The bench at the animal shelter started to dig into my rear end. I figured the estimated maximum butt time on this bench was about 30 minutes and I had been sitting there 45.
Done my time. Where's the t-shirt?
Please, spring my ass and let me out of here, I have been listening to barking dogs and smelling dog and cat smell for long enough. It must be part of the "experience."
I was at the animal shelter picking up an animal. Saving an animal, really. A cat with a broken tail named Kink. I had filled out the paperwork and was just waiting for Kink to get done with his exit interview and we would be outta here.
Exit interview. What were they going to ask him?
"How was the Cat Chow, Kink?"
"Well, for the most part the Cat Chow was fresh, and I liked how you alternated between fish and chicken. That was a nice touch. However, you could use a bit of pimento from time to time to add to the color and spice it up a bit."
I waited for Kink to complete his physical. People came and went. Some came to get rid of animals which for some reason they couldn't keep, and some came for other reasons altogether.
An elderly couple came in clutching a bundle of blankets. After a while the girl behind the counter asked if they were there to pick up an animal.
No, the lady said, we're here to donate some blankets and food.
Fine, the girl said, wait a moment and I'll get a cart and the paperwork.
The lady turned to me. She was in her seventies I would guess, moving well and with purpose. Her husband followed behind pushing the cart full dog food, blankets and dog medicine. He had a grim expression, resigned to his task and not questioning.
We stood there for a while, the three of us. Grim man, elderly, weepy woman and guy waiting for a cat.
Finally, the woman turned to me with the saddest eyes I had seen in 20 years and said, "She died last night."
I thought, Oh my God her daughter died of cancer. Or her even more ancient mother died of some unknown and rare disease. But, it turned out it was her dog. Her faithful companion of many years.
I looked at her as a tear welled in her eye, pooled in the corner, overflowed, and trickled down her cheek.
"She was our baby for 15 years..." her voice trailed off.
I'm not the kind of person...I don't know why...look, it's not me, but I was there and she was looking at me and...
I reached out, pulled her to me, stroked her hair and said, "I know, I know."
She sobbed great heaving sobs, her shoulders hunching up and down and her fingers digging into my back. Finally, she pulled back.
"I loved that dog for so many years," she choked the words, "from a puppy. We rescued her from the rain. The neighbors moved and just left her. She was almost dead but so sweet and she was my friend for so many years and now she's gone."
"You were her friend, too," I said, "you gave her life purpose. She loved you for that. You must know that."
She sobbed a bit more for a few minutes then pulled back. We all reached for some hankies and found a box by the sign-in sheet on the counter. Apparently, the Shelter people anticipate some emotion by people who pick up or drop off animals.
She dabbed her eyes and I dabbed mine.
I thought of the animals I had lived with over the years and how, over time, they had died and I thought of the love we give those animals and their trust and reliance in us and thought of this lady's grief.
After signing the invoice for her donation of blankets, food and medicine she turned to leave. Her husband, bent though age, followed.
She paused at the door, turned and looked at me.
"I don't think we'll be getting another dog," she said, but she wasn't convincing.
I looked at her and said, "I'm not so sure about that. I think there's a dog here who needs you, you know, someone who knows and loves dogs. There are lots of dogs here who need love. Maybe you should come back here in a week or so and check it out."
She looked down and pulled one of the paper Kleenex she had picked up from the shelter and blew her nose. She looked at me and said, "Yeah, maybe I will. We've always had dogs. Maybe I will."
We sort of half waved at each other, she climbed into the passenger side of a pick-up truck which roared to life, backed out slowly, and she was gone.
Shortly, one of the staff members came out with a small kitten.
"I've got Kink, here. Who's taking Kink?"