The year that we were married, a puppy was born. Maybe that was a nuisance, an unwelcome and unplanned expense for the people in charge. Maybe he was from a planned litter, sold to an excited family and loved for a while, before chasing a cat too far and exciting a flurry of "Lost pet! Please call!" signs. Maybe he was neglected, abused, and finally abandoned. Who can say?
We found him at the local no-kill shelter, hungry, desperate, and wary. He was the only dog not yammering his head off. By the end of the day, we knew that he was the dog we hadn't planned on having.
The shelter called him Hunter. Ha! However he spent his formative months, it wasn't learning to do dog things. Barking wasn't the only skill he lacked: when we took Hunter home, he couldn't swim! A Labrador retriever, terrified of water. He couldn't track a tennis ball to save his life. There wasn't any hope of him fetching our pheasants (which is fine, since we don't hunt). He needed a whole lot of kibble, reassurance, and love.
His face is now flecked with the white of old age, this dog of ours. He has been Kris's solace through the stress of two new jobs, two moves, two births, and the beginning of fatherhood. My balm when all I wanted was a baby to love. A nonjudgmental companion when I finally had one and embarked on day after day of figuring out how to survive children. He's Eden's co-conspirator and protector, the one who sleeps at the foot of her bed to chase away the shadows. Jude hugs and kisses Hunter good night, like the dear old friend that he is. To think that all good dogs go to heaven is one thing; I'd be just as satisfied if this one lived forever.