LOVE AT THE END OF THE ROAD
By Stephanie Harkness Moxley
The dirt road stretched out in front of me, snaking through the pines. The dust rose, shimmering like copper as beams of light from the early spring sunset cut through the trees like a laser. We hadn’t seen a single sign of life since turning onto the road 5 miles ago. My girl looked at me with concern, “Mom, remember that movie about Buffalo City? This totally looks like that!” I sighed, “I think you are exaggerating just a little bit, don’t you? It’s too beautiful a night to believe that.” “But mom, you have heard the stories!” I had to admit, the ethereal feeling of the evening did lend credence to my child’s imagination. We pulled into our destination.
Mist started to curl around the base of the trees. The silence was absolute. The smell of spring was in the air. Then the spring peepers started their chorus and about made me jump out of my skin. I heard a rustling in the pine leaves. I froze, and looked over to my right, expecting to see a glint of scales, sinuously moving through the leaves. Instead, a little button of brown velvet peered out from under an oak leaf, whiskers twitching and black eyes darting from side to side. The little mouse looked more startled to see me than I, him. The little drama queen next to me on the other hand, let out a shriek and jumped behind me. The mouse moved quickly, darting under the leaves heading toward the open ground in front of us. “I think you scared me more than he scared you!” I laughed, my heart pounding.
As we moved farther along the tree line, we heard snuffling. Snuffle, snuffle, swoosh. Snuffle, snuffle, swoosh. “Moooommmmm, I don’t like this”. I didn’t either. I didn’t think there were any wild boar in this part of the country. But the snuffling noise sure did sound like a wild pig rooting through the leaves looking for acorns, or truffles. All of sudden, the snuffling changed, and it sounded like a herd of boar were crashing through the underbrush toward us. We both tensed, ready to make a run for the car when a large black blur bounded out and leaped up, knocking both of us back a few steps. As we fought to disentangle ourselves from the great lopping tongue that was desperately trying to clean our faces in great slobbery swipes, we heard a great booming voice yell: “down, down, c’mon you nut, down!” Through the great laps of the Labrador’s tongue I saw a man grabbing for his collar. My girl fell down under the weight of the dog, giggling as she tumbled down. “Good boy, yes, you’re a gorgeous boy” I heard as she hugged the large dog and scrubbed her hands through his fur. “Damned nuisance”, mumbled the man. “I’m sorry, I’m Paul. And this goof ball is Henry.” Henry was a jet-black Labrador retriever. My daughter’s dream dog.
We had been sharing our lives with a cranky, 16-year-old beagle that I had before my girl was born. She had grown up with Stormie and while she wasn’t exactly the cuddly, lovey dog you dream of having, we loved her all the same. While she wasn’t the friendliest dog, she loved us as much as we loved her. She was the one constant in my daughter’s life. She helped her through our divorce, and a move to a new state. One morning about three months ago, I woke up to heart rending crying emanating from my daughter’s room. I kept hearing the words “mom” and “Stormie” murmured over and over again. Sometime during tonight, Stormie had done something she had never, ever done in the past: she climbed up onto my girl’s bed and snuggled in next to her. As the sun came up, Stormie breathed her last. My daughter was inconsolable. The tears poured down her face, her breathing was a ragged gasp. We both knew that day was coming, when we would have to see Stormie off to the rainbow bridge, but it still broke our hearts. I wasn’t sure we would ever get another dog. The heartbreak was almost too much to bear. Dogs are with us such a short time but take a huge part of your heart. Could we go through this again?
Three months on, we decided our lives NEEDED a dog. We couldn’t imagine not having a furry family member. We started looking. The pound, the paper, Facebook. Then last week, my vet called me. She had a client, whose lab had gotten the neighbor’s lab “in the family way”. But he lived way out in the country, would we want to drive out and see him? My girl was all over it, as I said, DREAM DOG! So off we went, out into the sticks, where met Paul and Henry.
Paul grabbed Henry and hauled my girl off the ground. He led us around the building, where there was a lot of junk laying around. Typical farm. As he led us toward something shiny, I realized it was an old refrigerator, with the door removed. “We came out one morning looking for Mamadog. My wife was getting really worried about her. Ole’ Henry here found her in this old fridge, where she had decided to have her pups!” We looked down into the novel whelping box, and saw a wiggly mass of brown, white and black.
We plopped down onto the ground as we were swarmed by puppies. As the mass of pups climbed all over us, one little fella stood out. Silky black fur, that glinted sapphire blue in the sun. The softest brown eyes that looked deep into your soul. He attached himself to my girl. She cuddled him, rocking him back and forth and whispering into his fur. I saw glistening drops that looked like diamonds sliding from her face onto his luxurious coat. I looked up at Paul. “We’ll take him.”