• Abigail Tavera

My Grandma Who Was Afraid of Dogs

I remember the first time

My Grandma told me why she was afraid of dogs.

She told me of the boarding school

That she was sent to as a little girl

In Colombia;

The one she was sent to because

Her Father passed away,

While she played at the foot of his bed.

And her widowed mother was now struggling

To provide for her children.

So, my grandma agreed to go,

Away to el colegio

To help her Mamá.


She was only nine or ten

When she was sent away—

Away from her family,

Away and her father had only died a few years before,

To the school with dirt floors in the chapel,

Which they knelt on at five in the morning

While whispering their Hail Mary’s.

And the bathroom

Was across the yard

And was guarded by horrible hounds

With abominable barks,

That practically sang of fear.

Their growls kept all the girls

Trembling in trepidation

When they had to trek across the yard

To use el baño.


One night, she was desperate

And ran to the bathroom.

But she didn’t sprint swiftly enough.

The dog chased her,

Baring its wicked teeth

And clamped its jaws

Upon her arm.

She told me all of this with a tense smile on her face,

And explained that’s why she was afraid of dogs.


Years later, my family got our own dog,

A little Shih Tzu named YumYum—

Her namesake, a character from the Mikado,

But we called her Yummy.

My dad told me,

“Keep Yummy away from Grandma.

You know she doesn’t like dogs.”

I obeyed.

But as years passed,

Grandma warmed up to Yummy.

Yummy, who was old and sweet,

Who loved all,

Whose collar danced when she came into a room,

Whose tail metronomed to the rhythm

Of her happy heart.


And one day—

I remember it like yesterday—

Yummy hopped up on to my Grandma’s lap

And my Grandma’s eyes did not grimace.

She only laughed

And softly stroked the blond fluffy fur of my silly ‘ol girl.


It was the first dog she ever liked,

Ever loved.

And I’d like to think that maybe,

Just maybe,

Mi perrita perfecta slightly pieced together a

Life that was everything

But easy.


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