Wicket 2.0

by Jamie M. Boyd

I found Wicket barking by the side of the road at an art festival. Which was strange, because his ashes were still in my closet from three years ago, when he died.

“Wicket!” I cried before my head caught up to my heart. And then, an octave higher: “Wicket?

The festival was the same one that popped up every year in Fort Lauderdale, the same artists selling the same beach prints, the same vaguely New Age jewelry, on a downtown street closed off to traffic. Along the road there was a ditch, and in that ditch were two small strays. An emaciated Jack Russell terrier and a dog that looked just like Wicket.

Wicket was a Pomeranian. He’d weighed no more than four pounds, the kind of dog you see rich women take to the grocery store tucked in their purses. We’d gotten him back when we lived in a miniscule apartment, and he died thirteen years later, after a seizure left him paralyzed from the hips down.

This new dog couldn’t really be him. He was dirty, his fur all matted.

“Wicket, come here,” I called anyway.

The other dog took off, but almost-Wicket stayed, and I scooped him up. When Wicket was a puppy, there’d been some minor accident at the breeders, and his left eye had gone cloudy, almost like a cataract. Now I checked and, yes, this dog had that cloudy left eye. He trembled but looked at up at me and cocked his head, like always, and I had a flash of tremendous guilt I’d somehow abandoned him.

There was a tiny cut on his nose crusted with blood. I flipped him over and checked his belly, which crawled with fleas.

“Aw, where’s your owner, sweetie?” I tried to keep my voice light, but it cracked.

Tucking him under my arm, I went to find my husband, who was off looking at some giant metal wind sculptures. Chris would have a rational explanation for this, would remember some detail I’d forgotten to prove that this was not Wicket magically come back to life.

“Hey,” I said, sliding next to him.

“Hey,” he replied, eyes still on the sculpture.

Our three kids were within sight but a ways off, looking at another art table. That was new, them all being old enough to go off on their own. In a crowd like this, I still had to stifle the instinct to have at least one tiny hand in mine. But I was relieved to have at least a few moments to talk to Chris alone.

“Look what I found,” I said.

Chris turned. “Huh,” he said after a beat. “That really looks like―” The dog cocked his head again, and Chris mirrored the motion. “It’s a stray?” He grimaced. “He looks awful.”

“Yeah. No collar.” My face reddened, and I fought off a wave of déjà vu.

Three years before Wicket died, the latch on our backyard gate broke, and he escaped. I had given him a bath a few days before and forgot to put his collar back on. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was how long he was gone before I noticed.

In my defense, my kids were young. I was overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. Still. The only reason I realized Wicket was missing was that he didn’t bark when the dishwasher repairman came to the door. Wicket had been an incessant barker, so bad we put him in another room any time we had company.

After I let the repairman in, I searched the house and yard and found the gate to the backyard fence gaping open. I jumped in my minivan, hands shaking as I snapped Ryan into his infant car seat. I circled the neighborhood. My eyes scanned for any small movement; my heart braced for the worst.

Just as I was about to turn back home, a neighbor left her house with a little ball of fur in her arms. I rolled down my window and cried out Wicket’s name. The woman hurried over as Wicket squirmed.

“You found him! Thank you so much,” I gushed.

“No problem,” she said, laughing as the dog practically leapt into my arms through the driver’s side door. “He obviously missed you.”

“Where did you find him? I just noticed him gone.”

Her face went carefully still. She tried, but was not entirely successful, at hiding her disapproval. It was the flaring nostrils that gave it away. “Yesterday. Morning,” she said. “I was just going to go drive around and check the neighborhood for missing dog posters.”

My face flashed red hot. “Uh, yeah, well, thank you.” Then I sped off, hoping never to see her again.

Now, years later, I clutched Wicket’s doppelganger to me, crushed by the same burning shame and embarrassment. “We can’t just leave him here.”

“Okay,” Chris replied slowly, tone hesitant. “You want to take him to the Humane Soci—”

Before he could finish, the kids were at our side.

“Hey Dad, they have some really cute dog cartoons over there,” my eldest, Michelle, was saying. “They have one that looks just like Chewie. Can we get it?”

I turned, and all three saw what was in my arms.

“Oh wow—”

“Hey, that looks—”

“It’s Wicket!” squealed my seven-year-old, enveloping the dog in a hug. Almost-Wicket licked his face and wriggled, joyous. Ryan looked up at me and beamed.

Michelle frowned the way only twelve-year-olds about to turn thirteen can. My middle child, William, took a nervous step back and slipped his palm into mine.

Perhaps I should explain. In books and movies, children always love their dog fiercely and when that dog dies, it is a major milestone in their lives, their first opportunity to learn about death and grief.

That’s not exactly how it went in our house. Wicket was older when he died. He was never much for cuddling; he didn’t want to fetch. Someone once told me that Pomeranians were bred to be living burglar alarms for royalty back in the 1800s, and I believed it, because that became Wicket’s sole goal in life. He’d sit by the front door of our new house or upstairs, peering through the picture window, yapping at anything that moved. He loved my kids, he just didn’t want to play with them.

When Wicket died—we brought him home from the vet to say goodbye to everyone, and he passed away that night, before we had a chance to take him back to be put down—I dreaded how it would hurt my children. Instead, Michelle and William, then nine and seven, barely reacted. They petted his body a few times with regret, said they would miss him, and then went back to their book and iPad. No tears. No nothing.

If it weren’t for Ryan, I’d have worried I was raising insensitive little monsters. He was only four at the time, and he took it hard. The next morning, he wanted to make sure Wicket hadn’t woken up. He cried a little each night before bedtime for a week.

For a long time, I resisted getting another dog. I just didn’t have it in me. A year ago, I finally relented, and we got Chewie.

Chewie was everything a family dog is supposed to be, a big, goofy brown mutt that liked to wrestle and chase balls and making flying leaps into our swimming pool. And now I had the time and energy to take care of him: long walks, trips to the dog park, even obedience lessons. If only I’d been able to give Wicket that kind of attention in his final years.

“We’re taking him home, right, Momma?” Ryan said, his voice plaintive, as if reading my thoughts. He clung to the Wicket look-alike, eyes beseeching.

How could I say no?


After we got home, I gave almost-Wicket a bath and put some Frontline on him. Then we introduced the two dogs. They sniffed each other. Or, should I say, Chewie sniffed. Wicket’s twin did what Wicket did best.

Yip! he barked, backing away and kicking his rear feet as if to protest the intruder in his house. Yip, yip, yip!

“Weird,” William said, “it’s like it really is him.”

At a sound from outside, Wicket scurried to the front door. When no mail carrier bounded the porch steps, Wicket raced upstairs, toenails skittering, and slid to his usual spot for a better view of any cars or people passing by.

I glanced sideways at Chris. His eyebrows shot up.

“This isn’t going to be like Pet Sematary, is it?” Michelle cracked.

Ryan looked up at me with a little frown. “It is Wicket, isn’t it?”

My heart ached. Ryan always asked the toughest questions. Just a year earlier, after we moved him from a church-run preschool to the local public elementary school, he’d wanted to know if Jesus had really risen from the dead.

I’d given up on religion long ago. Still. Why did the truth always have to be so harsh?

“Oh, honey,” I said. “When I saw him on the side of the road, that’s the first thing I thought. And I wish it was true. But things don’t come back to life.”

He hung his head.

Chris reached out and tussled his hair. “But that doesn’t mean we can’t love him just as much, buddy.”


After that, we didn’t really talk about it anymore. I called the pound to make sure no one had reported a lost Pomeranian, and we officially decided to keep him. Chris said we should pick another name, but Michelle and William just shrugged, and Ryan refused to call the dog anything else.

I decided not to make an issue of it. I ordered a new blue collar and a bone-shaped silver nametag off Amazon, and typed the letters in carefully, selecting a modern-looking font that made me chuckle at the time: Wicket 2.0.

Weeks passed. With time, it seemed less strange. Life is full of bizarre coincidences, you know? It didn’t mean you started believing in ghost pets.

Then one night I woke up with a start. It was 3 a.m.

Sometimes Ryan still got up out of his bed and crawled into ours, but that wasn’t it—there was no knee in my back, no elbow in my face, no feet thumping on the stairs. I listened again. Nothing, only silence. But I couldn’t get back to sleep. Something was wrong. Maybe I’d forgotten to lock the door between our garage and kitchen. I got up to check, padding out of my bedroom and through the living room.

I froze. There, sitting in our old leather recliner, was my grandmother.

She sat with Wicket in her lap, petting him slowly the way she always did, before she died.

I paused. My eyes were still full of sleep and the room had a bleary quality. This must be a dream. I once had a dream of my Grandpa Glenn a few years after he died. I didn’t remember much of it, but we had talked of normal things while sitting in his avocado-green kitchen. I had hugged him. It was only when I acknowledged that there was something strange about the situation—I must have asked him what he was doing there or told him that I missed him—that the dream ended, and I woke up.

I’d never dreamed of my grandmother. I didn’t want to wake up. So, I sat in the chair across from her.

“Hi, Granma.”

“Hello there,” she replied with a small smile, still stroking the dog.

Her face was rosy and soft, healthier than it had been at the end, when the cancer took her. She outlived her husband by fourteen years, but it hadn’t been easy. They were soulmates, and she’d missed him terribly. Although she had attended church her whole life, she once told me after his death that she wasn’t sure heaven was real. She worried she would never see him again.

The first time we’d talked about the subject, I was eight, visiting my grandparents’ place outside of Cheyenne for the summer. I had just discovered that, although my parents sent me to a parochial school, they were atheists. I wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or disappointed by this revelation, so I asked her what she thought about God and the Bible and all that.

“I like to think it’s all true,” she’d replied at the time. “But my grandmother always said people are like flowers. We get to bloom in the sunlight a while, and then we die. She didn’t think that was so bad.”

Her grandmother had been from Holland, had crossed the ocean alone with her six children to meet her husband, who had already come to the United States for a job farming lettuce. They were a tall, stout people who could make anything grow. She admired them, their quiet strength.

Now I admired hers as she sat in that chair. “How are you feeling?” I asked.

“I’m sleeping better these days,” she said with another little grin. “But not tonight.”

“Oh? Why not?”

“I missed Wicket. I came looking for him.”

My heart skipped. Their deaths hadn’t been long apart. “He’s missed you. We all have.”

I tensed, waiting for the dream to dissolve, but it didn’t. She just smiled as if she knew some secret. She began humming a little song, the same one she’d sung when cradling my Ryan, back when he was just a baby. By then she had moved in with my mother, who lived nearby.

“I saw the most beautiful thing today, in my room,” she said.


“The most wonderful bouquet of flowers. Daisies and zinnia and snapdragons. So pretty. Do you know who left them?”

“No, Granma.”

It was the same conversation we’d had the week she died. She’d been hallucinating again. I had gone and checked, just to be sure. There hadn’t been any flowers, but the idea of them had made her glow. Small things like that always had.

“Glenn must have left them. To let me know I’ll see him soon.”

I nodded, as I had back then, and said nothing.

“You better get back to bed,” she said after a while.

“I don’t want to.” I tried to keep the emotion out of my voice.

“Still,” she said with a touch of reproach. “You’ve got a busy day tomorrow. Lots to do. Go on.”


“I’ve got Wicket now. He’ll keep me company. You go.” She frowned, somewhat offended. She was accustomed to being listened to.

I sighed. “Yes, ma’am.”

I stood up, hesitated for a moment, then walked over and kissed her cheek. It was soft and warm. She smelled like baby powder.

“Goodnight,” I said. “I love you.”

“Love you, too, sweetie,” she murmured, as if it was an obvious afterthought, her attention already focused back on the dog.

I walked back to bed, forced myself to lie down. How was I supposed to fall asleep if I was already dreaming?

My eyes flew open a moment later, and the sun was up. Chris was brushing his teeth in the bathroom. My daughter was howling that she couldn’t find any clean underwear. I glanced at the clock. I’d overslept.

I bolted up and rushed through our morning routine. Kissed Chris goodbye, got the kids to school, came home and sat down to the computer. When my youngest started kindergarten, I’d gone back to work, doing bookkeeping from home for a local law firm.

Chewie padded over to me as I sipped my coffee and entered payroll information into QuickBooks. I put my hand down to pet him, and he whined with pleasure. That’s when I remembered the dream. My grandmother. And Wicket.

Had I seen him this morning? In my hurry, I hadn’t let him out. “Wicket?” I got up. “Wicket?”

I searched the house, twice. Then the backyard. The gate was closed, but he was nowhere.

I got in the car, circled the neighborhood, prayed to find him, even if it meant facing that neighbor again. I called Chris. He hadn’t let him out, either. I called the local animal shelter. They promised to notify me if someone brought in a dog matching his description.

We made posters this time, but no one called. Ryan cried all over again. Michelle and William didn’t say much, just shot each other wide-eyed looks and lavished extra love onto Chewie.

“Sorry, hon,” Chris told me a few days later, after he returned from another trip to the pound, another lap around the nearby neighborhoods. “Nothing.”

On Sunday, I deep cleaned the house. I emptied the refrigerator and freezer, scrubbing the plastic shelves and drawers until my fingers were numb from the cold. I stripped the beds, flipped the mattresses, pulled the sheets warm from the dryer.

Chewie followed me everywhere, as if he knew what I was really up to.

I found Wicket’s collar while vacuuming crumbs and Legos out from under the recliner cushion, the one where my grandmother sat in my dream. I hadn’t taken it off him. I asked the kids, and they swore they hadn’t either.

“Chris?” I held it up for his inspection.

“Don’t look at me.”

My insides roiled as I stared at the blue collar, then laid it aside on the coffee table. I tried to deny the thought, but it wouldn’t let me go: that my grandmother really had visited me, that she’d taken Wicket back with her to… heaven? No. It couldn’t be.

Most of my life, I’d told myself that people believed in the supernatural to make themselves feel safe. God and the devil, heaven and hell—it was all about creating order out of chaos. Psychological self-preservation, not truth.

But here I was denying something I’d seen with my own eyes. And why? To feel safe. To keep order. Because if dogs could come back to life, if grandmothers could really speak to you after they were gone, if dead husbands could leave their wives flowers to let them know they’d be together again, well then, what else might be true? What more might I be wrong about?

I moved on to cleaning closets. All of them: purged and organized, unlike my jumbled thoughts. That’s when I found Wicket’s ashes again, in an engraved wooden box on the high shelf in my closet, right above the bright cocktail dresses I never wore anymore. The wood was smooth and oily under my fingers. I lifted the lid slowly.

I don’t know what I expected to see, but his ashes were still inside. As I placed the box back on the shelf, Ryan came up behind me.

“Momma,” he said, sniffling.

I turned. He held Wicket’s collar in his hand, his eyes red and puffy.


Such pain and innocence. It hurt to see. I crouched down, placed a hand on his arm and squeezed. “What, honey?”

“Before, you said things don’t come back to life.” His face twisted. “But Wicket did, didn’t he?”

I inhaled and, as I pondered the answer, felt an old wall inside myself crumble. I wrapped my arms around my son and surrendered to the truth.

“Yes, baby, yes. For a little while, he did. And aren’t we grateful for it?”

Jamie M. Boyd is a writer and former journalist from Florida. Her short fiction has appeared in Luna Station Quarterly and the science fiction anthology Brave New Worlds.

She was a newspaper reporter for the St. Petersburg Times and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where she won awards for feature, education and religion writing and was part of the staff twice named finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for breaking news.

She wrote this story after having a dream about her own dog coming back to life.

When she isn’t writing, Jamie loves exploring nature and traveling to wild new places with her family. She lives in Fort Lauderdale with her husband and three children. You can find her at jamiemboyd.com and follow her on Twitter @JmeBoyd.

“Wicket 2.0” by Jamie M. Boyd. Copyright © 2023 by Jamie M. Boyd.

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