by Anjuli Turner, Age 17, Piedmont, California
It started with a cookie at lunch. After I collected my mini tacos, I headed to the cookie station.
“Turner, Anjuli Turner,” I said.
“Here’s your warmed-up chocolate chip cookie, Miss Turner,” Kelly Corrigan, the lunch mom said.
I sat down, and as I peeled away the wrapper around my cookie, two girls appeared: Raven and Liana.
“Do you want to eat lunch together?” I asked.
“Already ate,” Raven responded.
Liana stood behind Raven and nodded.
“Hey, do you want to play a game, Anjuli?” Raven asked.
“Okay, I love games,” I said.
“Close your eyes, count to ten, and then open them,” Raven said.
They both started to snicker.
“Ready?” Raven asked.
“Ready,” I said.
I closed my eyes and started counting. When I got to ten, Raven and Liana were gone and so was my cookie!
That was my first taste of 4th-grade bullies.
And it didn’t stop.
“Anjuli can’t be in our group because she doesn’t have blond hair.”
“If you want to be my friend, you can’t be friends with Anjuli.”
Why are girls so mean? I wondered.
I needed a friend, one that I could count on.
“Mom, can we get another dog?” I begged.
“We already have two dogs,” my mom answered.
“But you won’t let me walk them or take them to the park,” I said.
My mom stopped what she was doing. “Honey, I would love to let you take the borzoi for a walk, but they’re so strong. I worry they’d see a squirrel and drag you into traffic.”
I kept asking for a dog, and my mom kept saying no.
Then one day, Raven ordered a girl at school to put me in one of those large garbage cans, and all the kids laughed at me.
I wanted the hurt to disappear, so I ran home and climbed up on the roof of our house. I wanted to jump off. I wanted to physically hurt myself so the emotional hurt would lessen. As I inched closer to the edge of the roof, my mom found me.
“Anjuli, what are you doing on the roof?” my mom asked.
“I want to hurt myself,” I said.
“What do you mean, you want to hurt yourself?” my mom asked.
“I just want a friend,” I said.
“I understand. Everyone needs a friend,” my mom said. “Let’s get you down from there and discuss what we can do about that.”
My mom helped me get down from the roof, and we joined the borzoi, Zar and Zola, on the couch.
“Did something happen at school?” my mom asked.
“The girls are really mean,” I said. “I don’t have any friends. And whenever I make a new friend, Raven steps in and takes her away. Everyone is afraid of Raven.”
“That must be hard,” my mom said. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“I need a friend. I want a dog, my own dog. One that I can walk and take everywhere with me.”
“Is this really important to you?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, if it’s really important to you, then I think it’s time we add a new member to the family.”
“Really,” my mom said. “We just need to find a small enough dog that you can manage that will get along with the borzoi.”
“What made you change your mind?” I asked.
“Last Saturday by chance I met a woman at the dog park and we really hit it off. We both love dogs. We both write about dogs. And we both went to VCFA for our MFAs in writing. And then she told me about a memoir she was writing called Dog Medicine. She said she was in a really bad place when she was younger and that her dog saved her life.”
“How did her dog save her life?” I asked.
“I guess she needed a friend, too,” my mom answered.
“Thanks for letting me get a dog, Mom.”
“Thank Julie Barton,” my mom said. “I think she came into my life to help me open my eyes.”
That’s when Zeus, a Silken Windhound, joined our family and became my best friend. We spent afternoons after school training and going on walks to the park. He also sat in his bed at my feet when I did my homework and watched every single episode of Psych with me. When I was at school, he chased squirrels in the back yard or was being chased by the borzoi. With Zeus’ help, I survived the rest of elementary school and middle school.
Today, I am a junior in high school. I have lots of friends. I’m the Vice President of my class. I co-founded a non-profit effort (www.iempowerkids.com) to raise awareness of child trafficking and support survivors. To date, we’ve raised $20,000 that we donated to non-profits that share our goals. I play competitive soccer and am a scholar-athlete. I am also the high school liaison to the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee and a co-founding member of the Black Student Union.
I don’t know how my life would have turned out without Zeus. I’d like to think I would have muddled my way through middle school. But I’m sure glad I had Zeus by my side. He made it more fun!
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