A Homeward Tail


Guilford entered my world unexpectedly. Unassumingly. The vulnerable, scraggly puppy needed a home as much as I did.

Nine years ago, I lived in South Carolina, desperately wanting to return to Greensboro.

A Guilford County native, I knew I needed to walk familiar ground, complain about the diabolical traffic on Battleground, rekindle friendships. The yearning consumed me. I vowed that if I ever moved back, I would never venture across the county line with more than, give or take, a 12-ounce bottle of water, a gallon of gas and $7 in change — all of which I probably already had in the bowels of my Honda.

But a seemingly unsurmountable obstacle stood my way. No one wanted to buy my house, which had been on the market for months. Ants weren’t even interested.

To worsen my homesickness, my sweet dog had just passed away.

So, when someone mentioned that a tragic fate awaited a litter of orphaned pups, I adopted a tiny, sickly ball of fur that barely could open his eyes. His pedigree was undetermined, but I’m pretty sure his mom was a mutt and dad — MIA.

I named him Guilford after the Guilford College area where the Friends had settled in the 1750s. I grew up in that neck of the woods. I wrecked my bicycle on New Garden Road, ate ice cream sundaes at Quaker Village and waded in Horse Pen Creek.

I hoped naming him after the first Baron of Guilford would signal to the universe I needed to return home.

Less than two weeks after Guilford’s adoption, I sold my house — and my new buddy and I headed north.

But Guilford didn’t mature into the prince of peace I had anticipated. What began as a quest for the salvation of an innocent 5-week-old dog dissolved into an exercise in abnormal psych. As his personality emerged, he grew more petulant than a 3-year-old determined to cross oncoming traffic. He frightened anyone within earshot with his bark. Acquaintances ranked him somewhere between Joseph Stalin and Al Capone. Minus their charming smiles.

If Guilford were human, he would refuse to use turn signals as some act of civil disobedience and brandish a weapon. (Thankfully, the rascal isn’t equipped with opposable thumbs. But he does have a healthy set of canines. See below.) The innocent soul I once was able to cradle in my hand had matured into a delinquent, though one that people wanted to pet because of his disproportionally large, perky ears and his seemingly sunny demeanor.

Because of his antisocial disposition, folks declared him a canine non grata — and justifiably.

Months ago, a friend stopped by while I was pet-sitting my brother’s dog. Guilford wasn’t happy with either interloper so, he bit my friend. On the thumb. Stitches. Infection. Repeat. In Guilford’s defense . . . never mind.

Under mandatory county quarantine and without a shred of remorse, Guilford was sentenced to doggie detention.

However contrary this seems, though, that 18-pound cauldron of sweetness and venom is my best friend. His temperament has cooled as his redemptive qualities emerged, and his companionship has remained constant.

Guilford and my friend brokered a peace, and the four-legged assailant now squeals with delight when he sees him.

Guilford loves exploring Greensboro, pulling at the end of his leash in search of mischief and his next victim. As for me, I have begun my dream job as editor of O.Henry. Guilford sits contentedly in my lap as I’m typing this column, and we are both happy to be home. 


Illustration by Jimmydog Design Group

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