Salesmen, politicians, even police, come to the front door, but friends to the back door.
|He's waiting at the back door, waiting for me.
I remember the first time I had seen my friend. I was doing homework, and I heard Dad's old Ford pickup pull into the driveway. He popped the high pitched, scratchy horn twice and called my name. I had raced out to see him getting out of the truck, holding this ball of fur. "Well, boy, you wanted a dog, and this is pretty close", he said.
Now, you see, I had been badgering my parents for a dog for quite a while. We had had many discussions about responsibility and expenses.
I had spent hours discussing the virtues of various breeds with my friends. We had agreed that collies were probably the smartest (as proven by Lassie), but German Shepherds were the best watchdogs (like Rin-Tin-Tin). I had even declared that Saint Bernard's (who patrolled the mountains rescuing avalanche victims) and Dalmatian's (who rode with firemen) were the bravest breeds. Poodles and Chihuahuas (like all of the "yappy" breeds) were strictly girl's dogs.
As I looked at the ball of fur in Dad's hands, I tried to grasp what I was looking at. It was generally light brown, like a Golden Lab, but its ears were dark and comically long, like a Basset Hound. Its tail was long, thin and almost black. On top of all that, it had large eyes like a St. Bernard. I was at a loss. All I could manage was to look questioningly at Dad and ask: "Where did you get him?"
"He was walking on the on-ramp by the shop, I damn near hit him. He's just a mongrel, and if you don't want him, he's going to the pound".
Was he kidding? This was a real dog! Finally!
"No!", I yelled, "Of course I want him!" All thoughts of a thoroughbred were banished permanently.
Dad had set him down, and the furball immediately tried to run over to me. He was so uncoordinated that he actually stepped on his own ear, and stumbled. I picked him up and he was suddenly coordinated enough to lick at my face and pee all over me at the same time.
"Well, good luck with that dipstick", Dad had said, and looking at his long black tail, I declared that was the perfect name, and Dipstick became part of the family.
He was my constant companion for the next twelve years. We developed a routine over the years, and every night at eight o'clock he would go to the back door and wait for me to take him out for his nightly walk.
Boys grow up, but puppies age. After 12 years, stomach cancer had come for Dipstick.
That had been over fifty years ago.
Tonight, in my room in the ICU, the nurse had come in to inject the morphine into my IV. My eyes had fluttered open as she stepped next to my bed, and I saw the clock on the wall. It was exactly eight o'clock, and I knew: He's waiting at the back door. Waiting for me.