He stood and aimlessly watched the parade of patrons and volunteers that wandered daily past his kennel. All so familiar, so ordinary. Just like every other day he mused. Nothing new. Nothing special.
Moving to the small crumpled blanket near the back of his cage, he turned several times and finally curled up, head on his paws, positioned so that he could watch the activity around him. But in reality, he was bored. It had been a long time since he had met each morning with anticipation. Too many days. Too much disappointment. He would leave all that barking and racing to the front of their cage to the younger pups who hadn’t figured out yet that the cute ones went first. It didn’t really make any difference what you did to attract attention if you weren’t young or cute, or both.
Too much time had gone by to participate in the charade. In reality, Walter had seen a lot of people that he would rather not spend a lot of time with. You know the type. Kind of hyper, bouncing from stray to stray, looking for a perfect dog. Kids poking their fingers through the kennel screen or banging on it. Some even making barking sounds. He didn’t need any of that and was glad when they were gone.
Walter was very picky. Set in his ways after so many years. He had had it good for a long time. An only dog in a household of two people that let him be himself. No tricks. No stunts. Just long naps and daily walks. A yard to himself to reflect on what was for dinner. He had been fond of his doggy bed in their bedroom. Each night he would help his owner walk through the house turning off the lights and checking the doors before they climbed the stairs together. And there was always one last good night pat before settling down.
But those days were gone now. First one had become ill and went to the hospital and never came back. The other one changed overnight, spending long days, sitting mostly. The walks became less frequent. Walter did what he could. He could see it in their eyes that they were hurting from their loss. He would make a point of laying his head in their lap, trying to let them know that he missed them too. At times like this, he instinctively knew that although it remained unsaid, they only had each other.
He remembers well the day that his owner snapped a leash on him and said, “well Walter, I’m afraid we have to say goodbye. I have to go to a place where they won’t let me keep you, so I am going to have to let you go.” Walter could see the tears in his eyes. He knew it would do him no good to whine or resist. It was obvious there were no alternatives. And besides, it would just make it harder on his owner. But he was going to miss him. It was not going to be easy to adjust.
But adjust he did. He had been here a long time now and had seen countless pups and dogs trot past his cage with light hearts and new owners, heading off with new found hopes and expectations. But it soon became obvious that there weren’t a lot of people that wanted an old yellow hound. Everyone wanted the young ones. So here he lay, dozing a bit, but still keeping an eye on those walking by, many giving him but a glance before moving on.
He heard them before the saw them. ”Honey” the voice said. ”That looks like Walter, old Mr. Whitney’s dog.” Walters ears perked up a little. ”Do I know them” he thought. ”They seem to know me”. I’d better go take a closer look” and with that, he stood and slowly ambled toward his kennel gate, giving a cautious wag of his tail.
“It is him” the man said. ”Walter, how you doing boy? Do you remember me?”
And upon closer inspection, Walter did remember him. He used to live right across the street. He would see him in his yard and if Walter were to ramble over, he usually had a dog treat in his pocket. With the recognition, Walter gave a little stronger wag and moved toward the fingers extended through the fencing. It was good to see an old friend.
“What do you say hon” the man said. ”How would you feel about bringing Walter home with us?”
Walter looked at the woman and saw her nod in agreement. ”You wait here and I’ll go find a volunteer.”
The man bent down and said “What do you think Walter? Would you like to go home with us?”
Actually, Walter decided, he could think of nothing he would like more. A chance to go back to the old neighborhood with people he already knew. What was there not to like.
Soon the woman returned and the gate opened. A leash was snapped on Walter and together they proceeded past the rows of dogs and puppies, all vying for their attention. Walter couldn't help but stand a little straighter, stepping a little more lightly, showing off. ”This is what going home looks like guys.” he thought. ”Good luck and goodbye”.
As they neared the car the man said “I can’t believe we found you Walter. There is someone I am going to take you to see. I can’t wait to see the expression on his face when you walk in his room>”
Walter, of course, knew exactly who he was talking about. And he couldn't wait to see the expression on his face either.