Monday, February 03, 2014

The Dog

Mrs. Coffey the next-door neighbor called me on New Years Day.  She sounded worried.  "There's a big old dog by our front door," she said.  "I fed him, but Max doesn't want me to get too close.  I don't know where he came from, but he's just sitting out here.  He's old--his muzzle is all white. I'm wondering if there's any chance. . ."

"Yes," I said, "there is.  I'll send Steven down."

This is how animals and people come into my life.  I don't go looking for them.  I don't have room for them in my life, my home, my schedule.

But then they show up, and I know I am supposed to take them in, and the things, the time, and the priorities jostle around and there is enough room after all.

If my mom was a determined rescuer of lost and broken things, her grandson Steven is exponentially more so.  He got in the van and drove the short distance down the road.

We were all remembering Hansie, may he rest in peace.

A while later I heard Steven and the dog having a conversation in the carport, then Steven came inside.  He was smiling.  "I need a bed and stuff for him.  And I'm gonna go buy him some food."

"How did it go, bringing him home?"  I said.  "Did he get in the van like Hansie used to?"

"No.  He wanted to play fetch, so we played fetch all the way home.  The van is still down at Coffeys."

Steven left to buy dog food and I cautiously went out to meet the dog.  He was, as Mrs. Coffey had said, old and dirty and big and brown.  He was also polite, with that air of restraint that indicated a good deal of training and love in his past.

Steven got the food and also a long leash, which he hooked to his collar.  And he checked: no tags.  Steven named him Titan.  On the first nice day, he gave him a bath that improved his matted coat at least a little.

Whose was he, really?  Where had he come from?  Emily remembered seeing a poster on a pole down by the Harrisburg Mennonite church.  I went and checked it out. It was for a lost cat.

Had some evil person intentionally dumped him?  I mulled appropriate punishments for such a person, such as fending for themselves along the creek for a few weeks in the middle of winter, as Titan had apparently done.

Ok, I decided.  We have a dog again.  Not what I was looking for at all, but here he is.  And it seemed meant to be, the way Steven glowed with that radiant happiness reserved for when he rescues lost things.
Steven bought him a bed, the old rugs I had proffered not being good enough.  He also started unhooking Titan from the leash during the day, since he never wandered outside the hedge.

Always, he wanted to play fetch.  He fetched baseballs and sticks and an old hoe handle that he chewed into a mass of tooth-shaped dents like Donna M. used to chew her pencils in school until they were so tooth-marked you didn't want to borrow them, ever.

One Saturday a few weeks after Titan arrived we had a strange storm, with wind and even thunder.  And suddenly, just that quick, Titan was gone, apparently spooked by the thunder.

We called, hunted, hoped, looked, prayed, drove up and down roads, searching.

He has never appeared again.

"I like to think we were just a nice family in the middle of Homeward Bound," said Ben.  But Steven looked defeated and worried.

And that was it.  I really hate stories that stop without really ending.



  1. That's hard. At least he knew love in that short space. Keep us posted!

  2. Ever read Hal Borlands "Penny"? Ya'll just have to write your own endings.

  3. What a fine son you have raised with such a kind, loving heart! I genuinely hope Titan will return someday.
    Blessings, Aimee

  4. oh, I do not like this ending. And I was so warmed by your rescue sensibilities.

  5. I don't care for this ending either.