The Kindness of Strangers: My Dog His Loss

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My dog, his loss.

By Julie Boyd ·  2 min read · From 500 Words: The Kindness of Strangers

The man didn’t have an old face.

His hair wasn’t grey, but his eyes were as desolate as the Dead Sea.

He was sitting alone on a park bench outside the local village shop, staring straight ahead.

Directly in front of him children were squealing with delight as one of the dads, a modern day  beast of burden with one child on his shoulders, and another on his back, walked through the water, dragging two more along the estuary on their body boards.

Mothers sunned themselves in tiny bikinis, enjoying the escapism of holiday airport thrillers while they reveled in the few minutes of freedom from responsibility.

The man continued to stare sightlessly, a newspaper crushed on his lap, an overturned bottle of water dripping onto the concrete under his feet.

My small dog, knowing his role is to welcome everyone to our tiny village, pointed his squat little nose toward the man and trotted over to say hello.

As he approached, his tail dropped, his walk slowed. He moved gently to sit at the man’s feet, eyes staring in the same direction as if to say “I see what you see”.

The man’s hand moved down to rest on his head. His newspaper falling to the ground, unnoticed, along with the tears that started to pour down his face.

“They know don’t they?” he mumbled. “They sure know when you’re feeling like crap, and they’re the only ones who really give a damn.”

I stood to one side, not wanting to intrude, then, as one, they both looked up at me.

“He’s a good little fella isn’t he. My boy was 17 years old. I’d had him since he was a pup. He died yesterday and I feel like I did too. He was the only thing that mattered to me.”

I turned a chair to looked out over the water, and sat down beside him.

‘Would you tell me about him?” I asked.

A few minutes passed as we all sat, gazing across the water, each lost in our own thoughts. Then, his hand still gently stroking my dog’s head, gradually, tentatively, the words started to fall.

“Wonderful boy… got him as a little pup… so funny the way he fell over his own feet…”

I listened, handed him some tissues, then gradually leaned over and rested my hand on his arm. He looked at it, startled by the touch, before continuing the waterfall of words.

Finally the tears abated, the word flow slowed, and he looked up, as if seeing the world for the first time.

“Let me go and get a cuppa for you. I know the woman who owns the store.” He simply nodded, leaned down and gently picked up my dog, which had not moved, and held him close.

I returned, set a cup of steaming tea on the table beside him and said “I know you’re not ready to think about another dog just yet, but just I’m heading over to the pound. I go once a week to walk the dogs.

Would you like to come? We could do with another pair of hands, and there are heaps of four legged people there who badly need a cuddle.

My car’s not far away.”

Published 06 Oct 2013.  Hastings Point NSW 2489