The metal kennel hit the tarmac with a crash. The dog inside yelped. Then as the broken door swung open, a long, gray streak surged to freedom.
“Stop that dog!” the forklift driver yelled.
But the dog, a greyhound, could not be stopped. Fueled by terror, it raced under the parked planes and vanished into the underbrush along the taxiway.The forklift driver was joined by two baggage handlers.
“There’ll be hell to pay for that,” one of the handlers said, staring in the direction the dog had disappeared.
“The darn kennel just fell off my fork. I think the dog was jumping around in there and made it go off-balance. Dog wasn’t hurt, though, not from the way it took off. They’ll find it eventually.”
“You better hope they find it,” the handler said. “That wasn’t just any dog. See here on the label? Westminster Dog Show, New York City, that’s where it came from. Supposed to be going on another flight to Austin, Texas after you reloaded it, but that ain’t happening now, is it? That dog’s worth some big money, you can bet on it.”
Glengarry’s Rose of Ireland, call name Rosie, had a wall full of blue ribbons that testified to her special status. She was used to airline flights, although they were always awful – the noise and pressure changes hurt her delicate ears and the jostling sickened her. But she had no choice in the matter. It was just one more of the inexplicable things that humans made her do.
The sickening lurch and crash when the kennel fell sent her into a blind panic. When the door swung open, she took off with all the strength and speed of her breed, not knowing or caring where she was headed. When she finally slowed down enough to look around, everything was strange. Trembling from fear and exertion and badly needing water, Rosie spotted an opening under a nearby porch. She made for it, squeezed in and flopped down in the semi-darkness. She was still thirsty, but at least she felt safe.
The old man saw her. Sitting quietly in his rocker, he spent a lot of time looking out the window. Couldn’t do much else. He knew his neighbors called him Watchful Willie, and not in a nice way. Still, they were glad enough when he signed for their packages or told them they’d left the garden hose running. Darn whippersnappers thought they’d never grow old, never have to pass endless days at a window that looked at nothing.
Only today, nothingness was broken by the arrival of a tall, skinny dog. Will had only seen pictures of dogs like that one. Greyhound, he named it to himself. Amazing-looking creature. He was surprised when the dog ran to his house and disappeared under the porch. Rising, he shuffled to the kitchen, filled a pan with water and took it outside.
“You’re gonna have to come up here, dog,” he said. “The steps ain’t my friend.”
He went back in the house, and soon heard the click of toenails on porch boards, followed by noisy slurping. Back to the kitchen he went, scraping the remains of the beef stew that was to have been his dinner into another pan. When he opened the door, the dog zoomed off the porch and under it in one fluid motion. He put down the beef stew, and this time he sat in the porch rocker and waited.
Who knows what dogs can remember? Who knows what thoughts go on in their speechless heads? Rosie may not have recalled her days in the show ring, the hours of training and grooming and traveling. Maybe for her there was only the present: the old man who scratched her back and talked to her; the house that was now her home.
But Will knew how different life had become. The dog needed to be walked, so he found himself navigating the steps – and it got easier. On the sidewalk they became a magnet for little kids, which led to cordial conversations with their parents. The dog had to eat, so Will cooked meals for the two of them and they ate together in the kitchen. And the dog did goofy things that made Will laugh every day. He hardly had time to sit at the window anymore.
Will refused to speculate on where she’d come from. Far as he was concerned, she was his dog now. He debated what to call her. “Dog” wouldn’t do, not for a beautiful animal loaded with personality. Not for his best friend.
He named her Angel.