When I was six* mom and dad told us that our beloved Collie, Romeo, ran away to be with his girlfriend, Juliet. I believed them.
It made sense. Romeo was always getting out. Someone, probably me or Danny, would leave the garage door open and he’d run out from the backyard, through the garage, down the driveway and out onto our calm suburban street. Dad stopped what he was doing and gave chase. He had to catch Romeo before he got hit.
He got hit once. They took him to the animal hosptial. After that, he didn’t come home. That’s when mom and dad concocted the story.
I believed this well into my teens. Yes, it took me that long to figure it out.
I don’t remember ever playing with Romeo. There are no photos of him in the many albums and shoe boxes full of family photos. However, there are some photos of Dandy, Papá Chepe’s collie. I believe he was Romeo’s father. Some of his other offspring had been sent to live with my tío Beto (Queenie) and my tío Chuy.
Tío Beto sent me those photos recently. In them, the cousins, Danny and I are playfully petting Dandy at Papá Chepe and Mamá Toni’s former Boyle Heights home. I remember going on walks with Papá Chepe and Dandy around the neighborhood. I don’t know what happened to Dandy. I imagined he died of old age. Now Papá Chepe babies VR, our Chihuahua mix, just like the rest of the family. He also takes him for walks. The only difference? Papá Chepe now carries a cane and moves much slower.
* Or seven or eight, the age is not really important.