“I Haven’t Killed Anyone Yet.”

I live in a world filled with men whose personal drug addictions have shaped their lives. Drug addictions are common here, and they span the entire spectrum of abuse.

Over the length of my incarceration, I’ve witnessed terrible addiction-related moments, and these events have helped shape my views and desire to prevent future generations from walking the path of incarceration.

It seems to me that alcoholism receives little attention in today’s opioid driven media reporting, yet alcohol is responsible for the majority of addiction deaths every year here in the U.S. Driving while intoxicated is the most visible outcome of alcoholism, but less visible is the toll alcoholism takes on one’s body. Thousands of people die every year from alcohol related complications.

My family is no stranger to the deadly effects of alcohol. Years ago, my step-brother Kelly was killed by a drunk driver. In Kelly’s case, the driver went to prison. His sentence: two years in minimum security. Two years for taking a child’s life. Worse, once the offender was released, he went on to repeat the same mistake.

For many years I became angry whenever meeting someone incarcerated for drinking and driving. It was worse if I’d learned they’d killed someone in the process. Being incarcerated with individuals who were convicted of similar acts was difficult to accept, and I often found myself in conflict with these individuals.

Of all the addictions and all the men I’ve talked to about their addictions, the DUI crowd is the least repentant. There’s something about alcohol that causes uncompromising denial. But what? What is it about alcohol that causes this? Is it because it’s legal? Is it because alcohol is socially acceptable? I don’t know, but I suspect that each of these points are probably part of the answer.

I had a conversation with a 28 year old fellow named Trevor who was on his sixth incarceration for DUI. Yes, his sixth. This time around he was serving 18 months. As far as Trevor was concerned, he was handed an injustice by the court. So far, Trevor has served eight years of his life in DUI sentences. We have a saying in This World to describe Trevor. We say Trevor is doing “life on the installment plan.” The only person who doesn’t realize this is the person on the plan.

What’s striking to me here is Trevor’s level of denial about his drinking problem. It’s a common theme I’ve encountered over and over again with the alcoholics. Some of the excuses I’ve heard over the years span, “I only had a couple of beers,” or, “I wasn’t drinking,” or, “I’ll be more careful next time driving,” and even, “I’m a better driver after a couple of beers.” What? However, the grandest, most insane excuse I’ve ever heard came from Trevor.

It was a warm summer evening. I was walking with him on the yard, and I had asked him about his sentence.

“How long,” I asked, “is your sentence?”

“Eighteen months,” he said.

“Wow, that seems like a long time for a DUI.”

“That’s what I told my attorney!” he said. “When he told me that the prosecutor was only offering 30 months for a plea deal I couldn’t believe it. I told him, ‘No way. You go back and tell the prosecutor no deal.’ That’s how I ended up with 18 months.”

“Wow, 30 months?” I asked. Something, I thought, didn’t sound right. 90% of the time the DUI guys get a slap on the wrist, six months at most. “That seems like a long time for your first DUI, don’t you think?”

“Hmm? No, it’s not my first. And yeah, it’s a friggin’ long time.”

“How many times have you been locked up for DUI?” I asked.

“Not many.”


“Does it matter?”

“Well, no,” I said. “I’m just trying to understand why the prosecutor was trying to give you 30 months.”

“Man, I don’t know, because this is only my sixth time.”

“Oh,” I said, lamely. I couldn’t believe it was his sixth DUI sentence; that just blew me away. “But,” I said, “it is your sixth.”

“What?” he said indignantly. “What’s it matter if it’s my sixth or third? He still shouldn’t have given me 18 months.”

“Alright, I’m not judging you; don’t take it that way. I’m just trying to understand the courts logic, that’s all.”

“It’s not like I hurt someone,” he said.

I felt my heart pick up speed. I knew where he was going with this and I didn’t want to go down that road. Yet, my mouth kept going. It wouldn’t stop!

“Right,” I said. “But what if you did?”

“But I didn’t–”

“Right, but what if?”

“It doesn’t matter!”

“Well,” I said, “it sorta does.”

“How so?” he said. “You tell me how so”–his hand went out, stabbing at me an inch from my chest–“because what I do on my free time has nothing to do with anyone else. I’m not hurting anyone!”

I looked at the stabbing finger. I felt my teeth grind together.

I said: “Okay, I see your point. I get it. But, when we drink we aren’t at our sharpest, and–”

“Speak for yourself.”

“–driving is the poorest decision that–”

“I’ve been drinking since I was 12 and no one is going to tell me what I can and cannot do! Not the court, not this place, and certainly not you!” he said, finger stabbing inches from my face now.

“I’m not trying to tell you what to do,” I said. “But, what would you do if you had an accident and you hurt someone? Just think about it for a second.”

“I haven’t killed anyone yet!” he shouted at me.

I bit my tongue and tasted blood.

“I haven’t killed anyone yet!” he said again.

“You’re right,” I said. “You haven’t. But someday you might and it will be too late. You’ve got a problem, Trevor, and you need help.” I then turned and somehow walked away.

Prior to the conversation, Trevor had told me he already had to blow into a breathalyzer to start his car. It was a result of a previous DUI. Prior to that, he said he had been mandated to attend AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) twice a week at the local community center, and prior to that he told me he had ‘totaled’ most of the cars he’d ever owned while drinking and driving.

Trevor spent the remaining months of his sentence attending AA in the evenings. I thought that perhaps our conversation had spurred him to seek help. When I ran into him again, I asked him what made him want to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. Was it because of our conversation?

His answer? He had decided to attend AA so he could receive the good time credit toward early release. Plus, he had said, they always had coffee.

My experience with Trevor wasn’t unique. Most of the DUI guys I’ve talked to reacted similarly, though not nearly as aggressively as Trevor. Denial, denial, denial sums up most of these conversations and is representative of the type of thinking that’s involved with this crowd.

I’ve thought about the long current structure of addiction services within the institutional environment and wondered, What could be done better? I’ve concluded that the institutions simply aren’t the best equipped to help addicts. Yes, we have programs here designed to address addictions, but oftentimes participation is voluntary. A big fault that I see with these programs is that they all offer attendees a way to reduce their sentence by automatically adding “good days” every month toward early release. There is little accountability aside from program administrators requiring participants to attend classes and periodically participate during class sessions. As a result, most offenders view programming as a means to an end.

I would change this structure to remove automatic good days, and I’d introduce a standardized form that program administrators complete, detailing an individual’s class participation and understanding of session materials. These forms would be filed into the offender’s institutional file and made available to the court and the to offender’s attorney upon request. Early release consideration is then decided by the courts based on the detailed progress as revealed in program reporting. Change ‘automatic’ good days to ‘automatic pending court approval.’ This way program administrators are able to provide valuable input based on their observations, offer a meaningful way for the courts to hold an individual accountable, and to make informed decisions. This also gives offenders more incentive to take rehabilitative programming seriously, and when they do, there is a much higher chance of introspection and thus genuine change. Without introspection, there can be no rehabilitation.

AA is an excellent program, and time has borne that out. It’s sister program, NA (Narcotics Anonymous), is also an excellent program with a long and successful track record, and we have both programs here. What sets these programs apart from others is that offenders can begin attendance while incarcerated and continue once released, by attending any one of the AA and NA gatherings that take place everyday in this country. I think the solution to handling individuals with addictions is to immerse them in comprehensive addiction counseling, intensive inpatient (or outpatient) programs, and to marry this with oversight programs that hold an individual accountable to his recovery and sobriety.

Placing Trevor in prison over and over again serves no deterrent. It’s a terrible waste of public resources, and it serves no other purpose than to satisfy public thirst for punishment. Barring incidents where an individual is physically harmed due to the negligence of those gripped by addiction, incarceration should be the last resort.

For less than the amount it costs to incarcerate Trevor for six months, Trevor could spend three to four months in intensive community corrections based inpatient or outpatient drug rehabilitation programming. Not only would Trevor have a greater chance of realization and change, the courts would maintain meaningful oversight and accountability for an extended period of time. In addition, Trevor would be able to participate in community based projects that give back to the community while simultaneously attending rehabilitative counseling. Both efforts help to bring the individual to an inflection point, where one considers the consequences of his actions.

As a nation, we have a responsibility to meaningfully assist those gripped by addictions. It’s a win/win for everyone, and it’s the way to guide addicts back toward the path of recovery.

A Conversation with Bubba

Is there really a Bubba? I’m chuckling to myself right now thinking about this question. The short answer is Hell yes there’s a Bubba! But it’s not that simple, and Bubba may not be who you think he is. Most people have an image in their mind of who Bubba is, and it’s an image no doubt shaped by Hollywood and fiction authors with vivid imaginations.

Bubba is a name and a term that has its roots in prison lore. Bubba is an individual who preys on the vulnerable for sexual purposes, is the puller of all psychological strings, and is sometimes keeper of the peace. Over time, as the mainstream became aware of this name, it became magnified in popular culture, being magnified again and again until it became a force unto itself. The sheer mention of Bubba often conjures up stark images.

Most everyone in This World has another name. These names are coined by one’s peers and almost always out of respect. I know guys called ‘Spider,’ ‘Wolf,’ ‘Cali,’ ‘6-9,’ ‘Tex,’ ‘Spaz,’ ‘Mav,’ ‘Lilly,’ and ‘Daisy,’ amongst hundreds and hundreds more. For example, Spider is called ‘Spider’ because he has a tattoo of a spider (he also keeps spiders as pets); Wolf has a tattoo of a wolf; Cali is from California; 6-9 is very tall; Tex is from Texas; Spaz can be a bit of a spaz, and Lilly and Daisy are gay and prefer to be called by those names. You see?

Sometimes there is a ‘Bubba,’ someone who is coined Bubba and has allowed the name to stick. I have known a few guys who went by Bubba over the years, and yes, a couple of them were your stereotype Bubbas. Sexual predators, extorters, scammers, and users. The other one, well his first name really was Bubba.

During my first year of incarceration, I was fortunate enough that some old school convicts pulled me aside and educated me to the ways of This World. Amongst a list of many things they told me to be aware of, Bubba was at the top. Sure, there were the tried and true adages like ‘always pay your debts’ and ‘never snitch’ and ‘never steal’ and ‘always keep your word,’ etc. But the one thing that rose to the top was beware of the Bubbas.

So who is Bubba, anyway? Bubba is everywhere and anywhere at all times. He’s always watching, and he’s always waiting for that right moment to sweep in and prey upon the unsuspecting and the vulnerable. Bubba is a thug or a drug dealer or a gang-banger. Sometimes he’s a murderer or a thief or a drug addict; other times, he’s that convict that is always bashing his gay peers but has sex with men in secret. Sometimes he’s married with four children; he’s that model inmate that goes to church every weekend; he’s a rapist or an alcoholic. Or he’s none of these. Bubba is a term and a way to describe anyone who preys on others for sexual pleasures.

If you are young and incarcerated, the Bubbas of This World are out for you. You may not see them, but like a lion in the field, he sees you and he’s patiently waiting. This then is a story about my encounter with Bubba. It was my first year of incarceration. I was young, broke, and had no support from anyone. My family had abandoned me, my friends had fled like field mice, and I was alone in a terrifying world. Worse, I was green behind the ears. Just what Bubba looks for.

I was walking across the dayroom to go outside to the yard. It was a summer afternoon, and the only thing on my mind was to get out of the cell block for some peace and quiet. I had almost come upon the exit door when a mountain of a man stepped in front of me.

“Hey, ya’,” he said. “What’s your name?”

“Christopher,” I replied, looking up at him. He was a white guy, about 6′ 6″ tall. He had a couple of strange tattoos on his arms that I couldn’t quite make out. I estimated he was probably all of 325 pounds. I was dwarfed by him! Most importantly, I knew who he was. Guys had warned me about him.

“Hey,” he continued, “ya’ need a new pair of shoes?” Clutches within his hand was a new pair of Nikes. He looked down at mine and said, “Those look like they’ve seen better days.”

I looked down at my shoes. Yeah, I thought. I needed shoes. The pair I was wearing was worn through to the soles in spots.

“No thanks, but thank you,” I answered. “I don’t have the money for a new pair.”

Bubba lit up. “Aw, ya’ can get these”–his hands were out, shoes in hand–“and ya can pay me back.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“That don’t matter. You can pay me when ya’ get some money.”

No way, I thought. I’m not falling for this.

Bubba, having sensed my caution, suddenly switched tactics.

“Aw, hell,” he said. “Ya’ go ahead and take ’em. They was owed to me and I can’t wear them any no how.” He pointed to his feet as if to show that he was genuine. No doubt, the shoes were too small for him. “You take them. Pay me whenever you can.”

“No thanks, but I appreciate it,” I replied.

Without me realizing it, Bubba switched tactics again.

“Hey, ya’,” he said again, “I know you don’t know me. And I bet ya’ been told I ain’t no good, but that ain’t true. Some guys around here don’t like me cuz I be helping guys. I just wanna help you, b’cuz I can see ya’ need some help. So here, take these,” he pressed. Bubba then tried to put the shoes into my hands. “I don’t want nothing back for ’em. To prove to you I just trying to help, you take these and you owe me nothing. If you want to, pay me back some day, or you could sell them and buy ya’ a new pair and keep the left over money.”

Wow, I thought. Maybe guys didn’t know what they were talking about. Bubba seemed like a nice fellow, and he was willing to give me the shoes. Hell, those have to be worth a hundred bucks! I thought. I could sell them and buy a cheap pair and maybe have 80 bucks leftover. I could make 80 bucks go a long way.

Bubba could tell I was wavering and poured on.

“Yeah, I help everyone I can. No one should hafta struggle to get by,” he said. “I work in ODR and can get hamburgers and fries and fried chicken every day. Why ya’ think I’m this big?!” He laughed and pointed at his belly. “I don’t kick it with many people, but I know a good person when I see one. You’s a good person and I wanna help.”

I felt my stomach grumble. Man, he works in ODR! I thought (that was the Officer’s Dining Room). They had all the good food there. And what did he say? He gets burgers and fries every day?!

“Ya’ hungry?”

“No,” I lied. I was hungry. I was always hungry, because I had nothing.

“Yeah, you’s hungry. I’m gonna get you some burgers today when I get off work.”

And that’s when the war began. In my mind I fought a legion of demons. On one side, a group was saying, “Christopher, what are you, stupid? This guy’s trying to help you out! Why are you torturing yourself?!” On the other side, I heard, “No, don’t listen to them; it’s all a trick! He’s trying to trick you! Remember what the guys told you about him!”

Bubba made a quick tactical shift and went in for the kill.

“Here,” he said again, offering out the shoes. “You owe me nothing. Take ’em, cuz I gotta get to work.”

I was about to accept the poisoned chalice, when suddenly I heard a voice in my head say, “No one gives you anything for free in The Joint. There’s no such thing as something for nothing.” It was the voice of an old school convict I had met in the county jail while awaiting my transfer to This World.

And as if to confirm this, Bubba said it again:

“You owe me nothing.”

“No thanks,” I said. “I appreciate it, but I’ll pass.

I saw perplexion cross his face. Then like a pebble dropped into a pond, it rippled away and Bubba changed tactic to the long game.

“Ya’s alright,” he said. “I just wanted to see if you’d accept something from a stranger.” He leaned down toward me like an old friend about to tell a secret. “You gonna be alright. I gotta go, buy if ya’ need anything you’s just come to me and I’ll help ya’ out. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

And just like that, Bubba was off into the crowd. I spent the rest of the afternoon thinking I had that man wrong. He seemed nice enough. But that’s what Bubba does. Master of Deception!

A few days later, the damnedest thing happened. Four guys got into a fight with Bubba down in the recreation bathroom. They knocked him out cold and took from him the very shoes he had tried to give me. Apparently, Bubba had tried to give them to another new guy, but unbeknownst to him, the guy he tried to give the shoes to was friends with the guy Bubba had stolen the shoes from in the first place.

I quickly saw Bubba for who he was. He was one of the smoothest predators to walk these hallways; always on the prowl, and always playing the same game. The sad part of this whole story is that he would be successful many times. I watched as he preyed on men who were none-the-wiser, trapped them under their own fears and insecurities. Lured them into his web like the spider, and simply waited for the next victim.

Who is Bubba? Now you know.

Who Do You Love?

It dawned on me earlier that a growing number of my readers are overseas in places like China, Europe, or Central and South America, and incarceration there is very different from here in the United States. As far as I know, only countries in Europe have the type of program I’m going to tell you about.

In the U.S., many prisons have a dog program where inmates train shelter rescue dogs or dogs that will specialize in helping the disabled (such as guide dogs). These programs offer a way for offenders to give back to local communities, and they provide a valuable service to those in need. Inmates learn a tangible skill, and the presence of dogs within the institutional environment has a calming effect on prisoners. For state corrections, these programs are valued both for their PR and for their practicality.

Here, we have two types of dog programs. One trains local shelter rescue dogs for adoption, and the other provides daycare, boarding, and training services for dogs owned by staff. In the rescue program, the local shelter sends us dogs as they receive them, and inmates who train them receive no compensation. Staff that bring their pets into the Staff Dog Program pay a daily fee, and the inmates involved in the program make a percentage of this fee.

I spent 10 years as a volunteer training dogs in the shelter rescue program. I’ve trained somewhere between 50-60 dogs, as training usually takes two to three months per animal. The experience is therapeutic and rewarding.

Training rescue dogs consists of commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “down,” “off,” “sit-stay,” “down-stay,” “heel,” and potty training when necessary. Some dogs take to training with ease, and it’s a wonderful experience to discover a dog that learns in far excess of these commands.

One day the shelter sent me a 50 lb Rottweiler Lab mix named Allie. She was black and brown with white patches, a year old, and very intelligent. In fact, she was so smart that she learned and mastered the eight basic commands in about 10 days; faster than any dog I’ve ever handled. To give you comparison, most dogs require weeks to months to master all eight commands.

I knew something was different about Allie after the first day of training. I was teaching her to heel, which requires the dog to walk beside you on your left side with its shoulders no further than your knees. The dog is expected to sit whenever you stop walking and to automatically continue when you start to walk again. ‘Heel’ requires the dog to learn how to move in accordance to your movements. If you go left, the dog automatically moves left, and the same is true for when you go right. This discipline usually takes a number of days for a dog to master, as it is the most complex of all the eight disciplines. Allie learned ‘heel’ in two days. By the middle of the second week, she knew all the basics.

One afternoon, I came upon the cell after being outside. The cell doors are solid steel with small slit windows. I could enter the cell with a personal key, and I could exit the cell by pushing a button from the inside. On this day, Allie greeted me at the window.

As I put the key to the lock, I noticed Allie pawing at the button from the inside. It could have been coincidence, as she was all eagerness and paw motion. So I said to her, “Push the button!” each time I saw her pawing at the button. While she didn’t get the door open, she did figure out I was encouraging her to do what she was doing: paw in the area of the button.

So I decided to experiment. Using toilet paper, I fashioned a soft, bulbous bump shaped kind of like a Hershey’s Kiss chocolate. I then taped it to the button, which was indented and not flat. I departed the cell. Moments later, I returned to the door.

There was Allie, obediently waiting and looking up at the window. I said to her, “Allie, press the button!” She jumped up and looked through the window, but didn’t quite understand what I was getting at. So I said it again, “Press the button! Press the button!” and tapped on the door frame about where the button would be, and what do you know? She pawed again at the button, and this time the door clicked open and she came bounding out in circles. I pet and fussed over her, and we did this several more times before she had it down.

It wasn’t long before she was also closing the cell door. I had created a soft coat hanger out of shoe strings, a rolled up magazine, and a towel, and I affixed it to the inside of the cell door and encouraged her to bite into and pull the towel wrapped magazine. “Close the door!” was the command, and she figured it out after only a couple hours of work. I couldn’t believe how smart this dog was! Interestingly, Allie never let herself out of the cell when I wasn’t around.

Everyday the dogs played together in the community area of the day room. On this particular day, there were a number of puppies playing, and Allie seemed to be keeping an eye on them. Whenever one strayed from the pack, she herded it back into the fold. This habit went on every time there were puppies and was great amusement for everyone.

Then one afternoon Allie was playing with several puppies, and I wondered about something.

So I said, “Allie, come.”

Allie disengaged from puppy mania and came to me. There she sat, tongue lolling out of her mouth, pulsing up and down.

“Allie,” I said. “Get the puppy.” Her ears flickered straight up.

“Get the puppy! Get the puppy!” I said.

Allie jumped to all fours running from dog toy to dog toy–

“No,” I said.

–to the next toy–

“No-o,” I said. “Get the puppy! Get the puppy!” I pointed at the puppy I wanted.

She ran over to the puppy and looked around, then back at me, then ran in a circle around the puppy.

“Get the puppy!”

And in that moment the greatest thing happened: Allie put her mouth down on the puppy’s scruff and brought the puppy to me.

“Good girl! Good girl!” I then hugged her.

On another day, it was just Allie and a 50 lb hound dog playing together. I wondered what would happen if I told her to ‘get the puppy’ now?

“Allie,” I said.

Allie stopped playing.

“Get the puppy!” She ran around the play area, looked back at me several times, but kept searching. Eventually she circled back upon the hound dog.

“Get the puppy!” I said again, this time pointing to the hound dog.

Allie stretched her front paws at me and shouted a series of barks and whines.

“Okay, okay,” I said. “Go play!”

And like that, she was black and brown action playing again. That was the first and only time Allie ever barked at anyone. Apparently, 50 lb hounds were the limit.

Another neat move she learned was how to hug you. On the command of “Who do you love?” she would jump up on her hind legs and place her front paws at your sides like a hug, with her chin up against your chest. Sometimes she’d lick your chin when you did. I made sure to hug her back each time.

Every day I took Allie for walks on the yard. She was fond of this and happiest when we were outside. Eventually I stopped putting her on a leash, and we’d slow stroll everywhere. Other times we’d go jogging together. I’d be on the track running, and she’d be in the grass running beside me.

At night, I usually kenneled the dogs to prevent them from getting into mischief. I’ve had electronic items, towels, flip-flops, books, and letters from home chewed on or eaten by dogs over the years. As for Allie? I always left the kennel door open for her. Sometimes she’d sleep in the kennel; other times she slept with me at the foot of the bunk. Some mornings I’d wake up to discover that she had crawled up from the end to wedge herself against me and the wall.

About 10 weeks in, I started teaching her American Sign Language. I wanted to see if she could learn some basic commands in ASL. She had proven herself very intelligent, and at this point I was sometimes catching myself talking to her when we were alone. She never felt like a dog to me. She was smarter than some of the guys I knew!

Allie had only one bad moment. I had made a pizza and placed it on the top bunk just for a minute and left the cell. Allie was curled up in a ball on the floor minding herself. When I returned, Allie was still curled up on the floor, but I had noticed something different about the pizza. Someone had excised a perfect square slice from the middle (it was sliced in squares), but left the rest of the pizza untouched. At first I was baffled.

I looked at Allie.

“Allie,” I said. “What did you do?”

Allie looked away. Ah, I thought, guilty.

I couldn’t help but think that she had figured I wouldn’t have believed it was her. After all, what dog eats only one slice?

By the time she was scheduled to leave, she had learned more than 45 verbal commands and 14 genuine ASL commands. Eight of the ASL signs were based on the eight basic commands, but the other six weren’t. They were single ASL signs for “get” (which I used for “get the puppy”), “I love you” (which was used for “who do you love?”) ,”wait” (which I used for “lie down”), “run” (when I wanted to tell her to go play), “cut” (when I wanted her to stop playing), and “no” (whenever I wanted to tell her to knock it off). She understood verbal commands for all kinds of dog toys and could fetch them by name. She understood the names of all the other dogs, and she understood the names of a number of non-dog related things like “shoes,” “radio,” “coffee,” etc. At one point, I started to wonder what the world’s smartest dog knew. I wasn’t so sure that the smartest dog wasn’t the one sitting in front of me.

More and more I found myself spending every waking moment with her and not wanting to do anything else unless she was with me. How, I often wondered, did this wonderful dog ever find its way to the pound?

On the weekends, the local PetSmart held meet and greets for customers looking to adopt a shelter dog. I knew that when Allie’s turn came, she wouldn’t return to me. Someone would adopt her.

Then the day arrived. I gathered her paperwork, which included a daily training diary explaining all that she knew and my observations and recommendations. Before the shelter came for Allie, I took one last moment alone with her.

“Allie,” I said. “I’m gonna miss you.”

Allie sat quietly looking up at me.

I signed the ASL sign for ‘I love you.’

She jumped up and put her paws at my sides and licked my chin.

“Now go,” I said, “and make someone happy.” And I hugged her.

That evening, all the dogs returned except for one: Allie. Someone had adopted her. She was gone. I walked back to the cell and closed the door behind me. Her absence was the first thing I noticed. It was quiet, and the cell felt empty.

I thought I’d prepare the kennel for the next dog, so to take my mind off of Allie. As I did, I discovered three of my socks buried under her blanket. They’re all different, I thought. She must have snuck them from my dirty laundry when I wasn’t looking. But when?

I sat there for a long time holding the socks in my hands.

I thought of all our moments together and smiled.

“I love you, too,” I said.

I then finished preparing the kennel.