Excerpts from "How You Know":

Barney forgot where the doggie door was from the backyard. He wandered and wandered, cutting a path in the grass along the porch, unable to find his way back inside. Winter was coming, and Preston and I took a deep breath and tried to come up with a plan. That is how the idea of a pup came. At best, a puppy would bring a young energy to Barney and hopefully prod him to move more and play. And at the very least, the new dog would be a companion to Boog once Barney died. Barney was two years older than Boog, and she had never known a life without him. The puppy was our way of holding onto things we could not really keep for long: possibility, and hope.

I had no idea how to train a puppy, much less what to do with one all day. She yowled and meddled and whined and had no clue where to urinate or defecate.

”Preston always says he married me because I am warm and kind, but that dog brought out every shadow side of my personality, all my worst traits shoving forward: I lost my patience with her constantly, swatting her on the butt when she sank her teeth into any garments we left accidentally on the floor. One morning I left the cabinet below the kitchen sink open and walked out of the room for all of ten seconds before coming back to find she had gotten a hold of an SOS pad and downed half of it, a purplish color all around her muzzle. I could yell so loudly that sometimes I even surprised myself with the decibel level and adrenaline I felt pumping through my body. On my better days, I forced myself to inhale a few times before speaking to her, but most days I just shouted when she did things like sprint out the front door from behind me when I opened it to grab the mail. Screaming her name is, frankly, puppy training 101 on how not to make the dog want to come back to you. Preston would emerge from the house and call her name, encouragingly, a happy lilt in his voice, and when she turned around to look at him, he commanded her to stay, then strode to her and swooped her up and said, ‘Good girl! Good girl!’ and I would grit my teeth and go inside.

”For all my less-than-stellar traits coming forward, Preston’s best traits shone: He was the one who slept downstairs beside the dog’s crate to take her out in the middle of the night to pee. He was the one scooped her up when he got home and held her against his chest and stroked her back and rubbed her ears. He was the one who constructed a pen for her on the porch so she would have room to play but be contained while I worked in our home office, and he was the one who cleaned up her poop and who enrolled her in puppy classes at PetSmart. I went to these classes, but grudgingly. I sat in them with my arms crossed, letting Preston lead her in exercises. I glanced at the clock every few minutes and told myself the more quickly she got trained, the faster she would be out of the house and out of my hair.

“When I talked about her to my friends—and Preston was out of earshot—I called her the little brown demon.

Published in Rathalla Review, Spring 2014.