“Are you there?” muttered the man into his pillow.
The sound wakened New Dog, who had been snoozing downstairs in his own resting place. Is he talkin’ to me?
Others had lived there with the man before New Dog’s time, but he didn’t know very much about them. He caught a whiff of First Dog on the carpet, every so often, and was sometimes tempted to chase his elusive shadow that dodged throughout the plants in the garden.
On occasion, New Dog sensed the essence of a woman moving through the house. She was always just beyond his reach when he tried to follow. These Others occasionally came up in conversation when his person talked and the dog’s ears stood at attention. The man referred to them as ‘Mr. Boo’ and ‘Sweetie Pie,’ but didn’t offer much detail. What was their story?
New Dog slept in a large crate that afforded a clear view of the eating and sitting areas. He had a comfy stuffed animal and stayed safe and warm, even as the cold winds dumped frosty white beyond the door.
A tree with little, sparkling lights had recently shown up in the sitting room, and his man had held up a stocking, stuffed almost to popping, that very night. “Tomorrow,” he had promised, with a smile.
Circling several times, New Dog rediscovered just the right spot and soon settled back into a steady pattern of breathing. The line between wakefulness and sleep turned to a blur.
What’s that? His head jerked up, and he watched another canine pass his crate on furry paws that didn’t seem to quite touch the floor. New Dog then realized that his own coat was almost the same dark shade as that of his predecessor.
First Dog kept moving, and he joined a hazy figure that appeared in the food room. He let out a quiet little “yip,” and the shadow of a woman threw him a treat. She smelled of flowers, and her smooth, dark hair was flecked with silver that shimmered in the slice of streetlight shining through a window.
Sweetie Pie? The woman’s voice was soothing and escaped into the air like music that had been silent for too long.
New Dog blinked and swiped at both eyes with his right paw. Are they really here? The misty figures still remained when his gaze returned. Maybe they’ll stay if I keep quiet. Dream or reality, he peeked at them, unmoving, from his prone position. The visitors continued their reunion of nuzzles and hugs.
After a while, his man walked down the stairs to join them, as the dancing snowflakes accelerated outside the window. Content, sleepy and cozy, New Dog had a front row seat to the movie of their used-to-be life. The couple loved and laughed. Bulbs twinkled merrily on the tree. First Dog barked and pranced. Lights on the tree became dim. The people began to argue and then cried. Their dog grew weary and still.
No… New Dog blocked out the sounds by covering his ears with front paws. Darkness overtook him.
When morning sunlight appeared, so did the solitary man, with promises of goodies from the stocking.
As soon as his crate door was opened, New Dog ran from one room to the next sniffing the floors. Not there. His man looked on in puzzlement. The dog returned to each room for another pass and searched in every corner. Gone !
He considered his options and strutted past the man holding the stocking. With no concern for lost treat potential, New Dog sidled up to the tree and peed on the trunk.