When we get up in age the past figures more prominently in our conversations. Someone once said that.
One evening this week I went to the dog park near the Columbus Soccer Complex, so my Lab could run a bit. An old man showed up with a terrier mix while we were there, and while our dogs played the old man and I stood around talking, and as the sun went down he shared something with me.
I did not ask his name. What he shared needs no name attached to it, I reckon.
He was pushing 80. For years, his wife was not well and confined to a wheelchair. But she loved dogs. They had six, and what she did, those dogs did with her. Then the dogs got old, and the man buried them one-by-one in the backyard of their home near Military Road. Finally, it was only the man and his wife living there.
One day someone offered them another dog. The old man resisted.
“I’m tired of burying dogs,” he told his wife, but he looked at her and caved, and they named the dog “Holly.”
What the woman did, “Holly” did, too.
Then the couple’s health got bad, and they both went into the hospital. Before they did the old man gave “Holly” back to the man who had her originally, for safekeeping. The woman told her husband that if she died, leave the dog with that man.
“She felt I didn’t care for the dog,” the old man said, and it sounded like he and “Holly” didn’t have much in common.
He eventually went home from the hospital. His wife did not.
After burying her, the old man did as she asked, and left “Holly” with the other man. Months passed.
Then the man who had the dog was going on a trip, and he asked if the old man could keep her for a spell. The old man agreed, and “Holly” came over.
The old man told me: “When he dropped her off, and I opened the front door, it was like heaven opened up for Holly. She ran in the house, knew where everything was, went back there to the bedroom looking for my wife — just like she never left.”
After a few weeks the man who had gone on the trip got back in town and called, wondering if he should come get “Holly.” The old man said he figured she could stay, and she did.
Sometimes he takes her to the dog park near the Soccer Complex and lets her run. That’s what they were doing when I met them.
I left the park thinking of the old man and “Holly” living alone in the home they once shared with the old man’s late wife. If nothing else missing her is something they have in common, and together, they are making the best of it.
William Browning is managing editor of The Dispatch. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
William Browning was managing editor for The Dispatch until June 2016.
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