the country.  Could be something good. Tim, it is possible.  They could be inside sleeping in a bedroom.”

            Tim continues staring over the fence. Jane hears him sighing and offers to peek in their windows.

            “Their dogs would be barking if they heard us outside.”

            “Maybe not.”


            Walking home, Jane remembers her life before Tim, her life without dogs and cats, and wonders if this is it, the end of the trial, or if the true trial is about to begin.  She hates to think it could get worse than this.  And the dogs.  They had no idea a big change was coming.

            Once they’re home, they crawl into bed.  There’s no reason to prolong this day.

Within minutes the phone rings.  “Don’t answer it, Tim.”

            He looks at the caller ID.  Sees it’s her and weeps.

            There’s nothing to retrieve.  No words.  No dogs.  No comfort.  Memories from the party.  Possible plans for the future.

            Just like for the dogs, it’s over.





Holy Father Regime Change
(Terry Wright)