Molino, Florida—my wife and I drove hilly roads into the sticks of the Panhandle. Molino is a place with livestock fences, horse trailers, old barns, goats, and Mennonites who drive cars without radios.
I watched the acres roll past our windows. I rubbed a penny between my thumb and forefinger.
This penny is special.
I’ve been carrying the penny since the best dog I ever had, Ellie Mae, died. The day after she passed, I was walking Seventh Avenue in Birmingham, wiping my eyes like a blamed fool.
That dog was thirteen good years of my life, wrapped in fur.
I saw a penny on the sidewalk. I picked it up—I never pick up pennies. I inspected it. Imprinted on the face was Ellie Mae‘s birth year. Coincidence? I don’t know. But I kept it.
I suppose I wanted to believe that wherever Ellie was, my best friend was thinking of me.
Anyway, my wife and I turned into a long dirt driveway. There were muddy trucks,
horse trailers, wide porches, and bloodhound puppies everywhere.
A man could raise a family in Molino.
And I saw her. A seven-week-old puppy, running through green grass. She tripped over long ears. I lifted her into my arms. She is heavier than she looks.
Her paws are too big for her body. Her breath smells like the Seventh Circle of Heaven. She bit my nose and made it bleed. She chewed my ear lobes. She licked my eyebrows.
Earlier this morning, my day was getting off to a bad start. I awoke to an empty and dogless house. I stumbled into an empty kitchen. Empty dog bowls sat on my kitchen floor.
I rubbed a penny while I made coffee.
I’m not used to emptiness. Every morning for the last umpteen years my mornings have been un-empty.
I would wake to a…