/ / / “Dogs” by Debbie Stanton

“Dogs” by Debbie Stanton

Debbie Stanton | Stories

Dogs

by

Debbie Stanton

(revised version)

Marvin stretched in bed and carefully rose to a standing position on Monday morning. He was retired—just three days ago was the big day—and he was in a good mood. The sixty-five-year-old could hardly wait to get going on his new life, yet there was something that held him back.

Good ol’ Marv was scared of getting older. He was sure he wasn’t the only one. Maybe a walk would do him some good. Marv walked to the kitchen for breakfast as he hummed the old tune, “The Old Grey Mare Just Ain’t What She Used to Be.”

After breakfast, Marv set out to walk into town. The storefront displays changed almost daily, and it would be fun to stay abreast of all the new developments in the world.

Marv wanted to investigate the new books in the public library, but alas, the library wouldn’t open for forty-five more minutes. He walked up to one of its windows and sighed. The large red poster sitting on a stand read, “Those who tell the stories rule society.” It encouraged Marv to volunteer for reading to the children. Heck, maybe adults should have someone read to them, too.

Wonderful smells from the diner wafted out to the sidewalk. It’s good Marv had just had breakfast. He looked at the poster in one of the diner windows. “More love, less hate” was so apropos. With crime rates high, prejudice, and tension amongst the citizens thick since the pandemic started, life was grim now. 

Marv began his mental list of things to do or accomplish. His conscience, or creed, as he liked to call it, would never steer him wrong.

He walked past more storefronts to a residential area.

Like a blur, two little dogs ran to him. One was a Welsh Corgi, and the other one looked like Rosie, the dog that was in many Hallmark movies. Man! Shirley loved Hallmark so much before she died. Marv didn’t know if he could stomach watching a Hallmark movie alone.

Marv bent down to pat and talk to the dogs. The dogs probably took that to mean he could help them with their friend Margaret. They ran back in the direction they had come and turned to look back at Marv, as if to ask him if he was coming with them. He walked along and kept them in sight. Finally, they stopped at a driveway near an alley. There, Margaret, the mother dog of some mongrel puppies, laid on an old blanket with her pups. Marv couldn’t see any food or water nearby. It was heartbreaking! Marv soon “met” Margaret. She let Marv handle her pups, and he loved them all.

Margaret’s canine friends watched them protectively yet wagged their tails nonstop.

“How are ya, girl? Congratulations on all your pups,” Marv said to her. He stood up and knocked on the door of the house. A little boy and girl answered his knock.

“Hi, kids,” Marv said. “Does the mother dog and her pups belong to you?”

“Sure,” the boy said. He shrugged.

“But Mister, we don’t have any food,” his sister pushed forward and said.

“Well, maybe if your mom and dad can’t get out to the store right now, maybe a bowl of water and a can of tuna would be a good start,” Marv said.

“We have water, but no food,” the boy said. Marv’s heart broke in half. Jeez, it’s been awhile since you’ve risked getting your heart broken, Marv said to himself.

“Oh, I see. Can you bring your parents out here so I can meet them?”

“Can’t bring my daddy outside. He’s dead, you see,” the girl said. “But we’ll go get Mama.” After the kids disappeared, Marv told himself to close his mouth since his jaw had dropped open in disbelief. He made plans to go the store very soon.

“Can I help you?” the young woman said.

“Yes. I was wondering if I could buy one of the puppies from you—that is, if they’re old enough to be away from their mom,” Marv said.

“That’s the thing. They don’t belong to us, but no one came looking for them, either. The mama dog—well, she just looked up at me, kind of asking for help, so I brought the blanket outside for her. Then she had her puppies and let me see—” she said and appeared to be counting how long ago that was, “I think they’re probably six weeks old.”

“Would you mind, then, if I took all the pups and their mom home to my house? You see, my wife died recently, and I need some companions—that is, if you’re willing to give them up,” Marvin said. He hoped the woman would say yes. The more he thought about it, the more he knew the dogs were an answer to the prayer he had been afraid to pray—for companionship and a sense of purpose. He woke from his reverie and could hear the pups play-barking at each other.

“Yeah, that’s cool. Actually, we hardly have any food left, so they’d be better off with you.”

“No, Mama, we need the dogs!” the kids cried out. Marv had been preparing himself for that comment.

“Don’t worry, when they’re bigger I can walk the dogs over here so you can play with them. We don’t live far apart at all,” Marv said.

The girl and boy stopped crying.

“That’s so nice of you. Are you sure?” their mother said.

“No problem. But I have one condition,” Marv said.

“I was afraid of that. There’s always a hook for everything, it seems.”

“Oh, but this is a nice condition. I’d like to come back here this afternoon and bring you some groceries. If you allow me to do that, then I’ll take the dogs,” Marvin said, hoping he looked sincere. Sincere, because he meant the question with all his heart.

“Okay, sir, you’ve got a deal,” the woman said, her eyes filling with tears.

“Great! Thank you,” Marv said. “I’ll just jog home. I’ll be back in an hour or two.”

“’Bye, dogs, I’ll be back soon,” Marv said when they were outside again. The mother dog barked once, and the puppies whined and wagged their tails.

Marv was so happy; he jogged all the way home. Winded and tired when he got there, he thought a little discomfort was worth it.

Before Marv went back to get the dogs, he went to the grocery store and bought lots of dog food, a collar for the mother dog and little collars for the pups—and three or four bags of staples, paper products, and kid-friendly meals. He also pulled out his wallet, looked inside, and shrugged as he attached the only bill in his wallet (fifty dollars) to a note, which he placed in one of the sacks.

On the way to the dogs, he picked up his daughter, who up until that second had refused to do anything in her grief of losing her mother. They dropped off the groceries for the little family. After they said their goodbyes and with a promise he’d come back to visit with the dogs, and maybe even cook dinner for them at his house, he asked his daughter if she and her family could come back later and have dinner with him. “Oh my gosh, Dad, that will be nice,” she said. Then he drove home with his new furry family.

Posh, Marvin thought to himself. I’m not old; I’m still useful.

Marvin hugged himself—he couldn’t believe his good fortune. He quickly retrieved one of his shoes away from the tiny teeth of the smallest puppy.

 

 

 

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