This I Believe

December 13, 2010

It is eight o'clock at night, and I am riding my bike back to the shore house my family has rented for the summer. As much as I love staying in my grandparents shore house, New Jersey shore houses tend to be small, and fitting an entire extended family in two bedrooms with one shower does not go over too well. So, this particular summer, my family rented a shore house on the same street as my grandparents. What I loved most was the bay. Only two houses away from the rented shore house, my grandfather’s boat rested in the shallow water. The same water that I have been able to stand in since I was four-years old. Plus, if I walked in the opposite direction, the beach was less than half of a mile away. It was the perfect location for a nearly perfect summer.

As I pedal my way past my grandparents’ house and toward the bay, the breeze of the salty ocean sends shivers down the back of my neck, and the waves crashing along the miles and miles of flawless beach pulse through my eardrums. There is only one word for this: Paradise. I could live the rest of my life on Long Beach Island without one complaint. Not one.

As I approach the bay, I notice a small, white dog slowly walking in the middle of the road. The worn out features on her aged body become apparent; the way she barely opens her eyes, the missing patches of hair, the way her tongue rests on the side of her mouth, unmoistened. I inch my way closer, being careful not to startle the aged, deteriorating dog. She doesn't seem to mind my presence, so I set my bike on the wall of our shore house and check to see if she has a tag. She does not. I hold out my hand to offer her companionship, but it is obvious that she is uninterested in my presence, and she limps away. I go inside to fetch some food for the dog, determined to help her in some way. She appeared hungry: Aren’t dogs always hungry? I walk inside the shore house, fetch a piece of cheddar cheese, and return to the frail dog. After placing the cheese in front of her, it becomes apparent from her shaded pupils and unsteady movements that the small, white dog is blind.

I return inside the shore house and call the Long Beach Island Police to inform them of the situation. I give them a description of the dog and the street name. The officer says, “I will send someone out to retrieve the dog immediately, so don’t worry about it whatsoever.” I thank him, and even as I walk outside to find the dog missing, I remember what the officer said and do not worry about it. However, I wish I had. I wish that I had gone out and found that dog, instead of going upstairs, reading my book, and falling asleep without a care in the world.

The next morning, I awake to find yet another warm, sun-shiny day. After a quick breakfast of cereal and a bagel, I put on my bathing suit and apply sun screen for my tenth straight day at the beach. I grab my towel, hop onto my bike, and begin to pedal away toward the beach. Before I even get ten feet away from the house, a notice a group of policemen by the bay. Curious, I ride over to investigate. I arrive just in time to see an officer pull a limp, soggy white dog out of the bay.

As I look back at that incident today, I wonder what that dog did to deserve such a horrible death. I imagine the innocent dog, confused and blind from its old age, walking directly into the bay without knowing its path. It drowned. I gave up trying to help it. What goes around comes back around, and this I believe is the reason I have pictured that moment over and over in my head. The guilt is my punishment for letting the small, white dog suffer, all alone, in the bay where my grandfather’s boat sits. The bay that I have walked in for twelve years.

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