REBEL WITH FOUR PAWS
by Sandi Underwood
The best friend a boy ever had was a yellow Lab named Rebel. He was my constant companion the summer I turned 12 years old. He ran alongside, ears flapping to and fro, as I rode my bicycle up and down the neighborhood. Looking back, it's hard to tell who had more fun.
Rebel's favorite game was baseball. Being a good retriever, he kept a watchful eye on the "batter-up," and as soon as bat met ball, he was in hot pursuit. Rebel played left field as well as any Major League star.
Rebel's other favorite game was "hide and seek." Pity the poor neighbor who left tennis shoes, baseball glove or small hand tool outside for any length of time. Rebel "retrieved" anything he could carry and deposited it in our garage.
After a few weeks, even our most distant neighbors ceased calling before looking. We grew accustomed to hearing the garage door (left unlocked for this reason) open and close as someone searched for his missing item. Thank goodness for understanding neighbors!
But the best "Rebel" story has to be the one involving the Jolly Time Ice Cream truck. Now, it's a known fact dogs have far superior hearing than their human counterparts, but Rebel's ability to hear the ice cream truck's jingle was phenomenal. That dog did more to boost Jolly Time's sales that summer than the unseasonably hot temperatures.
Rebel's favorite ice cream was the "RAINBOW BOMB." It didn't take us long to realize it was easier to buy him a treat than to share ours with him. He never understood "fifty-fifty."
That summer, we planned our family vacation for July, right smack dab in the hottest part of the summer. But it was no problem finding someone to care for Rebel.
"He drops by every evening, anyway," my next-door neighbor said. "I'll just make sure his food & water bowls stay full and he can sleep on the porch. We'll take care of him." My neighbors were almost as fond of our dog as we were.
Once those arrangements were made, we calculated the number of days we'd be gone and left money with the ice cream man to cover Rebel's daily "RAINBOW BOMB."
Over the years we've wondered whether or not he actually received his daily ice cream in our absence, but how could anyone say "no" to that crazy dog when it came to his "RAINBOW BOMB?" Besides, the ice cream truck continued to visit our neighborhood, which meant neither the man nor the tires on the truck suffered any harm.
One thing for sure: no boy ever loved his dog more than I loved Rebel. But like that old saying, "there is nothing constant but change," my life soon changed for the worse.
Fall arrived early that year. Leaves turned various shades of orange and the nights hinted of frost. One sunny day, Rebel wasn't waiting in his usual place after school. I hopped on my bike and called, "Rebel! Rebel! Here boy!" I rode up and down the subdivision until dark, but no Rebel. I was beginning to get scared.
Mom tried her best to cheer me. "He'll probably be home in the morning. He's probably just out chasing rabbits."
But next morning, Rebel was still missing.
"Rebel, here boy!?" I called.
Day after day, I searched. Soon I had to accept the truth: he wasn't coming back.
Mom tried to comfort me, "We'll find another dog. We'll get one just like Rebel, and you can teach him to play baseball and even buy him ice cream next summer."
"I don't want another dog. I want Rebel!" I shouted. I could never love another dog, and I would never buy another "RAINBOW BOMB" as long as I lived!
Fall turned into winter, and the snow piled up. The ache in my heart eased, but I never stopped wishing Rebel would come bounding across the snow with ears flapping, emitting that familiar "yip, yip, yip."
That Christmas I got a shiny red ten-speed. It was built low to the ground and geared for speed, but I would have traded it in a heartbeat for my rusty old "Mountain Flyer" and that clumsy yellow Lab.
Before long, the snow melted and warm sunshine pulled up tiny flowers all over our baseball field. I couldn't wait for summer break!
One morning, I opened the front door to watch for the school bus and saw a sight that left me gasping for air! "Rebel! Mom, look! Rebel came home!"
I whooped for joy and tumbled out the door over the, now, huge dog. We rolled all over the front yard, Rebel yipping joyfully and covering my face with sloppy kisses.
The commotion brought my entire family running. "Oh, my goodness! Look!" Mom stared, not at Rebel and me, but at what he'd "retrieved" home this time. Waiting patiently for dog and master to reunite, four fat puppies wagged tiny tails.
"Wow! Mom, can we keep 'em?" I couldn't believe my luck! We not only got Rebel back, but four more "Rebels," to boot!
"Now, son, those babies belong with their mother."
Rebel and the puppies waited around all day for me to get home from school before he gave a special bark that brought them running. He glanced back once before they disappeared on that Friday afternoon in March. Tears stung my eyes as I took one last glimpse of my old friend.
But Rebel didn't let me down. Once or twice a month, usually on the weekends, he and the pups came to visit. We jokingly referred to these days as Rebel's "weekend custody." Oh, how I looked forward to those visits!
Then just as suddenly as they started, they stopped. For a couple of weeks, I dashed from bed to window every morning to see if my old friend had showed up.
When Mom saw my disappointment at breakfast, she would pat my head and say, "You just never know?."
Then one day, Rebel made one more visit, but this time he was alone. He seemed different, somehow. I figured the pups had left to find their own best friends. I hugged him tightly and whispered in his ear, "It's okay, boy. It's okay."
Through the years, I've had other pets, but never another best friend like Rebel. I sure was sad to see him go, but I sure was lucky to have him as long as I did. To this day, I still choke up whenever I see a boy and his dog, because some of my best childhood memories involve that clumsy yellow Lab named Rebel.