LIKE ALL THE OTHER KIDS
by Laura Kelley
My first Schnauzer, Syd, had been owned by a family with kids before he came into my life. At age 8, he got lost and somehow ended up running into my downtown office. When I finally found out who his owners were, they told me they didn’t want him back, saying he didn’t like their small kids.
I had no children, and was delighted to have such a sweet little dog. I soon found out there had been some parts of living with children that Syd had liked, though. One afternoon while out for a walk, he began pulling me as hard as he could, which was unusual for gentle little Syd. I let him lead, and he would turn right at one corner, left at another, and clearly had some purpose.
I never connected his behavior with the distant jingle of ice cream truck music until we turned down the street it was on, and he made a bee line for it. I bought him a popsicle, and he was delighted.
Eventually the ice cream truck started coming through our apartment complex’s driveway. Syd always heard it in plenty of time to let me know, so I could get my money ready and his leash on, and we’d go out and line up with all the other “kids” to get his popsicle. He seemed to have no idea he wasn’t one of them. The children thought it was hysterical and would offer him a lick of theirs, to the horror of their parents. In the aftermath, other moms would be wiping sticky little hands and faces, and I’d be wiping Syd’s beard.
In time, I adopted two more Schnauzers and bought a house. The others learned the routine from him, and I’d have three little bearded faces pressed against the fence when the familiar refrains sounded through the streets of our new neighborhood. Since he was my first, I always let him be the one to go out to the street with me to get the treat to be shared. This was our afternoon routine for the next nine summers.
Syd died at the age of 17, in late September, after the ice cream truck season had ended. The first time the ice cream truck jingled down the street the next spring, I reflexively reached into my pocket, praying I had the cash to get Syd his ice cream. Then I sat down on the steps and sobbed when it hit me that he wasn’t there. In a neighborhood of mainly older folks and young, as-yet childless couples, the ice cream trucks must not do well. Their popsicles are overpriced, often freezer-burned. Some of the neighbors complain about the volume of the music and the speeds at which they drive.
But that tinny music warms my heart, because I can see Syd sitting at the door, eagerly waiting to line up for his afternoon treat with all the other kids.