Yesterday, we left our cold and tired hero curled up between two cars in a parking lot. He was lost in the big city, far from home.
I was awakened by the feel of a hand patting my head. A friendly voice was saying, “Hello, Pooch. What are you doing out here all alone in a storm? Are you lost?” I raised my head, and licked the man’s gloved hand. He tasted good - a mixture of leather and snow. I whined. “Good doggie,” he said, and turned to walk away. I didn't know what else to do, and the man had a nice voice, so I decided to follow him. Stiff from laying so long on the snow, I pushed myself slowly to my feet. I gave myself a shake, snow flying off my coat in every direction, and trotted off after the man. The snow was piled high in some places - higher than my head. But I had no trouble walking; I just stepped in the grooves made by the man's boots. He turned around once, and saw that I was behind him; he smiled at me, and continued walking.
We seemed to walk a long way. He kept a close eye on me when we reached a wide street. Next, we crossed a bridge over the river. Eventually, we came to a tall building with the kind of door that you can see right through. The man opened the door. “Come inside, boy,” he said. He led me to a door that slid open, revealing a tiny room. He walked into the room, but I hesitated. “It’s okay, Pooch,” he assured me. “It’s just an elevator.” I stepped inside; the door slid shut, and we started to move. Startled, I cringed down on the floor, whimpering. After a while, the elevator stopped moving, and the door opened. I bounded out and waited for the man to tell me what to do. He walked past me and stopped in front of yet another door.
As he reached for the knob, the door flew open. A woman stood in the doorway, her eyes wide with surprise and confusion. “What…?” she began.
“He followed me home,” the man answered. “I couldn’t leave him outside in this weather.”
The woman gasped and ran off, returning almost at once with some big, fluffy towels. They both got down on their knees and rubbed me all over with the towels. It felt so good that I reached around with my head and licked the man’s face. He laughed and gave me a hug, then rubbed even harder. When I’d had enough, I grabbed a free end of his towel and started pulling. He pulled back, and we had a fine game of tug-of-war. The woman found a bowl, filled it with water, and put it down on the kitchen floor. “You must be thirsty, boy,” she said. “Want a drink?” When I started to drink, I realized how thirsty I was. I finished the entire bowl of water in a jiffy. She refilled it right away, and I slurped up the second helping at a more polite pace.
The man and woman looked at each other. “Now what?” he asked. “I wonder whether he has a collar and tags.” He bent down and felt around my neck. “There’s a collar here, hidden by his coat,” he reported. “I can’t find any tags, though. Maybe he lost them.” He knelt down in front of me, took my head in his hands, and gazed into my eyes. “What's your name, boy?”
I tried hard to answer, to tell him my name. Traveler. My name is Traveler. But he didn’t understand my bark. Then the woman looked more closely at my collar. “This collar has some stitching on it. It could be a name.” She removed the collar from around my neck and examined it closely. “It reads ‘Traveler’,” she said.
I barked when I heard her say my name. “Traveler it is, then,” the man said, laughing. He gave me a scratch behind the ears, and then his voice became serious. “He’s obviously a well-behaved dog. He’s not a stray. Somebody must be looking for him.”
“So, what do we do?” the woman asked.
“I’m sure he’s hungry. Why don’t you find something for him to eat while I make some phone calls to see whether anyone has reported him missing.”
I looked back and forth from the man to the woman. My tummy was feeling very empty, and was making strange rumbling sounds. Did ‘eat’ mean what I thought it did? I sure hoped so. I followed the woman into the kitchen. She opened the door to a big white box that I recognized as a refrigerator, and peered inside. “This should do,” she called out. “We have some leftover roast chicken. I’ll just peel off the skin and cut up the meat for him.” I heard the man answer from another room, and looked around. Oh no! He had disappeared. I needed to find him. I left the kitchen and started to look for him in every room, but he was nowhere in sight. Finally, I picked up his freshest scent, followed it into a bedroom, and over to a closed door. He was behind the door. I sat and waited.
When the door opened, I was so excited to see him again that I put my front paws up on his chest and tried to lick his face. Gently, he pushed me away. “Down, Traveler,” he said sternly. “You’re getting me all wet.” Just then, I heard the woman call to me from the kitchen. My head swiveled back and forth; I couldn’t decide whether to stay or go. I was hungry, but I didn’t want to lose track of the man. He started to laugh at me. “It’s okay, Traveler, go ahead,” he told me. “I’m not going anywhere. Go to Momsy.”
The woman had come looking for me, and she arrived just in time to hear what the man had said. “I guess I have a new name,” she laughed, looking at the man. “Well, if I’m Momsy, then you must be Popsy.” I liked those names; I barked, and wagged my tail to tell them so. Then, with a backward glance at Popsy to remind him of his promise not to disappear, I followed Momsy to the kitchen, and sat politely while she put a bowl of roast chicken on the floor for me. I was so hungry that I practically inhaled the chicken. Then I washed the bowl clean with my tongue before chasing down my food with another long drink of water.
Popsy came back into the kitchen just as Momsy was picking up my empty food bowl. “Any luck?” she asked him.
He shook his head. “I called the police,” he told her, “but no one has reported a missing dog to them. Ditto the SPCA shelter.”
“What should we do?” Momsy asked.
“Well, I talked to the SPCA about taking him in. They said they’re really overcrowded. Lots of dogs are lost or abandoned during the build-up to the holidays. If we were to take him to the SPCA, and no one claimed him within 72 hours, they’d have to send him to the back-up shelter.”
“How long would the back-up place keep him?”
“It’s a kill shelter,” Popsy said.
©2016 Phyllis Entis. All rights reserved.
Oh, no! Momsy and Popsy wouldn't consider a kill shelter, would they? What will happen to Traveler? Tune in again tomorrow for Part Three of Traveler - A Dog's Tale.