An older man sat down next to me and placed a pet carrier between us. We smiled and nodded at each other…Minnesota nice at work.
He looked old enough to be retired but these days you couldn’t really tell. Half the bag boys at Sherman’s grocery store looked older than him…
“Are you getting or leaving?” he asked me.
His question at first confused me but then I realized what he meant.
“Oh…I’m getting!” I responded with a grin. “I’m getting a puppy!”
He nodded his head slowly and then put his hand on top of the carrier and patted it a couple of times.
“I’m leaving.” He spoke very quietly, almost a whisper as though he didn’t want the animal inside the carrier to hear him…if indeed it could.
“Ah.” I said and looked down at the carrier to see if I could see any movement through the slots. I could not. So, I just smiled at the man again and then looked straight ahead. So did he.
I suppose I should have asked a question or two. I am a reporter after all. But this did not seem like the right time to question an elderly man who was either dropping off a sick animal he could no longer care for…or worse…a dead one.
Instead I just closed my eyes and waited patiently for my number to be called…
“NUMBER 44!” My eyes shot open. That was me!
I got up and hurried over to the desk. The girl looked over my shoulder and said, “You forgot your carrier, miss.”
I turned around and there was the carrier still sitting on the bench…but the man who owned it was nowhere to be seen.
He must have gone to the bathroom, I thought. I told the girl that the carrier wasn’t mine. I was here to adopt a puppy.
She shrugged. “Oh…okay. You can fill out these papers and then come back up here. You won’t have to wait again.”
“When do I get to see the puppies?” I asked eagerly.
“After you fill out all the forms, miss. 45! Number 45!,” she called and smiled at the next person coming up to the desk.
I thanked her and as I walked back to my seat, I glanced at my watch. I had been sitting there for almost an hour! No wonder the old guy had to go to the bathroom.
I sat down and began to fill out the adoption eligibility forms. Holy Mackerel, there must have been over 10 pages! I stopped whining and began reading, writing and signing.
By page five…the owner of the carrier had still not returned. I looked around and then I bent over the carrier to look in one of the little openings. I saw a very yellow eye looking right back at me. It blinked.
It actually startled me and I may have said, “fuck”. Okay, I did say “fuck”…but very quietly.
Then I said in a very low…almost apologetic voice to the little, yellow eye, “I’m sorry. You surprised me. I’m just glad you’re not dead.”
“Me too,” said a teeny, little voice.