Doctorow has been planning on giving this dog away for two years.
He hasn’t even named it, just calls it “dog,” a name to which it has been responding since he first found it on the street. It was a tiny puppy then, absurdly short legs barely keeping its furry stomach from touching the ground when it walked, and it was curled up in a pile of newspaper debris and sort of whimpering. Doctorow thought that maybe it was a child making those pathetic noises, but he saw only this puppy in the alleyway when he checked. Its right front paw was bloody and when it uncurled and came toward him it limped, favoring this paw.
He did not admit to himself that he may perhaps have identified with this hurt little creature.
He took it home with him and bathed it and bandaged its injured paw with strips of cloth from a sock with too many holes to be wearable any longer. He fed it bits of whatever meal he happened to be eating, his veteran’s pension paid meagerly and he returned from the war to find some kid from Osnabrück or Oldenburg or Göttingen or wherever that kid was from sitting at his desk and doing his job and getting his pay.
He meant to get rid of the dog as soon as its paw healed; he didn’t have enough money to feed it and he wasn’t home often enough to be able to take care of it the way dogs require. Also if it defecated on his bed he would have to kill it.
Somehow the dog stayed. When he returns to his dingy apartment at night it greets him by jumping around sort of lopsidedly, as its leg never really healed properly, and when he kneels down to pet its head it licks his hand or face with its soft wet humanlike tongue. He takes it for walks at night, in the cool damp autumn air, and he has to walk slowly so the dog can keep up with its enthusiastic little limping waddle. He tugs it firmly but gently when it lingers to sniff at lamp posts or piles of garbage or homeless people, and when they return to his apartment he towels its feet off before it burrows its way under the blankets on his bed, turning around and around in circles before settling down with its head on the second pillow, the one that nobody else has ever used.