By Joseph F. Hedge
(Our father, Joseph Hedge, defied the 1950’s stereotype of the stern, unfeeling father. I remember him reading this story based on his favorite dog to us decades ago. Of course, we cried our eyes out, but somehow, when we lost pets after that, we always knew he was grieving with us. )
The sun is so warm, I am going to sit here all day and wait. Wait for my dog King to come back. Daddy said that he is sick and probably just went away to die. It is so strange that King isn’t here.
I hear Mom call, “Marie!”
I think I will let her call all day until she gets tired. I have always liked sitting under this oleander bush. It’s cool, out of the hot sun. Maybe they will think that I also ran off to die, just like King. How do they know? Do they really care or will it be easier to just take his dish and move it out of sight?
When I called my friend Carrie last night, it seemed that her phone would ring off the hook. Then she picked it up. We talked for such a long time, about dogs, cats, pet birds, and back to my King. Carrie and I would walk King for blocks. He always seemed to be smiling and wagging his tail. All I ever did was love King. Never tried to train him. Loving is what he knew best.
Last night seemed to be the worst night of all. The shock of King being gone for almost a week. I guess everyone was right. In the darkness of my room, I wished for King to come back. I heard a rustle outside and turned on the light. Nothing was there. The noise was the fan in my room.
So today I will just sit here and let everyone search for me.
“Marie! Marie!” Mom is still calling.
I hope she misses me. When Carrie comes over, she will know where I am. Carrie has been here before. We have had picnics here; lunches packed at home, carried twenty feet to our favorite spot.
“Marie…” It’s Carrie. “Let’s go look for King. Maybe he is down by the tracks.”
Well, Carrie is trying to make me feel better. I thank her for that. “You know what, Carrie? Let’s you and I just start looking in all the places we have taken King on our walks. I’ll bet he is still somewhere. “
We get up from our hiding spot and I yell at Mom, “Be back in a little while.”
She answers, “Don’t be long. It will soon be dark.”
My “OK” is in passing by the kitchen door. I really don’t care if it gets dark. King is out there somewhere.
Carrie and I see a pack of dogs running in the park. No, not a pretty white King in the lot. I sit on a bench for a while, and sadness comes to me again. Carrie pokes me and we begin our search again. Finally, I am too tired to keep going. I look at Carrie. We agree. Going back home sounds like a good idea.
“Bye, Carrie! Thanks!” Carrie is really my best friend and only best friends know how it feels to be sad.
Gosh, I did stay out a long time. The lights are on in the kitchen and it looks warm.
“Hi, Mom! I’m home!” That seems to be enough to announce my arrival. I start to the front room and see Dad sitting in the den. Just thinking, I guess. The television is off and he seems as lonely as I feel. He is turning in my direction. I try to move away quickly.
“Marie, Can I talk to you?” He has never asked my permission before.
I sit on the footstool in front of him. I wonder, What will this be about?
“Marie, we have to talk about King.”
Somehow, at this moment, I feel it is okay to talk about him.
Dad said, “When dogs get older, they seem to know that it is time they move on, to where I don’t know, but when they leave they break many a heart.” Dad seems to be very slow and patient in the way he is talking to me. He is looking straight at me and has the kindest, softest look on his face.
“You, Marie, have had King since you were a baby. He’s always been around whenever you’ve needed someone to pet.”
I almost wish he wouldn’t go on, but it feels good to find out that someone besides me misses King.
“Now, My Dear, you just have to keep King in a loving spot in your heart.” He has never hugged me so hard or so long before. It hurts a little, but good. “Marie,” he says, “We do know how you feel, and we love you…and we loved King.”
Lying here on my bed tonight, I have nice thoughts about King. I wish he were here on top of my bed with me. He never did like to lie on the rug beside my bed. I pick up the rug. I think I can feel the warmth of King. It won’t hurt to have it next to me tonight.
Good night, My King.
© Joseph Hedge, 2012