Randy took Andy for a walk the other day down our alley. As he’s walking the dog, he hears a group of kids playing basketball and yelling out court instructions in their back yard.
Just like it once was in our driveway.
To Randy, it immediately inspired memories of how Charles would go out and shoot hoops. By the way, he was a terrible basketball player. Much better at baseball. But he loved to get a game of friends together and play.
So Andy is pulling at his leash and Randy just undoes the leash and lets him go. The dog is so excited. Andy bounds up all happy-go-lucky to the players and smells each of them.
Then Andy comes back to Randy, ears back, looking completely dejected. They were not the people he expected. They weren’t Charles. Or Charles’ peeps.
I swear that dog thought Charles would be playing on that court when he heard that familiar sound.
When I walked in from my errand, the dog is on the couch still looking depressed. And as Randy told the story, we both cried. Our dog does remember Charles and he misses him. Still. I really had no idea. I wonder if there are other things that trigger his memory. Like it does us.
Fast forward two days later. Randy is at a gas station. This youngish looking man is by the light pole outside the gas station as Randy is pumping gas. He sees the young man go in and the cashier yell at him. The young man leaves. Apparently just short of enough money to get something cold to drink on a hot day.
Randy goes over to give him a couple of dollars. After all, that is somebody’s son. It could have been Charles at one time.
Right before Randy gets over there, he notices the young man is crying so asks him if everything is OK. The young man says animal control took his dog away four days ago. He had been on the street with that dog for four years and he loved that animal. It was all he had that mattered. He was broken. And lonely. The one thing that meant something to him was taken. All Randy could say was, “I’m so sorry. I know how much a dog can mean to a person.”
The story that had me in tears as Randy told it. I know the dog might have a better home. Maybe he was undernourished. But he had managed to keep the dog alive all that time. I don’t know all the circumstances but there is something that doesn’t feel right about their taking that dog. I know that dog loved that young man, too. He’ll feel the hurt of separation.
It reminded me of how much Andy meant to Charles. It reminded me of how Charles begged in middle school and I didn’t get him a dog and how guilty I feel about that now. He really needed a dog. I didn’t understand why but now I do. We did get him a dog at fifteen and our pup slept every night with Charles until Charles got sent away. Not plan A. Not something we ever wanted to do.
Dogs offer so much unconditional love. No matter how many drugs you do, how poor your circumstances, or how many times you fail yourself or others, your dog loves you and is there for you.
We could all learn something from that.