By Arvilla Fee
She came out of nowhere! A shocking flash of light tan fur the second the grocery store bagger opened my car door to put my groceries inside. I think he was as startled as I was to suddenly see a rather large dog sitting in my back seat, coated with flakes of snow that were now falling heavily from the sky.
“Ummm, ma’am” he said, looking back at me questioningly.
I shrugged. “Can you get her out?”
The young man, probably no more than seventeen, looked at the dog warily. “Uh, come on, dog. Get out.” He patted his leg and pointed in the direction of out from my car.
Not only did the dog not go out, but she settled down in my seat and put her chin on her front paws. The bagger, still holding onto groceries, looked at me helplessly.
“Oh, fine.” I said, making an executive decision. “I will just take her home!”
He looked at me doubtfully but went around to the other side of my car and placed the bags on the part of the back seat not occupied by the dog.
“Thanks, I told him.”
He waved a hand. “Good luck!”
As I drove away, I told myself this was insane! My on-the-rocks marriage couldn’t withstand the addition of a dog, and my kids would want to keep her. In addition to that, I knew nothing about this dog. Did she have rabies? Would she bite? Did she have fleas? Where had she come from? It was obviously from her sagging belly and still-extended milk teats that she’d given birth in the not-too-distant past. Had someone dumped her? Killed her pups?
Despite all these unanswered questions, I drove her home and let her in the house.
Just as I’d predicted, my kids went wild when they saw her. I had to caution them again and again not to get in her face – that I had no idea where she’d come from or if she’d bite. I told them we’d keep her for the night then ask around to see if anyone had lost a dog near the grocery store. Surprisingly, my husband had little to say, as he was too busy with his favorite pastime, which was wallowing in his own stew of self-pity on the couch.
That night I gave her a little lunch meat (as I didn’t have dog food) and water, put clean towels on the floor near the washer and dryer, and placed several chairs in front of the area to keep her contained. I didn’t want her to jump on the kids’ beds during the night. She looked up at me with huge golden eyes as I walked away, and I felt a sharp pang of sadness in my heart.
When I awoke the next morning, my feet brushed something soft on the floor, and I nearly let out a yelp before seeing the dog. She had curled up near my side of the bed and thumped her tail as I reached down to pet her. As days went by, and no one claimed her, I told the kids we could keep her. They were ecstatic and said we should call her Noel since I’d found her on Christmas Eve. I liked the sound of that, and she responded quickly to her new name.
I had been right about my rocky marriage not being able to withstand the addition of a dog, but it truly wasn’t her fault. We’d derailed long before her arrival. As I learned how to navigate my new, single-mom status, while going to school full time and working three jobs, one thing remained constant – Noel. She was there to greet me at the back door every time I came home. She slept on the bed beside me. She put her nose on my knee every time I cried because I was so exhausted, and I still had homework due the next day. I never found out where she belonged or why she’d been dumped in a parking lot on a snowy night in December, but I did know one thing – I had not only rescued her. She had rescued me.
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Arvilla teaches English Composition for Clark State College. She has been published in numerous presses including Poetry Quarterly, Inwood Indiana, 50 Haikus, Haibun Online, and Drifting Sands Haibun. She also won the Rebecca Lard award for best poem in the Spring 2020 issue of Poetry Quarterly. What she loves most about writing is the kinetic energy– the ability to make people feel joy, sadness, connectivity, strength, resilience, or grief. For Arvilla, poetry has never been about gaining literary genius status but about being down in the trenches with ordinary people who will say, “She gets me.”