She’s a pretty girl. Sophisticated walk. All business. She’s trotting a dirt road, wearing a purple collar, no tags.
I’ve seen her here for a few days now. I have a feeling she’s far from home.
I call to her, but she’s skittish.
I finally negotiate her into my truck. But not because I am skilled in canine dialect—I am not. It’s because I bribe her with raw, room-temperature hamburger. She pees on my seat cushion. She is old.
I take her home.
She’s white, but covered in mud. She hates baths—this I discover the hard way. I turn on the garden hose; she breaks away and runs for Nolensville, Tennessee.
I am able to coax her to return with more ground beef. She eats another pound. This dog is going to land me in the poorhouse.
I scrub her with Dawn dish soap. I have seen television commercials featuring eco-activists washing baby ducks rescued from Gulf oil-spills. They use Dawn.
I call her Bobby Jo Gentry.
Then, I dial the vet and ask what I ought to do.
The lady on the phone laughs. “Just love her,” she says. “You might never find her owner, might have to keep her.”
Bobby Jo becomes part of my life for a week. She sleeps with my dogs in my bedroom. I buy a forty-dollar dog bed, a neon-orange collar, and canned food for elderly animals.
She gains weight. There is nothing I like more than fat dogs in orange collars.
She falls into my daily routine. We become friends. I talk to her. She listens. She’s gentle and humble at heart, the only of my dogs who likes watching baseball with me.
A knock on my door.
It’s a weekend, midday. I am listening to Atlanta play Milwaukee while in my office.
I look out the window. An unfamiliar car in my driveway. Jehovah’s Witnesses, maybe. I am prepared to answer the door, speaking the unofficial version of Spanish often used in John Wayne movies.
It’s a woman. She’s from Virginia, early-sixties. She’s visited ten streets looking for her pet. She lost her dog last week while on vacation. A white one. The dog gets confused, she says.
She called the veterinary offices. They told her to call me. She dialed my number, but couldn’t get me because Atlanta was playing Milwaukee.
The old girl comes running when she hears the familiar voice. She limps when she runs.
“Lacy!” the woman yells.
It’s a miracle of the realest kind. And I can’t believe I was party to it. The old dog gives me a few licks since we both know this is goodbye.
I tell her to take care of herself. That was years ago.
A few days ago, I got an email. The subject line: Bobby Jo Gentry.
Bobby Jo has gone to be with the Lord. She is buried in a neon-orange collar some stranger gave her.
I hope God watches baseball.