It weren’t nothing but a mutt, and I knew better than to pick up a stray. But once you pick a dog up you’re making a promise of sorts, and the puppy knew it, too. It couldn’t hurt it no matter what I did cause there wasn’t much left to it. It looked like somebody took a dirty rag and wrapped it round some bones and stuck the head of a puppy on it. Had some pit in it, for sure, and pits are good people when you can get them away from bad people. Some of my best friends when I was a young’un was pits. This one had some lab in him too, and maybe something else as well. I took my pack off and fed it my sandwiches which meant I made more promises and I had to keep them, too.
Odd, time is, for there I was walking down the creek back home with the whelp trying to keep up with me and then when I turned around a couple of months had passed by and the puppy was bounding up ahead of me, chasing a frog into the deep water, and laying waste to any peace that might be had on the creek. I had been putting my pennies up and knew I had to go see a vet and get the thing some shots, and as we walked the road towards town I knew I would have to break down and get a ride that would take a dog, and I knew I would have to barter out some of the bill.
Rene Stallings wasn’t a real vet but she worked for one, and I knew she was a witch. Rene had a voice hung on her, and she sang in the woods, but she hid that from people, and people didn’t see it a’tall. I knew what they charged for shots and things was even worse than the tax people comin’ after a man’s home, so when I walked in I knew I was helping pay for that building, the lights, and Rene’s part of it too, but I didn’t suffer her that. Folks sitting there in their work clothes and some with their good clothes, all of us come in cause we had an animal to look after in some way, and in a vet’s office is one of the few places nobody cares who you are, cause you’re there for the same reason they might be. A woman had an old lab with her, it all grey in the face and feeble in back, and she, and by she I mean the lab not the woman, mind you, wanted to speak to me so I bent low to hear her. She and I had met at one point in time, maybe when I was a kid, and Rene’s the one who told me this, that dogs come back, and they always know who loved them, even if we have forgotten them. This one was sorry we didn’t meet in this life sooner, because it was over for her, but she told me she would be back after a while, and I nearly cried. The woman with her was crying, her heart breaking and part of her soul was going with this one. The woman allowed me to hug the old one, and my puppy went and stuck his nose to the woman hard, and made her pet him. They was called in next. I wished for a million hundredth time that I had the money to help my old ones along the way when it was their time, buy mostly all I could do is give the mercy of a bullet. The little one I had with me didn’t know what was said between me… but you know, maybe he did. Maybe his puppy feelings included this, but he looked past it because that is part of life, too, you know, and there is no need in crying over what’s done. I watched the clock on the wall and suddenly I felt her go and so did my puppy, and he licked my face to keep me here.
“Eli Walker, my gods I didn’t know you were still alive.” Rene said, but she hugged me because I had a puppy with me.
“Got a stray.” I said.
“You feed him better than you do yourself, why didn’t you call me, never mind, you don’t keep a phone, let’s see what you found, have you bothered to name him?” Rene was going on, but I did realize I hadn’t bothered to give the thing his name yet.
“Been callin’ him ‘Dog’” I said, and felt foolish somewhat and I wondered how Rene knew naming wasn’t in me.
“Well, Eli, you have to do better than that.” Rene told me, and I knew she was gonna stand there til I did.
“Bo,” I said, and Bo looked up at me, as if he had been waiting all along for me to say his name.
I picked Bo up and carefully lay him on the table, trying to make sure I didn’t hurt his back legs. Rene’s hair was mostly grey now, and she didn’t color it like most women did. She couldn’t look directly at me, couldn’t talk much, and I couldn’t either. Bo never healed right from when he got loose from me and got truck hit, but mostly it was fifteen years working hard on him. He couldn’t stand on his own now, and I had to carry him in. I couldn’t do it myself this time, I tried, but I just couldn’t. Bo whimpered a bit, and I just wanted the pain to end. I held his head while she put the stuff in his veins and I felt him go, and felt part of my soul go with him.
The woman in the waiting room had a puppy, and it was the same woman, and it was the same old girl with her, but come back to her on this earth. She allowed me to pick the puppy up and suddenly she grabbed me, and hugged me close, as if we too were kin by time.