Red Dog trotted down the road. His white paws; the only white on his trim auburn fur, made a clicking sound on the asphalt country road. He didn’t trot far, just to the little coffee shop to meet some of his friends.
He lay down on the cool cement sidewalk beside the door. They all knew he was here. For years Red Dog had made this his home away from home. He liked hearing the laughter and kidding that went on inside. It made him feel good to know he was part of that jolly company. Farmers, old and young, truckers and delivery men; they all gathered here once or twice a day to drink coffee, have a cold one and discuss the pros and cons of being alive.
The screen door swung open and Steve stepped out then stopped and gave Red Dog’s head a pat. “Howdy, Red! A bit hot for you today, huh?” Red Dog thumped his tail on the cement. “Did Kathy give you a drink yet? Hey, Kathy, you got another thirsty one out here!” Steve climbed into his blue pickup and pulled out just as Kathy brought a dipper of cool water to Red Dog and poured it into the pan by his feet.
Red Dog dozed with his head on his paws until the talk inside wound down as it always did and the men took their leave. One tossed him a hot dog, another half a doughnut. And then they were gone like every other day.
Red Dog got to his feet and stretched luxuriously as only a happy dog will. The years sat lightly on his handsome frame. A few varieties of dog ancestors came together to make Red Dog. Maybe some Chow and Border Collie, but there was no knowing where he came from or who had brought him out here. A thick red coat with just a touch of lighter color on his throat and a black nose that minded its own business made him a good community dog.
If he had a home at all it was a little shack behind the store and owners came and went as tenants moved in and out. One of his owners had tried to take him along when they moved, but Red Dog mysteriously disappeared just as they were leaving.
Now the “dog in residence” lay in the shade provided by a stand of tall hollyhocks. A mama cat who also called the shack home, wandered by and rubbed against his chin as she stopped to chat. She licked his black nose and gave a flick of her tail as she disappeared into the weeds to hunt.
Just an ordinary country day on an ordinary country road but Red Dog was happy and his tail thumped as he remembered some happy time. A car passed by and a little child waved from the window. “Hello, Red Dog!” she called, and Red Dog wagged his tail in return.
Just an ordinary country day and an ordinary country dog, but he was part of a memory that his friends would carry for many years after he was gone. And that was not ordinary at all.
c. Donna Swanson