Childhood Pet was a Gift

My father worked in a lab at MIT next door to an animal experimentation lab. The summer I was seven, he surprised us with a beagle puppy that the lab didn’t need anymore. He was so cute and cuddly. “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was a song I heard all the time on the radio at our neighbors’ house.

I immediately named the puppy Teenie. I loved this little dog. He was perfect. I would nestle beside him on the living room rug, rubbing his warm belly and pat- ting his soft square head. Sometimes Teenie rolled over on his back for a full belly rub, making me smile. It felt so good to be close to another living creature. It felt so good to be able to make another living creature happy. I was as happy as I had ever been.

Father Punished the Dog

Teenie slept in the kitchen of our duplex apartment, a gate separating him from the green-carpeted dining room. One morning I came running downstairs to say good morning to him and found the gate open and Teenie curled up in the corner of the dining room. Before I could go over to him, my father came into the room, and stepped on a big, wet yellow spot on the rug.

“Bad dog!” my father yelled, stepping toward Teenie.

He scooped him up, put him down by the yellow spot.

“Bad, bad, bad dog!” he yelled, hitting Teenie on the nose each time he said bad.

Then he picked Teenie up and took him into the kitchen. I stayed in my spot in the dining room, afraid to move.

“Bad dog!” I heard my father yell, again.

I heard the door to the basement bang as my father opened it and it hit the kitchen wall.

“Bad dog,” my father said.

Violence and Denial

The next thing I heard was a thud. Then a tiny yelp. I turned to face the dining room wall as I began to cry. I was so frightened for Teenie. Angering my father was something I tried never to do.

My mother came downstairs. “What’s going on?” she asked as she rushed toward the kitchen.

“Teenie thought the green rug was grass and he peed on it,” I said.

My mother rushed away from me. I followed her into the kitchen. “Get out!” she shouted at me.

I went back to the corner of the dining room and sat down, my head in my hands, tears streaming down my face. I wanted to get Teenie and hug him, help him, and tell him I loved him. A few minutes later, my father walked out the back door with Teenie in his arms.

“Your father’s taking Teenie to the vet,” my mother said, coolly and calmly. “What kind of cereal do you want for breakfast?”

Teenie’s Violent Death Still Haunts

I was worried that Teenie was badly hurt. He’d been thrown down the stairs. I wished so much that he’d known that the green carpet was not grass. I was hopeful that when my father came home that evening, he’d have Teenie.

He did not.

Neither he nor my mother said anything about Teenie that night. They sat down to dinner as if it were a regular day. My father reminded me, as he always did before dinner, “You can listen but don’t speak.” I was afraid to ask them about my perfect little puppy. I never heard them say his name again. For the rest of the summer when I heard the song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” I cried.

I don’t remember when I realized that Teenie was not coming home again. Nor do I remember when I realized that Teenie had died.

Excerpted from Anne’s book, Mattie, Milo, and Me: A Memoir

Learn more about Anne on her website: Home | Anne Abel (

Anne Abel

Anne Abel’s story about unwittingly rescuing an aggressive dog, Milo, won a Moth StorySLAM in New York City. She has won two additional Moth StorySLAMs in Chicago. Her credentials include an MFA from The New School for Social Research, an MBA from the University of Chicago, and a BS in chemical engineering from Tufts University. She has freelanced for Lilith; Philadelphia Daily News; The Jewish Exponent; Philadelphia Weekly, Main Line Life and Main Line Today, and formerly wrote a weekly column, “The Homefront,” for Main Line Welcomat. She also taught English and creative writing at the Community College of Philadelphia. Anne lives in New York City with her husband, Andy, and their three rescue dogs, Ryan, Megan, and Chase. She grew up outside Boston, MA. In January, 2016 Anne and Andy, moved from suburban Philadelphia with their three dogs to Chicago, where Andy was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago. Anne had no idea what she was going to do in this city where the daytime high was nine degrees. When she met her new dog walker she asked, “What do you do when you aren’t walking dogs?” “I host a storytelling open mic in the back of a bar. You should come sometime and tell a story.” Anne went to the storytelling open mic just to listen. Unexpectedly, she found herself telling a story. For the next two years Anne became part of the storytelling circuit of Chicago, including The Moth. She won two Moth StorySLAMs in Chicago. Then she and her husband moved to New York City where she won a Moth StorySLAM for telling the story about Milo.

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