Growing up, I always wanted a dog, but we never got one. Instead, we got something even better: my childhood pet, Crunchy.
I still remember seeing him in the pet store for the first time, sitting in his pen all the way in the back, in that weird, dark corner away from all the other animals. He was licking his scales clean with his tongues, when he looked up, made eye contact with me, and bared his fang. It was love at first sight.
The people at the pet store told us they weren’t totally sure how old Crunchy was or what kind of animal he was or how he even got into the pet store in the first place. They just always remembered him sitting in his big, strangely ornate cage in the back of the store, looking like it was made of black marble and reflecting zero light.
Crunchy was big with brown fur, as well as some patches of white, red, green, and some other colors I had never heard of before. His fur was shaggy and went all the way down to the end of his tails. I always thought it was cool the way his eyes were different colors. One eye was blue, and the other two were green.
When we brought him home, we noticed that he had what looked like a license around his neck, but none of us could read the symbols that were written on it, and it gave us a headache whenever we looked at it or thought about it.
We tried bringing him to the vet for his shots, but none of the needles were strong enough to pierce his skin. The vet told us Crunchy was probably okay, but only after he stared into Crunchy’s eyes and stood motionless for like half an hour.
My parents built Crunchy a doghouse in the backyard, but he preferred to sleep in my parents’ bed. They weren’t happy about it at first, but eventually they got used to the doghouse.
Seeing as how Crunchy wasn’t exactly a dog or a cat or anything else, we weren’t totally sure what to feed him. We soon discovered he was a very picky eater. We bought him dog food once. He ate the entire bowl, although he did leave all the food.
Crunchy loved to play games. And he needed plenty of exercise. He always wanted to go on walks, which made sense for something with that many legs.
We usually let him have free range of the backyard. We always thought it was cruel to tie up a pet outside. Besides, there weren’t a lot of places on Crunchy to tie a rope around. One time he did end up tying us up and went inside to watch TV and eat our dinner.
A couple of times, Crunchy got out of our yard and ended up in our neighbor, Mr. Bilson’s, backyard, and dug up his azaleas and tulips, replacing them with hydrangeas and dandelions.
Mr. Bilson threatened to call the dogcatcher on us, but later that week, the dogcatcher ended up arresting Mr. Bilson for some unrelated crimes. We had no idea the dogcatcher even had that kind of authority, but apparently he does. Check your town charter.
Although the other animals at the pet store made weird noises and smells whenever they were near Crunchy, he got along really well with all the cats and dogs in our neighborhood. They were always playing together, either chasing each other or chewing on the same piece of rope or genuflecting and worshipping Crunchy like he was a god.
I’ll never forget the day Crunchy left us. I woke up one morning to find my parents at the bottom of the stairs. The strange thing was, we didn’t have any stairs the night before.
They told me that Crunchy had apparently passed away during the night, and he was buried in our backyard. No one remembered who had buried him or when, but there was a big mound of dirt that nothing ever grew on again and was strangely warm whenever we walked by it.
We all thought that was the end of Crunchy’s story, until a few weeks later, when I was running through the basement and made a surprising discovery.
Miraculously, Crunchy had left behind a litter of puppies. And after only four years incubating in their nest, they hatched out of their eggs. They were a happy, healthy litter, even the one that hatched out of the egg that my father accidentally dropped and dented the floor with.
Now, I remember Crunchy whenever I see his litter floating through the neighborhood, barking at cats and meowing at the moon. And also late at night, when I look over to where he’s buried, and I can see the dirt glowing bright green and hear Crunchy chewing something deep under the Earth.