Her tea had gotten cold again.
She stood, balancing herself for a moment against the kitchen chair, and then carried the cup over to the microwave, thought better of it and dumped the stuff in the sink. And put the kettle on. She would start over.
She glanced at the clock and realized she had been lost somewhere in her thoughts for a good half an hour. This was a bit concerning; what was happening to her?
She was eighty-six years old. She had outlived her husband by twenty-two years. It had been a good marriage, wonderful really, and she was ashamed that after twenty-two years of living alone, she could barely remember what living with her husband had been like. She could no longer remember the smell of him, or his touch, and she no longer thought she heard him call her from his study. That hadn't happened in years.
She buried her only child ten years ago. She thanked God her husband hadn't been alive for that. She had been close with her daughter, Cappy, who had been quite the scientist, never married and childless. Her funeral had been so very hard, and if it hadn't been for Zelda, she was quite certain she would have simply blown away, like one little spent spark of a fireworks display. No one to notice, plenty of other fireworks to see, just drifting away on the dark breeze.
But there was Zelda. Her dog needed to go out. Needed to be fed. Needed to be hugged. Five years before she died, Cappy had argued and argued with her mother.
"You should not rattle around this old house alone. You've never been without a dog. Of course you can still travel, Jim and Sue will watch a dog for you, you know that. You are not too old, don't be obtuse."
And finally, she had simply brought Zelda to her mother. But that was fifteen years ago, and Cappy had been inconsiderate enough to die, and then last month, so had Zelda.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, we have a policy not to adopt our pets to anyone over eighty-five. I'm sure you understand: there's such a likelihood that the pet would have to be re-homed in the future, and that wouldn't be fair, would it?" said the nice lady at the shelter. And it seemed most breeders had the same policy.
She knew better than to buy a puppy from the Internet, as that was just the newest outlet for puppy mills, now that folks knew not to buy from pet stores. Then a neighbor asked her if she had tried any pure breed rescue representatives in the area.
"Maybe they would have an older rescue which needs a home. It wouldn't hurt to try."
She felt a little excitement for the first time since Zelda died as she contacted several rescuers by email. But the replies weren't coming. And then she noticed that one person lived right in her town.
"Hello, is this Sarah Jones? I contacted you before about getting a rescue. I don't mean to be a bother, and I can understand why people wouldn't want to adopt to me, I mean at my age. But my Zelda had such a very good life, you see, and I think I could give another dog a nice home. I'm alone, you know. I have no family." And she immediately hated herself for sounding so old, so pathetic, so hungry.
The voice on the other end of the phone said, "Oh I think you would be a fine home. Luckily our breed doesn't get that many into rescue but sometimes we do get an older dog in and you would be just perfect. I will definitely spread the word, and let you know if I hear of a good match for you."
"Well, I don't think I could handle a dog with a lot of health problems, but I would appreciate your help."
It had been two months since that phone call, and no word.
The foster home "mom" figured Old Mac would be with her for the rest of his life. He didn't know how to walk, and was nearly totally blind. He had been kept in a crate for his entire eight years, and when the animal control officer opened the crate door, the dog refused to come out. He could stand, but to move he would drop on his belly and slither like a snake. But he would wag his tail, and he would melt with delight at a kind touch.
She sat down with her newly brewed cup of tea, picked up the newspaper and was trying to be interested in the front page when her phone rang.
"Hello? This is Sarah Jones. I have heard about a dog that might work out. I'm so sorry it took me so long to get back to you. The dog is in Chicago, and he needed some time with his foster mom before he was ready to be adopted. He will need a very special home, and you came to mind."
She worried about a "very special home" - that spelled trouble.
"Could you please tell me about him?"
The rescuer took a little too deep of a breath.
"Well, he hasn't had such a great life. Horrid, really. He stayed in a crate for eight years, and he had to learn to walk again. Well, not again, I mean, he had to learn to walk."
"Oh, oh dear."
"But he's quite healthy, and though he's a little timid, his foster mom says he is just a love, and he adores to snuggle, and he's never ever had an accident in the house. He is a beautiful dog, and just as sweet as they come. He's been neutered and of course has a totally clean bill of health."
"Well, that sounds promising!" She felt her heart step up the beat, just a bit. "How would we get him here? I couldn't drive to Chicago."
"Oh that's no problem, we can get him a ride with folks going to shows. He loves to ride in the car. There is one thing."
"Yes?" She didn't want there to be one thing.
"He's pretty much blind. He can see light, so when he goes out at night you'll have to lead him with a good, strong flashlight. He still plays with toys, and can fetch a ball like you wouldn't believe, but he will depend on you more than most dogs would."
"Oh. Oh, I see. Oh, dear. I don't know."
There was a pause. An awkward, loaded silence.
The rescuer said, "Would you like to think about it? You could talk to your vet, do some Internet searches and learn about blind dogs, talk to friends."
She had never been the impulsive sort. She had always planned and studied, researched and carefully considered before she made any decision, and she could scarcely believe her ears when she heard her own self say, "Why no, I don't think I need to do any of that. I think I need to get some dog food and biscuits and a new, no two new flashlights and lots of extra batteries. How soon can he come home?"
InSPIREd Sunday - St. Luke's Church in Anchorage
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