Happy and Mia are two dogs on a running route I take, and though I’ve passed their house countless times in the past five years, half aware of them behind their fence, I’d never stopped, never approached. It’s not that I wanted to be rude, but pauses aren’t part of what I set out to do, and are nothing I might brag about. I could never say, “Guess what! I stopped three times on my run!”
Some stops are unavoidable, though, such as when I see an animal at risk. These are usually small dead ones, their damaged bodies in danger of being further desecrated, like the mouse I passed shortly after starting out one day. There it lay in the lane, one tiny paw to its chin. I stopped, plucked a leaf from a tree to wrap the body in, and then, using the leaf like a mitt, scooped up the mouse to deposit it away from the road on a soft mound of dead leaves, still wrapped in its green shroud. A few strands of grass on top, and the burial was accomplished. On I went. Ten minutes later, I saw the two dogs behind their fence, both golden retrievers with long silky fur, one the exact toasty color of a butter wafer, the other a slightly paler sugar cookie color. If I’ve got time for dead animals, I ought to make time for live ones too, I reasoned, and stopped.
Both dogs raised their paws, rubbed their heads against the fence, and made laughing eyes at me to let me know they’d been watching me and waiting for me these long years, knowing I’d finally stop. So polite, so understanding! Nary a bark, not one, not even a peep out of them. They didn’t need winning over or calming down, but sweetly offered their paws. I shook those paws, formalizing the meeting, read their tags and learned their names, and promised I’d be back, mouse or no mouse. Reader, I have been. Let me brag: I’ve stopped there every time!
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