A middle-aged woman peeks into his kennel. She smiles. He wags his tail. Then she walks away.
Everyone who peeks into his kennel just walks away. Always. Nobody wants an old dog. At this shelter, most visitors end up adopting young dogs who can’t control their bladders.
If only humans could understand canine language, he would’ve told the lady all about himself and what a good boy he is. It’s a shame that humans don’t speak Dog.
He’s not sure how he ended up in this place. Once he had a family. And you’d think that your family would always be your family. The idea of them leaving you doesn’t even enter your doggy brain. But you can lose a family. He found this out the hard way.
They left him here. He waited for them, staring out his kennel door, but they never came back. His owners were simply done with him.
That was a lifetime ago. Since then, he’s been stuck in this loud room of kennels with dogs who cry all day long. Mostly, they’re just begging humans to adopt them.
“TAKE ME!” they all scream. “PICK ME! PLEASE!” That’s all they ever shout.
He’s overheard their remarks about him. “How old is THAT dog?” “He looks kind of gray.” “Mommy, I don’t want an old dog.” “Poor guy, nobody’s gonna want that old thing.”
Old. They are right. Who would want an elderly dog? The worst part is, it’s been so long since he’s been touched. When you’re a puppy everyone showers you with affection. But when you’re an old dog they just get mad when you have accidents.
But he doesn’t have many accidents. This is one of his skills. In fact, he wishes he could tell the humans about all his skills. Being old has its advantages. He can hold his bladder, he knows how to watch TV and keep a person warm, he knows how to fend off dangerous UPS men.
But it doesn’t matter. He spends his days in his corner watching people walk by. This is life.
He sleeps in this hole, he gets one short walk each afternoon. Maybe if he’s lucky the brown-haired guy gives him a bath with weird smelling soap. He knows that one day he will be led to the back room with the doctor, like all the other old dogs. And that will be the end.
The door to the main room opens. The place comes unglued with barking dogs who are probably making messes in their cages. Every dog is freaking out over the new visitor.
He pokes his nose out of his cage to get a look. He can see a little girl. She’s kind of cute, but then, all the kids are. She looks around for a few minutes.
The girl stops in front of his cage. She says, “What’s this one’s name?”
“We don’t know,” says the woman employee.
“You don’t know his name?”
“We get a lotta dogs without names, honey.”
The girl approaches his kennel. He doesn’t bother standing up. Why waste his energy? If you’ve seen one kid you’ve seen them all.
The child reaches her hand through the bars. “Come here, boy,” she says.
He looks at her but doesn’t move. She seems sweet enough, but he’s no dummy. This is the same old song and dance.
“Let’s go, sweetie,” says the woman. “He’s probably too old for you, let’s go look at the puppies.”
“Can I pet him?”
A long pause. The woman says, “But don’t you wanna see the younger ones?”
“Well, maybe just for a minute.”
The cage door opens. This gets his attention. His cage door NEVER opens.
The little girl steps in. He’s on his feet now. He’s nervous. Panting. Heart beating fast. Who is this child and what does she want? He backs away.
She reaches her hand outward. She comes close. He lets her rest her palm on his forehead. It’s warm. The child rubs his fur. And she doesn’t just rub him, she hugs his WHOLE BODY! Oh the rapture! He turns into a puddle.
“You’re not too old,” the girl whispers to him.
Before he even realizes what’s happening, the employee places a leash on him and leads him out of the kennel.
“What in the world?” he’s thinking. “Where are we going?”
They are parading him down the aisle. He’s leaving this place. Can it be? Is this for real? Or is it a cruel joke? All the dogs are screaming.
In a few minutes, it’s official. The little girl signs a stack of papers then takes him home. She names him Jackson. She gives him a brand new world and she even lets him sleep in her bed.
It all happens so fast that it still seems like some kind of elaborate fantasy. Yesterday; death row. Today; Buckingham Palace.
Sometimes, late at night when he sleeps beside her, he still can’t get over how beautiful this child is. This girl who makes waking up each morning worthwhile, just to see her pretty face. This ten-year-old girl who makes him feel as though he was built for her. Who taught him how to appreciate being alive again. Oh, if this kid only knew.
It really is a shame that humans don’t speak Dog.
Either way, congratulations on your new best friend, Briana.