Saturday, February 13, 2010

Man's Best Friend

Part 1

His parents gambled on the whims and need for instant gratification of pre-teens. They lost miserably. Frank had saved his allowance for months and had enough money to adopt a pet and purchase all of the supplies he would need to take care of one. He only needed them to perform the actions of approving the adoption. It was their signature they required, not his. Begrudgingly, they signed their names.

Frank was 13 years old when he first saw the rolly-polly yippy-yappy puppy at the Humane Society. It was his third trip to find the perfect pet. The little black hairball with one white leg and bright blue eyes had just come in the night before, but it charged Frank as if it had been waiting for him all its young life. Frank's eyes lit up. He spent an hour playing with the dog before walking up to the counter and slapping down his approval form and $65 on the counter. "I want that one," he said, pointing to the now sleeping dog.

The receptionist smiled warmly at him, grabbed a leash from the hook behind her and said "Let's go get this new friend of yours." She had watched him survey and play with the animals on his last two trips. She knew within five minutes that these two would be a successful match. As they played together, she had filed all the paperwork and set the pup up for his vaccinations. Frank gently picked up his puppy as she hooked the leash onto the collar. The puppy stayed asleep in Frank's arms.

"Okay Frank. It is Frank, right?" Frank smiled and nodded at her. "This little pup is all yours, but he has to have his vaccines and a health inspection before he can leave the shelter. The doctor will be in half an hour from now and I put Frank first on the list of his patients. You can help me walk him down to the puppy waiting room. Then I need you to go home and get some lunch. Come back with your parents this afternoon. You need to bring a receipt showing you've purchased a collar, a leash, and a bag of dog food. I wrote it all down for you so you don't forget anything. As long as the doctor says this little one is healthy and you bring in your receipt. you will have a friend for life. Okay?" He'd listened to every word intently, his pride growing with each step they took down the narrow hallway. He enthusiastically nodded his head yes without realizing they had reached the waiting room. "Well. We are here," said the receptionist. "You go get your lunch and I bet I'll be seeing you in a few hours."

Frank bent down and kissed the pup on his head before handing her to the receptionist. He stood for a moment and then said, "Bye for now Rover. I'll be back soon. Don't be scared. I'm sure the doctor is really nice!" Then he rushed out the door.

Part 2

Today was different. Frank had seen it coming for a while, but never spoke of it. He felt stupid and guilty that Rover's aging body and slowed responses took his breath away just as the disclosure of his dad's terminal cancer had when he was 21 years old. Rover was a dog. His dad was suppose to mean more. The emotions Frank was experiencing were just as raw and powerful when he recognized how ill his dad had become.

Rover had met Frank at the door as usual. He'd never missed a day in his life, but instead of greeting him with a jump or a lick, he merely lifted his eyes from where he lay on the floor. Frank could feel the tears well up even though he pretended they weren't there. "Hey there Rover. Are you feeling okay?" Frank's voice caught and he worked his muscles to suffocate the unrequested sounds building in the column of his throat. He put his things down and rubbed Rover's head with gentleness instead of the usual rough and play inducing petting he usually gave.

Rover sighed heavily and closed his eyes. A single tear escaped from Frank's eye, slowly following the edges made by the tightening of his mouth. He could feel a hand rest softly on his shoulder. His fiance was standing behind him silently. She patted his shoulder softly and then walked back out the door. "Hey Rover, big guy. Let's go for a little ride okay?" Rover half opened his eyes and closed them again.

His fiance pulled the car to the front of the house and Frank carefully lifted Rover and the blue blanket he'd bundled around him into the backseat. Frank slid in beside him, closing the door, and keeping one hand on him. His fiance drove the two of them to the Humane Society where Frank continued to take Rover to see the vet since he'd found him.

He knew the place well and the staff knew Frank and Rover well. When he walked in, the newest receptionist gave him a sad smile and opened the new security door to the back rooms. Frank carried Rover in his arms, his leash dangling to the floor, down the narrow hallway. He listened intently to every labored breath, his despair growing with each passing second. Farnk walked into the back room and greeted the doctor with a barely visible nod. Laying Rover on the table took all his strength. Not the strength one can build in their muscles, but the strength it takes not to break down in front of strangers. He took two hesitant steps backward.

The veterinarian looked at Rover and told Frank what he expected to hear. Frank grabbed onto Rover, his eyes and throat failing to hold back the emotions clawing to get out. He kissed him on the head for the final time. "Good-bye for now old friend. We'll be together again soon. Don't be scared. I'm sure heaven is a nice place!" Then he rushed out the door.


  1. Wow I thought I had commented on this one a while back. I really like the "book ending" of a life here. It is so sweet and beautiful.

    I felt sad that he left rover alone at the end.

  2. In my mind, he expected to hear Rover had died so i don't know that he left him alone. You're right though. it is a little muddy since I didn't say it directly.