The dog shivered in the chill of approaching night and gazed hopefully toward the open doorway to the bakery. She was so hungry, and it seemed more like days than just hours since she’d scavenged the remains of a hamburger a kid had tossed toward a refuse basket but missed. She had to get back to her nest of blankets soon, but sometimes they tossed stuff out before they closed for the day, and she didn’t want to miss out. There were more mouths to feed than her own, but right now, it was her belly aching with hunger.
Suddenly a shadow darkened the doorway. She cringed lest she be seen and shooed away.
“Oh, sweet pup. Are you hungry again? Wait here.” The voice was familiar.
Not the angry woman who manned the counter. That was the shooer who didn’t like dogs. This was the owner.
Tentatively, the pooch stepped into the light and waited as commanded. And her patience was rewarded. The man came out cooing gentle sounds and set a bowl of milk on the ground for her to lap up. Which she did. Rather too eagerly since she managed to spill a few precious drops.
She tried not to cringe when the hand reached out to her. This man was kind. She could hear it in his voice, but she’d been hit too many times to take anything for granted. His fingers were just a fleeting touch at first, ruffling the matted fur beneath her chin. She decided to trust him, and the light touch became a scratch behind her ears where she liked it best. She leaned into it and enjoyed the rare moment of connection.
Then he stood. “I’ve gotta be closing up, girl. But I brought you a little something to keep you going through the night.”
Miracle of miracles, his little something was a fat roll filled with scrambled eggs.
She took a moment to look up at him before snatching the gift in her mouth. She hoped he could see her gratitude in that moment before he shut the door and the light went out.
“What do you think?” Otto asked his wife as he wiped up the gravy on his plate.
“She’s probably got fleas,” his wife replied.
“That’s what a bath in flea shampoo is for,” he countered. He’d watched the abandoned dog coming to his back door for a while now. Too long for her to have a home to go back to. He’d asked around, but no one knew where she’d come from. And winter was coming. She’d have a hard time staying warm when the snow and ice started.
“What if she snaps at people?” Doris was looking for all the arguments.
“She’s never once snapped at me, and I can tell she’s been mistreated enough so she’d have good reason not to trust anyone.”
Doris harrumphed and turned to start running hot water into the sink. The discussion was over. For now.
“Come inside, girl. We’re closed and it’s just me and Doris.” The man encouraged her with a piece of bread. She reached for it, but he kept moving it just out of reach.
The dog thought about her nest of blankets and wondered, if she followed the man inside, would she get trapped there and not be able to get back to her bed. But her belly hadn’t ached in days. Not since the man had started bringing her milk and eggs every night. And tonight, he had a piece of meat folded into that piece of bread. It was tempting.
He’d never hit her or scolded. She decided to trust him and followed him as he backed into the warmth of his bakery kitchen. To her amazement she discovered a whole bowl of food sitting next to a fluffy looking bed. Was this supposed to be for her? Just for her? But it wasn’t just her. She had others to think about.
She whimpered and looked back at the still open doorway.
“What is it, girl?”
She hurried back out, then glanced back.
“You want to show me something?” he asked.
She hurried a little, still glancing back. But he was following her. All the way to her nest of blankets where three tiny black noses popped up at her approach.
“Oh, my.” The man fell onto his knees and gathered the entire bundle of blankets up into his arms. He stopped to put a gentle hand on her head. “You are a momma. I see that now. Well, then, let’s get all of you in where it’s warm.”
For the first time in months, Dog felt like wagging her tail as she followed the man back to the warmth of his kitchen and the food waiting in that bowl.
“Doris?” the man called out as soon as he’d closed the door, shutting out the night and the cold and all the things she’d been afraid of before.
She had a good feeling about this man. He had not only fed and petted her gently, but he’d accepted her puppies without question. She ran to the full bowl and began eating. She needed her strength so her puppies would have milk and this man had made it happen.
“What now,” a woman came into the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron. “Oh, My,” she crooned, just like the man had when he’d seen her babies.
“Meet Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail,” the man said, easing the puppies into his wife’s arms.
“They aren’t rabbits,” she protested, but buried her face in the furry bundle anyway.
“So, name them anything you like. This is their mom. The pooch I was telling you about. I’m going to call her Biscuit because she loves our biscuits.”
“I guess we get to have a family Christmas after all,” the woman said, her voice still muffled by the now squirming bundle of puppies.
Biscuit took one last lap and went to settle herself at the man’s feet. He was hers now. And she had people to love.
I'd like to wish all my readers a wonderful, joyfilled holiday season and we'll see you in the New Year!
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Dr. Bob Rich