Our dogs don’t die; like dissidents, they disappear.
Lobo was returned while I was at school, to a log-and-shingle house in the woods. He howled too much for the city, I was told, later. Pepper was stolen—by dog fighters, Tom mutters as though he knows it to be true. Her jaw was wide and she was potato-tight with muscles, just what they wanted. Gus, a bright, but over-sensitive mutt, lived a long time at my grandparents’ after we re-located to a new state. He must have died there among the blackberry vines and tansy.
But before them all: Baron. He was our first dog as a new family. We got him when the new baby was on the way. My step-father named him after me (I saw once, on the registration papers), in the manner of long complicated names. Baron was also taken—because of his pedigree, his show quality, Tom lamented, because of his beautiful lines. I remember a particular image: his daughter from before and I standing over Baron, competing smiles toward the picture-taker. I am happier. No, me. It is one of only two photographs of the both of us, the big sisters, and the only one I know of that dog. He never was fully house-broken and then he was gone. She moved away not long after the picture was taken.
In later family portraits, however, my mother, her husband, their daughter, and I smile as though we are something complete.