I first noticed him early one morning on the side of the road. He was sitting outside a fence that surrounded a small building.
You’ve seen those buildings. They’re one of those small, remote buildings that utility companies use for maintenance. Every now and then, you’ll see the gate and building door open and a company truck parked out front while the maintenance man or woman is inside doing whatever it is they do.
But this day, there was no open gate or door. No truck. No man or woman. Just him.
He seemed to be waiting for someone.
So, I drove past him, smiled, and went on with my day.
On my way home that same day, he was still there. It appeared he hadn’t moved at all.
Something wasn’t right. This wasn’t a well-traveled road. It was a country road. Only the folks who live out that way use it.
I’m big on minding my own business, so I didn’t stop. But, I did worry about him. Just a little bit.
Something wasn’t right.
The next morning, I headed out for work. There he was again. Same place. Outside the fence. This time, he was lying down.
I mentioned him to my wife. She said she’d noticed him too. We agreed to see if he was still there on the way home that day.
We each passed him on the way to our house.
When we arrived home, we went out on our patio to talk – something we often did during nice weather.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” I said to my wife. “Why would he be just standing or lying on the ground in the middle of nowhere like that?”
“John, I think he’s lost,” she said. “Maybe he went out and doesn’t know where he is.”
“Do you want to go see if he wants to come home with us?” I asked. “We can at least offer him something to eat and then try to figure out if he’s mentally and physically OK.”
“Yes, I do,” she answered.
So, we got into our car and we drove back to the building.
He wasn’t there.
I looked at my wife.
“Maybe his family or the authorities picked him up,” my wife said.
“Hold on a second,” I responded.
Dusk was beginning to drop, so I put the car in park and put on the emergency flashers. I got out and made my way around one side of the fence into a densely wooded area.
“Hello,” I called out. “Hello. Anyone here?”
I saw movement on the other side of the building, so I turned and headed that way.
“Hello,” I said. “I’m here to offer help. I’m friendly. Are you OK?”
More movement. Then, he stuck his head from around a bush.
He looked at me as if he was glad that someone, anyone, had cared to stop. But, he also seemed very wary. As if he had offered his trust before, only to be disappointed.
“Hello,” I said. “My wife is in the car. We both want to help. Would you come out so that I can see you? So that we can talk?”
Cautiously, he came out from the brush and slowly walked my way. He didn’t look undernourished, but he did look sad and tired. So very tired.
He made no sound, but he kept coming my way. I opened the back door of our car and offered him a ride.
It was closer to dark than dusk now, and the cool, night air was beginning to settle. Had it been earlier in the day, he might not have taken the ride, but he warily accepted. My wife and I helped him into the car.
Little was said on the way home. I looked back at him through the rearview mirror.
“We are going to take you to our house,” I said. “You can get something to eat and drink and have a warm, dry place to sleep. We’re going to try and figure out where you’re supposed to be.”
That’s when I noticed his eyes. They weren’t the same color.
I had seen that before in someone I’d met. Heterochromia, it is called.
One of his eyes was brown, the other was pale gray. He was strikingly good looking.
We arrived home. I pulled around the back of the house next to the stairs to the patio. We helped him out of the car.
He seemed to perk up some. Obviously still tired, he walked up the stairs on his own.
The three of us sat down, but my wife got right back up and said she was going to get him something to eat. She went inside.
“She’s going to get you a meal, so why don’t you just relax. You’re with friends now,” I said.
She brought his food outside, but he wouldn’t touch it. He wasn’t interested at all.
And, he was unable to tell us anything.
Since I often refer to my friends as “Guy” (“Hey, guy, how’s it going?” I often say), my wife suggested that we call him that until we could determine his identity and who his family was.
I stepped around the corner and made a phone call. The doctor said to bring him in. So, we got him back in the car and took him into town.
Driving past the building where he’d been just minutes earlier, he looked at it through the window, then looked back toward the front of the car.
It was a quiet ride to town.
We left him with the medical staff and gave them our phone number. The next day they called.
“He seems OK overall, but we’ve run some tests that will take time to determine what, if anything, is wrong with him,” the lady on the other end of the line said.
“Whatever he needs, do it,” I said, with my wife standing by my side. “We will pay for it.”
We picked him up the next day and brought him home. The next couple of days were good. He seemed to settle in to life with us, and began to eat. He liked it with us.
Then, the phone call came.
“Guy has heart problems – bad heart problems,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
We took him back to the doctor. He stayed with them for a few more days. We paid for his treatments.
The phone rang again.
“He’s not going to make it,” said the voice. “Probably not through the night.”
They were right. He didn’t.
We were heartbroken.
In his days with us, he had won our hearts. But it was his that ended our short time together.
I will never understand how people can discard an animal on the side of the road. Especially if it is ill, and they know it.
Guy likely had a family. A family who may or may not have cared for him, but a family, nonetheless.
My guess is that when they found out he was sick, rather than do the right thing, they dumped him.
But, he waited for them to come back and get him. And waited, and waited.
That’s when we found him.
We took solace in the fact that his last few days were with people who did love him. And I think he knew that.
I don’t know who said, “Animals are just a part of our lives. But, to an animal, we are all of theirs,” but it is true.
If you can’t take care of an animal, there are resources to pick up where you stop. Please use them.
A Guy I once knew would have appreciated it.
©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now, is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com.