There once was a dog named Ralphy. Ralphy was a golden retriever, and he lived in a doghouse that had his name painted on it in big red letters—RALPHY. His owners made him live in a doghouse because whenever he was indoors, he would knock over the garbage can or chew up the sofa. Sometimes, he would go into their son Patrick’s bedroom and eat all of his toys. Patrick’s parents were very upset with Ralphy for doing all of these bad things, so they made him live outside in a doghouse.
While he was outside one day, Ralphy looked over to the neighbor’s yard and noticed Sheila, the cocker spaniel, playing with her ball. Ralphy watched for a while and said to himself, “That cocker spaniel over there, she’s not on a chain like me. How come she gets to run around and play with all the children, and I don’t? They throw her the ball, and she brings it back. And they take her for walks around the block. They even let her sleep inside the big house!” And Ralphy felt very dejected.
A while later the other neighbors had their dog out. He was jumping happily all over his owner, and when the mailman came, the mailman bent down and patted the dog on the head. Ralphy was very jealous, and to top it all off, that dog got to sleep in the big house, too.
All of these things really bothered Ralphy, so one day, after his owners had given him a bath, he snuck out of the house and ran down the street to talk with Charlie. Charlie was the oldest, wisest dog on the entire block. When he saw Ralphy, he growled, “What do you want?”
“Hey, don’t get mad, Charlie. I just wanted to ask you some questions.”
“About what?” Charlie snarled.
“I want to know why none of the other dogs want to play with me.”
“All right,” said Charlie. “Do you remember when you went over to Sheila, the cocker spaniel’s house, and asked if you could play ball with her?”
“Yes, I remember that,” replied Ralphy.
“Sheila told you she would be happy to play ball with you. But when she wasn’t looking, you stole her ball and ran home. Now, none of the other dogs trust you.”
“But I didn’t have a ball, and she had two!” Ralphy complained.
“That doesn’t mean you can take her ball without asking,” replied Charlie.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. But why don’t any of the children want to play with me?”
“Because they’re afraid of you,” said Charlie. “They think you might eat their toys, or maybe even bite them. Patrick told them how you ate all of his toys, and how one time, you bit the mailman.”
“Oh, I see,” said Ralphy. “There’s just one more thing I don’t understand. Why do I have to live in a doghouse? Why can’t I live in the big house—like all the other dogs?”
Charlie shook his head. “Can’t you see, Ralphy? You chew up the furniture, you knock over the trash cans, and you eat Patrick’s toys. You’re not allowed in the big house because nobody trusts you.”
At that, Ralphy put his head down and walked away. “Charlie’s right,” he said to himself. “I stole Sheila’s ball, and I bit the mailman. And my owners chain me up because they think that I’ll run away if they let me loose. No wonder no one trusts me!”
So Ralphy walked around for two whole days, thinking about everything Charlie had said. He was afraid to go home because he knew Patrick and his parents would be upset with him.
But that evening, as Ralphy was walking down the road, he heard a car stop beside him, and he saw Patrick get out.
“Ralphy, there you are!” cried Patrick, and he went over and hugged Ralphy, squeezing and petting him as he spoke. “I’m so happy we found you! I was worried we might never get you back!”
Ralphy was surprised. “Patrick really does love me!” And he gave Patrick kisses and jumped all over him to show how much he loved him.
When they got home, Patrick asked his parents if Ralphy could spend the night in the house; he wanted Ralphy to sleep in his room. His parents were reluctant at first, but when they saw how much it meant to him, they gave in and said that he could.
So Ralphy spent the night in Patrick’s room. He slept on Patrick’s bed, and never ate one toy. And even though he wondered what was inside of the trash can, he didn’t once try to peek inside or knock it over.
In the morning, Ralphy went downstairs and sat right by Patrick’s feet. He didn’t beg for food or try to steal any off of the table. When Patrick’s parents were ready to put him back outside, Patrick said, “Hey Mom and Dad, do we have to put Ralphy back outside? Look how good he’s been. He didn’t chew up any toys or beg for any food. And he didn’t even knock the trash can over in my bedroom. Let’s give him another chance—please!”
So Patrick’s parents agreed to give Ralphy another chance, and this time, he was perfect in every way. The children started to play with him, and the other dogs shared their toys again. And every day when the mailman came, he’d bend down and pat Ralphy right on the head, just like he used to.
It seemed everyone trusted Ralphy again, and he lived happily ever after. From that day on, he never had to spend another night in the doghouse.
Excerpted from Shine Like the Sun: A Collection of Children’s Stories by Adam Soto