Thursday, June 5, 2014

My Friend

I really wanted a donut tonight. The weekly habit had been established. On Thursdays my wife works late, so I would get home from work and walk my dog to the bakery. I’d take her most days, but Thursday is the night I try to get some writing done, so I often treat myself to a little something from the bakery down the block.

Old age has prevented Bella from taking the robust walks we used to take: sometime recently she began sniffing more than walking. So the trip to the bakery usually takes a little while, but the trip home is much quicker since she’s anticipating the cookie I’d buy her.

The owner of the bakery is a dog-lover, so much so that he told me I could bring my dog in the shop anytime. I don’t bring her in unless the shop is empty, but sometimes I’ll go around the corner and walk a little further until the place empties out.

The two regulars that work there know her by name. And every time I go in they head for the dog bone biscuits that I’m always buying her. If there are other customers there, I’ll tie Bella’s leash to the water meter outside of the building and enter alone. And as I exit with Bella’s bone, I’ll often hear the woman behind the counter explaining how Bella carries her own treat home.

That’s my favorite part of the trip, the part where Bella walks fast enough that people still mistake her for a young puppy. I’ll give her the white bag with the cookie in it and she’ll grab it in her mouth and carry it as lady-like as Jackie Onassis would carry her purse. I don’t know how that got started, because she’s never been very lady-like. I really think it is a way of showing off for her. I think she likes to show all the other dogs on the block that she has something they don’t. I know it’s not very good manners on her part, but I can’t help appreciating her sassiness.

We usually hit the bakery around the time the traffic is heaviest. And I know it is a weakness on my part, that I am no better than a mother of a child beauty contestant, but I take an immense vicarious joy at seeing people in their cars turn their heads to look at my dog and smile. On any given day I’ll get at least a couple of people’s attention. Sometimes I’ll get a whole carload looking Bella’s way. Sometimes a dog with his head out the window will look at Bella with an expression of surprise. Sometimes I’ll get oohs and aahs from pedestrians. I’ll occasionally even get the kind of smiles and comments from a pretty young woman that I so sought after when I was a younger man.

Near my house is a music store where parents are often in their cars waiting for their children to finish their lessons. Usually they are too busy staring at their phones to realize what they’re missing. It makes me angry sometimes, makes me rant under my breath about how people are too lost in technology to see the beauty that is around them, meaning of course, my dog.

When Bella gets inside the house, she runs through the living room into the dining room and looks into the kitchen. She has to make sure that if anyone is home that they see what she has. I’m sure it is vanity on her part. After this, she will drop the bag on the carpet so that I can pull the cookie out and hand it to her so she can eat it. She used to just rip through the bag, but she has grown delicate in her old age.

I wanted to get a donut tonight, but was unable to bring myself to enter the bakery. They’d have walked over to the jar with the dog cookies in the shape of bones, and then I’d have to explain to them that Bella isn’t around anymore. I want to tell them, I feel they would want to know, but it’s going to be a few weeks before I can talk about it without losing my composure. It’s not that I want to share a sad story, I’d just like to think that others besides myself appreciated my dog for the wonderful creature that she was.

I can’t buy her any more cookies, can’t take her on any more walks, but I’d like to give her something. And so I give her my time and my thoughts, I write a little story and post it on my blog so that the memory of Bella might live on inside the soul of someone who chances to read this. Most dogs are wonderful, and unique. So was mine. So was Bella.

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