How much is that doggie in the window?

She was a large woman and when younger would probably have been described as a strapping blonde. Everything about her was a little larger than life – from her big voice to her big bones to her big personality. Now a widow in her sixties, she was visiting the home in which I was temporarily renting a room and appeared in my doorway unannounced and unexpected needing to talk.

She veered off topic often, circling around and around the story of her life. Last year she had moved to a small town in the foothills where she knew no one, then bought a three-bedroom house and filled it with brand new furniture. She soon found that no one came to visit; one bed, she said, had only been slept in twice, perhaps by the distant daughter who had a life of her own in a big city.

Now she was dissatisfied with her foothill retreat and would put the home on the market and the furniture in storage. But what next? Where to go, what to do? Mexico might be a good choice because money would go so much further. She would prefer Virginia but it was too far from the daughter who rarely visited. Oregon was too rainy, Arizona too hot.

She lived alone except for a small dog, a silky terrier with big sad eyes. Today she was taking the dog to the vet because it had stopped eating and lost weight. As she talked to me she stroked it constantly and remembered aloud the dogs in the past that had been put down because of illness or age. The small dog’s eyes looked at me imploringly. Was it asking for rest from the incessant talking, for rescue from the restless hands?

Later in the day she reported that the vet had diagnosed kidney failure and was keeping the dog overnight for observation. She would visit the vet tomorrow after her dental appointment and, if necessary, be there while her companion was put to sleep. Then she would go to the pound and get another small dog for the trip back home.

The speed in which she was ready to replace the dog that had given her so much companionship for so many years revealed the depth of her loneliness. She would choose another dog to drive with her back up the highway to the small town of strangers in the foothills. It would learn to listen to her big voice, to feel the need in her big hands and to sleep beside her in the big new bed in the unwanted house while she wondered where to go and what to do with the rest of her life.


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