By Vickey Stamps in conspiracy with Wanda Wilder
“And so it came to be in that time of long ago, that the Creator of all things gave to man yet one more gift, that being the dominion over animals. Of these came one known as dog.”
The shelter had tried as hard as they could, to turn the tiny shelter into a temporary place. They’d offered the animals out as ‘fosters’ hoping they would become loved and kept. Sometimes that had happened and sometime it had not. Far too often it came to be, that after thirty days, the shelter could only offer a permanent sleep.
The dog was mid-size, paws still too large for its body, not quite grown to adulthood. Gone were the multiple burrs and dried leaves from his tangled and dirt filled rust tinted fur. Its ribs had filled out some over the past month, but sadness lived on in his eyes. It rarely looked up when a potential human came seeking a good dog for whatever reasons they had. For all pretense and purpose he had given up, lying quietly in his corner, on a bit of tattered and donated blanket. He did not know today was scheduled as his last day of life, and had he known, perhaps he would hold little care for that knowing.
Walter’s son had just left, having paid a brief visit over a lunch break. He and his sister were worried about their father. Life held neither happiness nor meaning for him, because of the grief over the loss of his wife Mary. While the loss should have somehow dimmed, it felt as if it had been just yesterday. They knew he ate, because stacks of food stained dishes and pans lay haphazardly in the sink. Had he even changed his clothes over the past two days? Daniel tried to remember. He’d ask his sister. He’d suggested a dog, or a cat for company, something to break up the loneliness that hung heavy in the air inside the old house. The father had only grunted a negative response of ‘Don’t need no dog!’
Daniel’s friend, took time to share a moment before lunch break ended. “Hey Dan, I stopped by the animal shelter during my break. You know how I love animals. Well in the corner of one of the cages was about the saddest sight one could ever see. A half sized mutt lying off in a corner. If Maggie and I didn’t already have a house full of kids and pets, I’d have brought him home. They told me this was his last day. Tomorrow they’d have to put him down. I offered him half my sandwich if he’d just come get it, but he just lay there watching me. I couldn’t see any hope in those eyes. Wonder what happened to him? Well, there’s the return to work bell. Sure wish I could of helped the dog.”
The conversation stayed in Dan’s mind as the afternoon went on. He finally could stand it no longer and asked his supervisor if he could take off a half hour early, he’d make it up over the lunch hour tomorrow. Given permission, he’d hurried to the shelter. Telling the keeper of the shelter about the sad dog, he was led to its cage. “That’s him. I’ll take him.” Leaving the dog in the back seat of the truck, windows down to let the cool air comfort him; he’d gone to pick up dog food and other needed supplies. “This better work” he thought to himself. “Otherwise, I am out of ideas!”
Surely angels sprawled side by side on a bank of lofty clouds, watching Dan carry the dog to his father’s house. Daniel whispered a quick prayer for both dog and father, as his feet broke the silence of the sidewalk, as they took on the porch steps. His hand knocked upon his father’s door.
“You get another dog, Daniel?” “Nope. Janey would sure be mad if I brought another one home. We’ve too many already. I was hoping you could help me out with this one, till I can find someone to love it. They were going to put him to sleep tomorrow. I’ll got the supplies out in the truck. Can you help me out?” Walter didn’t like the idea, but he loved his son. He’d do what he could.
“Dad, you got an old blanket or something? He’ll need something more then the floor to lay on” Walter went to the spare closet where Mary had kept extra things, finding an old wool blanket. He tossed it down in the farthest corner from his chair. “Dad, look at his eyes, He is dying for company.” Having said so, Dan picked up the blanket and sat it beside his father’s chair. “I’ll go get the supplies Dad. I’ll be right back.” Daniel left with another prayer in his heart, as well as on his lips, that the dog and the father might bond.
Walter leaned down, looking down at the dog. “Guess you need a name, don’tcha? Let’s call you ‘Boy’. He dangled his arm down and over the chair arm, scratching the dog’s ears. The dog whined softly, remembering another gentle touch. “Used to have me a dog once. It’s been awhile. You hungry? Blamed son of mine didn’t think to feed you before he left, so guess it’s up to me. Walter wouldn’t admit it, but it felt pretty dang good to have someone or something to do for, besides himself. “Mary would have liked you, She always favored that rusty color, never mind that you’ll be a big dog someday.”
And so the days passed, with no place being found for the dog, other than the love he felt growing ever larger in Walters heart. Now looking into the curtained window of their father’s home, the children would see ‘Boy’, with his head on Walter’s knee, and being lovingly patted by his human master.
The years passed quickly for Walter and ‘Boy’, taking walks together, becoming part of the neighborhood and its residences. Walter had learned to smile again, as well as tell an occasional joke and make conversation. He’d finally given up driving, but there had been that long stretch of ‘having ‘Boy’s’ head hanging out the cars window and almost seeming to smile.
The daughter had found him that week-end morning, when she brought a fast food breakfast for him, and one for ‘Boy’. Saddened at the loss, but comforted by the look of love upon his face. She’d not been able to get the dog to leave his side, and had to call Daniel. Walter’s friends choked back the lumps in their throats, as they’d come to visit where he’d been laid, for ‘Boy’ now old and grayed of fur, covered the grave like a blanket, watching over his master. He’d eat no food nor stay at either of the children’s homes. One day they found he’d left the earth to join his earthly master.
While what was known to the lovers of animals, as ‘Rainbow Bridge,’ had already been crossed by ‘Boy’. He felt no need to delay the search for Walter. There were humans reaching out to circle his neck with their arms, to ask him to stay awhile, but he would pause, lick a hand or face in caring, then pad forward once more in his quest to find his old friend. Surely their joy was complete when at last they saw one another in the distance, running with legs no longer weighted down with human life and its burdens, ‘Boy’ no longer on ‘old dog, with legs that threatened to collapse on him. As surely as the great Creator would have willed it to be, they were together again for all eternity.
Life was good.