K. D. McCrite

K.D. McCrite grew up on an Ozark Mountain farm along an old dirt road, just like April Grace Reilly in In Front of God and Everybody. She loves writing stories that make people laugh and think. For a while, she worked as a librarian, but these days she sits at her desk and makes up stories. Her second book to this series will release in December 2011. Visit her at http://kdmccrite.com/

K. D. McCrite

Taz, My Best Buddy

TazA dog’s eyes will speak to you, and if you pay close enough attention, it’s possible for you to read a dog’s heart.

I want to tell you about Taz, our big black chow, who is mentioned in my book series In Front of God and Everybody: Confessions of April Grace as Mr. Brett’s dog.

One hot, cloudless Saturday morning in August, my husband and I decided go to the Ozark Empire Fair in Springfield, Missouri. It was more than fifty miles from our house, but the trip is always worth it.

We stopped at a pet store to get something for our cat, but we were side-tracked from our task because that day a local no-kill animal shelter had brought in a variety of dogs and cats for adoption. Who can resist looking at all those adorable puppies and kittens?

In the very last cage was a small black ball that quietly watched the world from two beautiful shining brown eyes. He did not paw on the cage door, or yap and yip and whine, or in any way draw attention to himself.

Our eyes met. We looked into each other’s eyes for the longest time, and something warm and sweet filled my heart.

“Oh, Brett,” I said to my husband as I opened the cage. “Look at this.”

I brought out that soft little sweetheart and snuggled him to me. The puppy didn’t get excited or scared.

“He’s been here a while,” the shelter volunteer told me. “No one wants a chow puppy.”

Chows have a reputation. They are loyal and protective, and usually love only their families. Because they are so protective and standoffish, many people are afraid of them. But the breed reputation did not concern me. My husband and I believe dogs want only to love and be loved, and the best place to start good behavior is when they are small.

I put the little guy on the floor. He immediately sat down and looked up at me. He did not follow me or anyone else. He sat placidly, as if he knew that soon he’d be put back in his cage and left behind again. I picked him up and kissed his fuzzy little face.

“He’s mine,” I said to my husband. “And his name is Taz.”

Brett nodded. “All right. But we brought only enough money to get into the fair. We don’t have his adoption fee.”

I don’t give up or give in easily. Some might even say I’m stubborn.

“In that case,” I said, “let’s give the shelter our fair admission money as a down payment, while we go back home and get our checkbook.”

Ever the agreeable spouse, my husband said, “All right. Let’s do it.”

Reluctantly leaving Taz at the pet store, we backtracked those fifty miles. I ran into our house, grabbed my checkbook, and we hurried back to the city. I kept telling Brett, “Drive faster, can’t you? I want my Taz!”

By the time we returned to the store, Taz was ready for us, his little adoption scarf around his neck, and his paperwork was ready for us to sign. The shelter people were so glad he’d found a home, but they weren’t nearly as happy as I was.

We took Taz to the fair with us to get him used to lots of people. He did not want to walk. In fact, if I put him on the ground, he’d immediately sit down and look up at me with a question in his eyes. It was as if he was saying, “What do you want me to do?”

So, I carried Taz all around the fairgrounds, from the sheep barn to the quilt exhibits, through the carnival and rides, and past the funnel cake booths.

We were stopped every few steps. I let people touch him and pet him so he would learn that it was okay for others to touch him.

Everybody wanted him. They said things like, “Where’d you get him? Do they have more? Where can we find a puppy like that? Would you sell him to us?”

Of course, we answered those same questions over and over, and when someone said, “I want him; will you sell him to me?” I hugged that sweet baby close to me and said, “Sorry. No way.”

I’ve had good dogs in my life, but Taz was by far the best puppy in the world. He never chewed up anything in the house. He had only one “accident,” and that was because I didn’t take him outside soon enough. From the first night on, he slept without the yipping and yelping so many pups do when they first go to a new home. As he grew, he loved our cats and other dogs. He greeted visitors with a polite tail wag, without any jumping up and knocking them over. Taz is everybody’s friend.

I think a dog should let his family know when strangers arrive, but Taz did not do this. One day someone drove up to our house. Taz stood at the front window, looking at the car, smiling and wagging his tail. I stood behind him and, in my best dog imitation, “barked” twice at the car.

Taz turned those intelligent brown eyes to me with a questioning look in them. I tensed my body and barked one more time. He looked at that car and barked. Only a couple of barks, as I had done. I praised him, and petted him, and now he knows to let me know when someone arrives. He grew up to be a big boy. He’s shaggy and fierce looking, and most people are afraid of him, even when I tell them, “He won’t hurt you.”

Taz is now eleven years old, and he’s showing his age. I can’t take him on long walks anymore because it’s too hard on his old joints. But he still runs to meet me, and if I’m not giving him enough attention, he asks for it by placing his big paw on my arm. He still has that utter sweet love in his eyes when he looks at me, and I still feel that warm tenderness when I look at him.

If I could wish something for everyone in the world, it would be that we all have a dog just like Taz.


In Front Of God And Everybody