Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 116

written 13 August 2008
The little dog sat patiently by the side of the road. Her people would be home soon, she knew, bringing a treat for her. She wagged her tail in happy anticipation.

She remembered when she came to the family – she was already old, many litters had been born and distributed. But in the last litter something had gone wrong. She had been so sick, and none of the pups survived. And since then, she hadn't had any more. She was still sick when she limped into the front yard and lay down in the shade of a big bush with some sort of sweet-smelling flowers.

The woman had found her there, panting in the shade, too weak finally to lift her head.

Gently, the woman had lifted her up and taken her to the back of the house, setting her on a pile of rags on the porch, then calling inside to her children. The little dog wasn't sure at first, children hadn't been her favorite humans, always hugging too hard or throwing things at her, but these children were quiet and just watched.

The woman brought out a large bowl filled with warm water and set the dog inside, on top of another soft towel at the bottom. The dog took a sip of the warm water, then another. The woman held her carefully, head just up from the water, until the dog stopped. Gently, she started to rub the little dog with a bar of something that smelled strange and made bubbles. The warm water felt so good to the dog, and she relaxed. Soon, the woman was setting her back on the pile of rags and pouring more warm water over her, then gently lifting her into the arms of the bigger child who sat ready with a towel.

The dog had wagged her tail slightly, and the child whispered little things as he carefully sopped up the water. “shhhhh. shhhhh. shhhhh.” It sounded like the wind on a warm summer day.

The other child watched with eyes getting bigger and bigger. The dog's fur was soft, and as it dried it formed tight little curls. It had been a long time since she was clean and warm, and her tongue lolled in a happy grin. But she was tired, and as the older child held her, she drifted off to sleep.

She barely noticed when the woman picked her up and took her inside, setting her in a basket near the kitchen stove, where it was warm, and dry. She didn't notice when the woman set a small bowl of clean water by her head. But she was instantly awake when a deep voice sounded, however gently, and a different plate with something that smelled very good was set on the floor.

She struggled to her knees, and found the plate of meat just at the edge of the basket. Small pieces, tender pieces, with some sort of gravy.

It didn't last long.

Slowly, her strength returned, and she began to follow the woman through the house. Cleaning, cooking, bathing the children, sitting quietly by a window with a block of wood sheets that she would turn every so often.

When she was completely well, she followed the woman out into the yard, through the garden, helping the woman with the weeding, chasing small animals away from the ripening vegetables, sunning herself when the woman hung clothing over the line.

And then, one day, after the children left the house, the woman sat down and didn't do her usual things. The little dog watched her, sitting with her head in her hands by the window, rocking gently back and forth.

The woman was hurt, the dog thought, and so she stood up on her hind legs and licked the woman's hand. The woman looked up, and her face was wet. The dog jumped into her lap and lay down, and the woman stroked her curly fur. Slowly, the woman's head lifted up, and she relaxed. By the time the children came home, things were back to normal.

It didn't happen often, but the little dog knew that when the woman slowed down, all it took was some doggy kisses and hugs and things were fine again.

The children were alternately attentive and disinterested, sometimes wanting her right with them, sometimes telling her to go lie down in her bed. She didn't mind too much, her bed was comfortable and warm, and being in the kitchen there were good smells and always someone around. The children were getting bigger and bigger, one of them was almost as big as the man now. Sometimes, they would carry her around with them, when her legs were tired.

The man wasn't home most days when it was light out. But when he was, the little dog enjoyed him. She would greet him every evening at the door with happy yips and get underfoot until he bent down and mussed her fur. He would take her outside with the children, and they would run around the yard, or do chores, or take a walk down the road. The little dog liked her time with the man.

And today, she was waiting for them to come home after a day in town. For years, she had gone with them, but this year she was tired, and the family let her stay home most of the time. She didn't miss the confusion and the long walk, but she was lonely when the whole family was away.

The sun moved a little further, and she noticed some movement in the distance. Her eyes weren't working very well these days, but she could still see when something moved. Her ears weren't working very well either, but she could feel the vibrations when the man spoke, and now sometimes when the children spoke also. She couldn't hear the woman anymore, not when she sang as she did the housework, or when she spoke to the children, but sometimes she would pick up the little dog and place her face on her neck and say, “Good girl” and “Yes” and the little dog would know she was loved.

So she finally felt the rumble of the earth as the cart the family had taken to town got a little closer. She gathered all her might and let out her biggest greeting: YIP! YIP! BARK!!!

The woman reached her first, and picked her up. “Thank You” she told the dog, and carried her into the house while the man and the children brought in the bags from the cart.

Everything was as it should be, she thought as she daintily nibbled her treat from town. The family was all together, and life was good.

author's note: This story is in tribute to my little black dog, Buffy, who died at the end of July.