Eighty-six year old Soc Ninekiller never kept the leash on Little Wolf when they came to Veterans’ Park, even though Officer DuFranc told him he should.
“I could write you a ticket for that, you know,” Officer DuFranc said in his deep cop voice after his first admonition. Charlie DuFranc was an imposing figure, standing six foot five in his leather cop jacket bristling with cop tools and burnished badge. And, of course, there was the daunting Glock holstered at his side. The stern visage on his broad black face helped, too.
Soc, sitting on a park bench, whistled his dog over and snapped the leash onto the collar. Little Wolf put his front paws on the policeman’s razor-creased blue pants at the knees. Officer DuFranc reached down to pet the miniature husky and scratch his scruff.
“How you doin’ girl?” Charlie asked. “Huh? How you doin’?”
“Son of a bitch,” Soc said.
“What?” Charlie looked up, surprised.
“Waya is a male.”
“Oh. Well, you need to keep him on a leash, Soc.”
Soc nodded. “He seems to like you, Charlie.”
“Mind if I sit?” DuFranc asked. Soc made a gesture indicating consent, so Charlie sat. Little Wolf sat, too, and looked up at Charlie with a tongue lolling grin. His panting made him appear to be laughing.
“Where’d you get this dog?” Officer DuFranc asked.
“Didn’t,” Soc answered. “Showed up on my porch one morning, grinning like now, wanting breakfast.”
“You try to find his owner?”
“Yep. Checked the neighbors; put flyers around. Even took out a classified. Been a month. No response.”
Charlie nodded and looked down at the dog. Little Wolf looked intently up at Charlie, prancing his front paws. “Woof,” he said to the policeman.
“Dog like that must belong to somebody,” Charlie said. “Doesn’t look like a mongrel.”
“My wife always liked dogs,” Soc said. “Had one when the kids were little. But they grew up and left home, and that old dog died. Never got another.”
“Raised on a farm where dogs were outside animals, had to earn their keep. Help with the livestock, go hunting. Never had one as a pet. My kids fed their dog treats and loved it up. Sometimes I believed they liked that dog more than me.”
“Hmmph,” Charlie said nodding, as if he understood.
“Wife asked if we could get another dog a time or two, but I refused. Dogs are a pain, I told her, so she let it go.”
“So now you got this dog,” Charlie said. “How does that square?”
Soc looked off into the distance remaining silent for some time. DuFranc was about to stand and depart, when Soc continued.
“My wife was just a girl when I married her. Prettiest thing I’d ever seen. We were together sixty-two years before the cancer took her. Been about a year now. I had no idea what a broken heart was until she was gone. Never knew loneliness was such a deep hole.”
Soc got quiet for another spell. “You believe in the spirit world, Charlie?” he asked at length.
DuFranc looked sideways at Soc. “If you mean God, yeah. I believe in God.”
“Well, there’s that,” said Soc. “But I’m talking about things happening. Some call it coincidence, like this dog showing up on my porch. I never had much truck with dogs, now this blame thing crawls up in my bed every night. The odd thing is I let him.”
Charlie thought about that for a few seconds, then said, “Well, I better get back at it.” He stood and touched the bill of his cap. “You have a nice day, Soc.”
After DuFranc’s patrol car rolled out of sight, Soc reached down and unsnapped the leash from Little Wolf’s collar. The dog gave Soc a cheerful “Raff!” and ran off on a sniffing tour. Soc knew he wouldn’t go far.
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