My Dog

I am not a gamer. I have been playing one game since it came out, and any questions about any other games are where I tap out immediately. You’ll have to ask someone else. The aforementioned game is Fallout 3, which came out in 2008. I did not beat it until a few months ago, so you see, I am obviously a video gaming wizard.

The reason this is the only game I play is that even though I’ve beaten it (finally), every single time I start over it’s brand new. There’s more stuff to find, different characters to build, and you don’t even need the story. If you have an add-on called Broken Steel, it will allow you to continue the game after the main storyline is finished, which, for me, has included going to each and every building just trying to find stuff…. My house looks like Sanford & Son. In fact, “cantankerous junk dealer” sums up my character quite nicely….. and even ten years later, things happen that are brand new, as if I’ve never played before. One of the coolest places I’ve discovered is a Montgomery County water reservoir (the county where I live), complete with a crab painted on the building and filled in with the Maryland flag. Apparently, this is one of the few buildings in the game that’s real. The developers did a good job on the Metro system, though, because it actually does look the same, albeit, well, bombed.

The game captured my attention because it takes place in Washington, DC after nuclear war…. renamed The Capital Wasteland. This is because I am terrible at using navigation and it was handy to know which way to go on my own…. keeping in mind that it is not an exact replica, but close enough for government work. I can find Farragut West, and I don’t get lost on The Mall.

The main quest is to bring fresh water to the wasteland because people are sick and dying (or mutating) from not being able to get water without massive levels of radiation. There are also tons of side quests, with which I am not even closed to finishing. The game keeps drawing me back, though, because it is akin to a Choose Your Own Adventure.

dogmeatFor instance, this last time around, a dog started following me around that you could “adopt,” and will help find you food and ammunition. It is unusual because lots of people have reported said dog in the game, but I’d never seen him. His name is Dogmeat, and he is much smarter than I am. You can also heal him with stimpaks, the medication in the game, but if you don’t get to him quickly enough, he can die in battle.

And that is how I found myself sitting at my desk, completely squalling my eyeballs out, because I had inadvertently killed my own dog. It was worse than Old Yeller, worse than Where the Red Fern Grows, and it was much worse than losing any of my actual pets, because I’ve never lost any of them to death. It didn’t help that I’d recently read about the K-9 unit in the CIA that prepares bomb/drug sniffing dogs for The Agency and our local police departments, because I was all like, “I bet THEY never accidentally kill their own dogs…..” even if that can’t possibly be true.

I learned later on that there’s a perk in the game called Puppies! (you have to have Broken Steel, though), where if Dogmeat is killed, you can go and fetch one of his puppies from another location in the game. But that first time, when Dogmeat was really, truly gone, the floodgates opened and every grief-filled feeling I had just sprayed all over my shirt and pants. Because, as I quickly learned, it wasn’t about the dog. It was the surface thing that tapped into all the deep wounds. Sometimes, I have a hard time letting go enough to cry, and will begin crying at what I think is an unrelated thing, yet nothing ever is.

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