I was leaving on a 5:35am plane.

 Joseph

My fully packed airline bag lay open on the bed waiting for my toiletries.  Before I could include them and zip up the enclosure, Bella, our year-old beagle snatched my bundled white socks.  The ensuing tug-of-war resulted in a hole large enough for my big toe to poke through.

"Bella, give those back!" I yelled causing her to release her booty.  I threw them into my bag and zippered away.

Bella was the newest addition to our household -- an unsaleable Beagle thrown on the street by a breeder due to a "crook" in her tail.

I was on my way to the North to my 40th high school reunion and I knew Sam, my housemate, would have his hands full caring for the 17 dogs who shared our house.  Not that the dogs misbehaved (except for Bella) or were destructive (except for Bella) -- it was just that a lot of our dogs were getting up there in age.

We have two 21 year-old dogs:  Dagwood, a blonde long-haired Dachshund-Terrier mix, and Dobie, a black and tan miniature Doberman-Terrier mix.  Both are small dogs and very blind and partially deaf.  But both still eat like troopers, with what few teeth they have remaining.

To wake Dagwood I have to "stomp" on the floor.  The vibrations alert him that it is time to go out.  Dobie is the more agile of the two but only has one eye left and he can't really see out of it.

Joey, our black curly-coated Retriever, was taking antibiotics for his teeth, and being 16 he was also having trouble eating.

Joseph, our black and tan 3-legged hound dog who is also 16, was having trouble standing and going up and down the steps due to the arthritis that had settled in his hip.

At the airport I told Sam, "Don't call me if something happens. I will be too far away to do anything and I trust your judgment. Just handle it."

I arrived at my friend's house up North and settled in for the night.  Exhausted from the various flights and from running through the airports to make departures, I slept like a log.

I rolled over on the bed and there to my surprise was 3-legged Joseph.

"Joseph," I said.  "What are you doing on the bed?  You know we are guests here and you can't be up on the furniture!"  At home, the dogs have the run of the house.

Then I said to him, "Joseph, give me 'the foot.'"  Joseph would then stand up on his two back legs and give me his left, and only, front foot to shake.  It was his only trick.

His paw brushing against my hand startled me from my deep sleep. I realized Joseph's visit had only been a dream.

I called home that morning and asked Sam, "Is everything okay?"

After a very long pause, he said, "Yes."

I hung up to ready myself for the day ahead and said to my friends, "I think something must have happened at home.  There was just too long of a gap with Sam's reply."

At the airport back home, while collecting my bag from the luggage terminal, I asked Sam, "Who passed away?"

Sam replied, "Joseph."

"I know," I said.  "He made me his last stop to say goodbye on his way to heaven."

 

POSTSCRIPT:  My friends up North sent me a card with this verse by an unknown author: *

So this is where we part, My Friend,
  And you'll run on around the bend,
Gone from sight but not from mind,
  New pleasures there you'll surely find.

I will go on, I'll find the strength,
  Life measures quality, not its length.
One long embrace before you leave,
  Share one last look, before I grieve.

There are others, that much is true,
  But they be they and they aren't you.
And I, fair, impartial, or so I thought
  Will remember well all you've taught.

Your place I'll hold, you will be missed,
  The fur I stroked, the nose I kissed.
And as you go to your final rest,
  Take with you this -- I loved you best.

-- James Colasanti, Jr.  onegooddog1@bellsouth.net

(*This poem was written by Jim Willis and can be found in his section of the website on this link:

http://www.thedailymews.com/poems/ilovedyoubest.htm ) Ed

___________________________________________

James is a lead clerk for Barnes & Noble Booksellers. He shares his home with his housemate, Sam, and 16 dogs. His stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and also in the archives at www.Petwarmers.com  ___________________________________________ 

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure

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