The Black Lab

The woman was from around the neighborhood and she had a dog, and even though I didn’t know her I figured she was nice. I watched her from the window overlooking the street. Her dog was lying down, and she had to coax her up and across the road. The dog barely made it to the other side before limping to a stop, and again she lay down, this time directly in front of our house. After she stayed for a few minutes, unwilling to budge, my mother slipped out the door to talk to her owner. My sister and I cautiously joined her and soon amused ourselves with petting the dog, an aging black lab.

The woman explained that her dog had trouble walking, and she was trying to get her to their home, just down the street from us. Mom went inside and came back with a bowl of water. After a good few minutes, the black lab was thankful for the drink but still refused to move. I watched her for a while, and then an idea came to me. I told the woman to wait there and ran as fast as I could into the house.

A few minutes later, I emerged with my own stuffed dog, the one I first received as an infant. The real life dog perked up immediately, stood, and walked towards it. I bent down, positioned the toy in front of her muzzle, and walked it forward, and sure enough the black lab followed. I walked down the rest of my street, keeping my stuffed animal just far enough away to keep her following me until we came to her house at last.

“You saved her.” I don’t remember anything else the woman said, but I remember those words. “You saved her.”

I especially remembered them five years later, when I found myself in front of the pet store counter, assessing the rescues in need of homes. I knew I needed a dog in my life, but I was having trouble putting together the funds. I figured in the meantime I would at least visit the pets, until one day the woman behind the counter stared at me. I looked up at her and recognition flashed across both of our faces.

I don’t remember all the words I said to her, or all the words she said to me. But I do remember what I heard as she placed a black lab puppy in my arms.

“Free of charge.”

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