A Dog Named Utah by Jean Lee

Written by Jean Lee, translated into English by Veronica Liu

Click here for Chinese language version 點擊此處可見中文

Saturday night, my husband and I went for a walk after dinner.  As soon as we got home, my daughter’s little black puppy, Utah, greeted us.  He looked so happy jumping up and down, wagging his tail as he ran toward us.

“He used to be angry and sad all the time, but after he got a dog, he changed.  He is a lot happier.”

My son asked if my daughter had checked with me about taking care of Utah.  He did not want me to over exert myself.  I did not say anything.  When I got a chance, I called my daughter.  I left her a voicemail, “It is ok for Utah to stay at my house tonight, and in the morning I will bring him back to your apartment because I have to work.  Next time, remember to check with me first.”


The reason I do not want Utah around in the early morning hours is that I do not want him to disturb my son and his wife.  They just came back from Korea and are staying with us temporarily.  I like them to have some peace and quiet.


Utah cuddled next to me.  Last year when my daughter was ill, the little dog and I had spent long hours together, more than 3 months.  I am not someone that likes dogs, I am actually afraid of them.  My daughter told me that Utah likes me because he can sense my love for my daughter who is his owner.


I arranged to have Utah sleep under my bed, but he wanted to sleep on the bed instead.  My husband would not allow it.  Therefore, after he fell asleep, I put Utah in bed next to me.  When I awoke in the middle of the night, I can feel the warmth of Utah cuddling by my side and his even breathing made me smile on the inside.


“I am hoping that everyone reading this will consider getting a small pet (dog, cat, bird, or even a snake).  It will change your life.”


Sunday is a relaxing day for me because all I have to do is get ready for Monday’s flower arrangement.  Around noon, my daughter-in-law called.  “What is the matter?”  I am a little nervous because she does not usually call unless something is up.

“I brought Utah in the house because he was crying outside.  He looked tired and his breathing is rapid.  I gave him some water to drink.”  Her voice sounded worried..

“I just took him home, unless sister is upset and brought him back?  Is she out there?”


“Do you mind watching him for a little while?  Dad should be home soon.  Is Gao Yi home?”

“He is not here; he went to visit friends.”

“How come you didn’t go with him?”

“I just wanted to stay home.”


I thought to myself, my daughter-in-law being home is probably fate.  I cannot fathom the idea that if no one is here, then poor Utah will be outside all alone and will not be able to come in.

I was a little mystified too because I could not figure out why Utah is here.  Therefore, I called Xiào Xiào, my daughter’s roommate, to ask her what is going on and to let her know that Utah is here with me.


“I am not sure.  I am not home; I am in San Jose right now.”

“Did you bring the other two dogs?”

“No, I left them at the apartment.”

“I wonder if a thief got in and Utah sneaked out.”

“It’s possible.”

“Then I will call the police and ask them to check in on the apartment.  What do you think?”

“I agree”


I contacted the police and asked if they can go and check on the apartment and then let me know.


The police called back and said that it did not look like any thief had gotten in.  Maybe the windows closest to the street were left open and the little dog had sneaked out.  I got worried and called Xiào Xiào right back and told her what the police had told me.

Xiào Xiào asked if I could go over there to check on the dogs.  I told her that I am working.  She said she would ask a neighbor to close the windows from the outside.  Shortly after, Xiào Xiào called and told me that the windows are closed, and everything is fine.  I can finally relax and enjoy a quiet Sunday afternoon.


Then the phone rang.  It was my husband.  He said he knows the whole story about Utah.  Now he wants to go play with him.  I asked if it is ok if he brings Utah back home afterwards.  I do not want to spoil my daughter by letting her bring the puppy over anytime without first talking to me.  He agreed.  Besides, my son is starting a new job tomorrow; I would like the house to be quiet.


He said, “I will bring him home after I play and feed him”.  He called me after he did that. “Utah is home.  I noticed that they have secured the outside windows, and I talked to the neighbor asking if the three dogs have been making a lot of noise.  He said his two kids made even more noise than the three dogs.”

“That’s great.”  I am so glad my husband is agreeable and working with me.

The phone rang as soon as I put it down.  “Marco just called, said the three dogs are outside.  I need to go back.”  My husband said, sounding exasperated.


Please, God! Please do not let Utah get lost.  I do not care about the other two dogs, but if Utah is gone, Mei Mei (my daughter) might get sick again. I was terrified; I questioned my husband without waiting for an answer, “Did you find Utah?”


“They found the other two dogs, except Utah.”


“Hurry, follow the route that Mei Mei usually takes when she comes home, make sure you drive slow enough and look both left and right on San Pablo Avenue.”  I do not know, but all I care about is finding Utah.


“All the cars drive pretty fast on that street, how can I drive slowly?” my husband said.


At this point, I felt it is necessary to let my daughter know.


“Mei Mei, Utah is gone.  Tell me the name of the road you take every day going home, other than San Pablo.”  I can only leave a message because Mei Mei did not pick up.

I panicked, so I called Xiào Xiào. “Can you come home right away to help me look for Utah? Marco said all three dogs ran outside, my husband grabbed your two dogs, but Utah is missing.”


“I am in the garage.  I will be right there.”  Good, she is at the apartment’s garage so it should not take long.


When I turn around, Xiào Xiào is standing right in front of me.  “Please drive carefully and go back to the apartment.” She turned back and left.  I thought she was in her apartment garage, but she was actually at my work place’s garage.  God is fooling me.

I close up shop right away and went home, hoping that Utah would be at my house as he did earlier.  However, it is probably dreaming on my part.


My daughter-in-law was home alone.  I gave her my cell number and asked her to let me know when she sees Utah.  She looked worried; probably knows the whole story by now. “Where are you going?” she asked.


“I am going to go look for Utah.”


I jumped into my car, driving slowly and looking around, hoping for a miracle.  I went driving on the road to my daughter’s apartment, hoping to see Utah along the way.  I took out my cell phone, knowing that it is not legal to use my phone while I am driving, but I didn’t care.


I called my husband and asked if he had found Utah.  He said Xiào Xiào found him.  I was mad and yelled at him, “Why didn’t you tell me?”  He did not answer.  Then he said he would bring Utah back to our house. I decided to leave a message for my daughter so she knows that Utah is safe and not to worry.


When I got home, we had a small reunion.  Everyone has a big smile on his or her face.  My son Gao Yi is home too.  He thought that it is a miracle because Utah has to cross over many busy streets including Market Street, San Pablo Avenue with lots of cars driving at high speed, and dogs do not read traffic lights… Even walking would take at least an hour.  “Perhaps Utah took a shortcut,” my son said.  Everyone laughed.  My wonderful daughter-in-law made snacks for everyone.


“Sunshine, you have played a very important role in this house, not only did you save Utah, and save Mei Mei, you actually saved this whole family.” I said to my daughter-in-law.  She laughed.  She had said that before, a dog knows the role and importance of everyone in the home, and she is the least important of them all.


For about a week, I felt absent minded and finally succumbed to illness.  This was from the scare of Utah not coming back.  Most people would think that we already found the dog, why do I still feel scared. They just do not understand.  If Utah is lost, then my daughter will get sick again.  I just cannot handle this responsibility.


Thinking back when she was ill last year, taking care of the dog and feeding him were the only reasons that made her get up every day.  She built her strength back by walking the dog along the ocean two or three hours a day.  That was the most important part of her recovery.


A friend of mine, Charlie, we nicknamed him Chur-chill.  The reason is that his big eyes and sad look resembles Winston Churchill. He used to be angry and sad all the time, but after he got a dog, he changed.  He is a lot happier.

I am hoping that everyone reading this will consider getting a small pet (dog, cat, bird, or even a snake).  It will change your life.