Some call it instinct. Then there are others who name it ignorance. Dumb dog doesn’t know any better, they’d say. Those are probably the cat lovers. You know how they are—just a little bit snobby.
Whatever it was to the uneducated eye, instinct or ignorance, Connie slipped passed the forest of feet cluttering the kitchen space. Taking advantage of a bit of human carelessness brought on by the distractions of the day, she pushed open the screen door, which had been left slightly ajar, and squeezed out.
No one noticed.
Constance Munroe Silverlake, Connie for short, had been a one hundred dollar pound puppy. It had been Marsha Lane’s little joke to gift the mixed breed with a thousand dollar name. People used to ask Marsha what kind of dog Connie was and Marsha would smile that, is-this-a-face-that-would-lie-to-you? look and say, “Oh, Constance Monroe Silverlake is an Emanon,* a rare breed, you know.”
By this time Connie had crossed Pinegrove Road where she and Marsha had lived and slipped behind a stand of Cedar trees wrapped around the corner lot. She lay down and watched the house from her hiding place.
Three days ago, nervous hands had grabbed at Connie’s collar and shoved her into the garage. It wasn’t until Pete, Marsha’s brother arrived, that she was allowed back into the house. Petey was a good guy and it bothered Connie to sense his sadness. She knew something was wrong. Marsha had been there, and now she wasn’t.
People had come and gone. The phone rang endlessly. And in those brief moments when the house was silent, Petey had cuddled with Connie, wetting her coat with his tears.
A sound brought the dog back to the present. Across the street the front door to her house opened and slowly, in ones and twos and threes, people came out and made their way down the sidewalk to their cars. She waited until they had all driven away. And then she waited some more. Presently, the garage door rolled up and Pete’s little Mini Cooper backed out into the roadway.
Connie followed the Mini, carefully keeping out of Pete’s line of sight. The Mini swung onto Sutton Street, passed the park where she and Marsha always took their evening walks, then turned left onto Main Street. It was busier here, but traffic was heavier too, and the Mini had to slow down. Once out of the downtown area, Pete turned right onto the Perimeter Highway that circled the town and Connie was forced to cross the road. The Mini sped up and for a few moments the dog lost sight of it.
She broke into a run and then, suddenly, there it was. The boxy little car had stopped in a grassy green field filled with trees and stones. A stone archway marked the entrance. The black, wrought iron gate was open and Connie trotted through it, her eyes never leaving the Mini.
Petey stood beside a fresh pile of black earth. His head was down. Under other circumstances the dog would have approached him and nudged his hand, seeking to caress and be caressed. But this time Connie held back. She lay down behind a block of stone and waited patiently until Pete got back into his car and drove away.
As night fell, a security guard, walking through the cemetery on his rounds, was the only human who noticed the dog. Connie did not move as he approached. The man stopped some five feet from the freshly filled in grave. Somehow it seemed appropriate to remove his cap—which he did. The dog didn’t notice the movement. Her gaze was riveted on the head of the mound, paws just touching the edge as if to capture some vestige of soul that might still hover there.
She liked Petey. Part of her yearned for the familiar house and the romps she enjoyed when Pete came to visit. But Marsha was here, and Constance Monroe Silverlake always stayed with Marsha. Some call it instinct, some call it ignorance, but even cat people would call it love.
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