“One year, three months and twenty days since Edna died.” Jerry crossed another day off the calendar. “House still feels mighty empty.” He limped over to the couch and lowered himself into the cushions, reaching for the TV remote. That and gardening were the only things that sparked any interest these days.
As quickly as creaky knees would allow, he hauled himself up again. Sure enough, Mary’s mutt was back in his flower beds. “Confounded dog! Get out of here!” Snooty bared her teeth at him before squeezing her porky body through a hole in the fence.
Back inside, Jerry lifted the phone and punched in a familiar number. “Mary, that confounded dog of yours has been digging in my garden again ... yes I know you’ve had the fence patched ... no I don’t want you to come over. Just keep her out.”
He sank back onto the couch. In some perverse way, he enjoyed his spats with Mary. They added spice to his dull existence and filled moments in long empty days. When Edna was alive, she had filled the house with flowers, cooking aromas and laughter. How he missed her holding her hand as they strolled around the garden and talked.
The door bell rang the next morning and he opened it to a tear-soaked Mary. “I’m sorry to bother you Jerry but my daughter’s been in a car accident. I need to catch the next flight out.”
As she talked, he realised she had a box of doggy paraphernalia in her arms and Snooty was sitting at her feet.
“I hate to ask but could you look after Snooty for a few days. I don’t have time to take her to the kennels - besides she’d pine terribly.”
Before Jerry knew what had happened, the dog was in the house and Mary was gone. “The woman’s mad.” he announced to the empty hallway. “Cook the dog chicken. Take her for three walks a day. Change her hair ribbon every morning. Brush her teeth.” He shoved Snooty with his foot and the dog snarled.
He awoke the next morning to feel a warm shape huddled next to him. For the briefest of moments, he thought it was Edna and then the emptiness settled again. “Get – off – my - bed!” he shouted. As the day progressed, Jerry realised that Snooty had her own agenda. The living room was scattered with squeaky toys, bones, blankets and cushions and if he tried to pack them away, she growled and scratched until he gave in.
By day three, he had given up completely. The hours that used to stretch like empty pages of a book were now full of activity. His bed was full of dog fur and some nights, the mutt even crept under the blankets. Her toys and belongings were everywhere and reminded him of when Jim and Sally had been little. She was as demanding as they’d been too. When she was hungry, she yapped and scratched her bowl. When she wanted a walk, she’d bring her leash and growl.
In spite of himself, Jerry felt himself enjoying the change, the new routines that Snooty forced him into, and slowly they became good friends.
A week later, Mary appeared at the door. “I can never repay you for doing this for me, Jerry. I know you don’t get on with Snooty.”
He coughed. “She’s not so bad. Just keep her out of my garden.”
Mary dropped a kiss on his cheek and then they were gone. The next few days were terrible. The house was empty again; no scattered toys, no dog fur to vacuum up, no scratching at the door. Just emptiness and silence. In desperation, he crept outside in the dark and enlarged the hole where Snooty accessed his garden.
The next afternoon, he was watching TV when he heard, “Yappp-yap-yappity-yap!”
“Confounded dog!” he shouted as he limped outside.
Mary appeared at the fence, concern written in her features. “I’m so sorry, Jerry. I don’t know how she got through this time.” She paused as Snooty jumped into Jerry’s arms.
“She’s not so bad you know.”
“Well I never.” A slow smile spread across her face. “I’ve got fresh muffins in the oven. Would you like me to bring some over?”
Snooty licked Jerry’s face as he nodded. “I’d enjoy that very much.” He hugged Snooty tightly and whispered in her ear. “I think life just took a turn for the better.”
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