The sound is now as familiar to me as my own heartbeat, but it has not always been this way . . .
We are running late for a doctor’s appointment. This is not unusual. My husband and I are in those “golden” years (I have labeled them, the “tarnished” years) and seem to move slower than water in an unprimed pump nowadays.
“Ray, what IS that noise?” both of us finally ready to exit the house, the sound getting louder, “Oh, honey, look! A dog wants in!”
I try to push it away so we can get out, but the friendly animal tries to nudge his way inside, the thumping tail still wagging lickety-split on the wooden steps. We finally are able to get out and rush to the car when I see the dog tags dangling from the pup’s collar. Do I try to rescue the stray, making us even later, or trust it will find its own way home? Although Ray and I are not pet lovers ourselves, I realize how important they are to those who are.
Bitten by a dog years ago when I was an avid walker, I am wary of dogs. But this black playful one appears non-threatening.
I wrap my fingers around the dog’s collar to read the floppy bone-shaped tags, groping for my cell phone and punching in the number. Fortunately, “Maggie’s” owner lives one street over and rushes over.
“Thank you so much. I just got her from the pound two days ago,” the breathless neighbor’s hand holding a long leash, “the previous owners turned her into the pound because she kept running away.”
Ray and I find this funny, wondering why the newest owner wasn’t more careful if he was aware of her wandering penchant. We are only five minutes late for Ray’s appointment. The nurse wonders why his blood pressure is rather high until we explain our delayed arrival.
Two weeks later, my husband and I are leaving our house for his chemotherapy treatment and we are greeted by Maggie’s thumping tail at our door again. I call the neighbor and fondle the dog’s silky ears while we wait for her owner again. As her adoring eyes meet mine I have to admit she is an adorable dog.
“Maggie, you naughty puppy,” Mr. Craig tying a stronger-looking leash to her collar, “looks like yours is her ‘home away from home’,” his frustrated laugh and his dog’s drooping tail trailing behind them. I store Mr. Craig’s phone number on our cell phone’s speed dial.
In the meantime, Ray’s health deteriorates until, after a valiant fight, he is released from his struggle into the arms of Jesus, and I am bereft.
I now welcome Maggie’s thumping tail at our—I mean, my—front door. As if sensing my need for her comfort, she visits more often, and my aching heart looks forward to the visits that, like a song’s prelude, always begin with Maggie’s thumping tail on my front steps.
“Mrs. Gaines, I’ve been thinking. Maggie has become unhappy at my place and she seems to have formed a genuine attachment to you. Are you sure you don’t want this dog? I could leave her here for a week and see if it works out. I can even bring over her food and stuff,” and I notice for the first time, a soft twinkle in the neighbor’s eye and a dimple in his cheek that reminds me of Ray . . .
Maggie and I are now a twosome. Her presence is like a cherished grandmother’s quilt wrapped around my heart. I like to think that we rescued each other, since she has never run away and I have never once considered giving her back.
Mr. Craig now has a 6-week old adorable male beagle that he walks through the neighborhood every day, stopping by to visit on their way back to his place. The two dogs have become fast friends and we love watching their antics as they play together.
We often walk our dogs together, Stanley and I. It turns out he lost his wife to cancer over a year ago, which is why he got Maggie in the first place. I am touched that this man reaches out to me, and visa versa, and suspect that it won’t be long before all four of us become a happily merged family, thumping tails and hearts and all.
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