I don’t think I would have ever met the two men who sat next to one another on a nearby park bench if my puppy Louie hadn’t been with me. Puppies are people magnets and when the two men passing the time smiled at him, I brought Louie closer to say hi.
“What kind of dog is he?” the man with the dark blond hair and captivating blue eyes asked.
His face was very tan and perfectly wrinkled. His eyes were so compelling that I wanted to ask him where he got them, as if I could purchase them in a store. He looked like a sea captain to me, one from a children’s book, but on reflection I realized that he probably looked that way from living on the streets.
“A Havanese,” I said.
“I haven’t seen one of those before.”
“These dogs were originally bred in Spain,” I said. “Sailors took them on ships from Spain to Cuba. They would trade them for goods.
The sea captain and his friend looked at Louie again.
The sea captain reached out his hand and Louie sniffed it. Then he petted the side of his neck. The other man followed his lead, reaching out cautiously to pet Louie’s head.
He was the opposite of the sea captain, pale, with eyes that were worn from too much sadness and just a little wisp of hair going across the top of his balding head. On this hot September day, with the sun baking on their backs, the balding man wore a black trench coat with a belt tightly wrapped around his waist.
“I’ve been sitting here a few hours with my friend,” he said proudly. I wasn’t sure if he knew his friend’s name, but it was clear that being with the sea captain had brought him some happiness that he wanted to share with me.
The sea captain looked at Louie. “I work at a shelter as a volunteer from 12:00 at night to 5:00 in the morning,” he said. “We have cats bigger then your dog.”
“Wow! What do you do at the shelter?” I asked.
“Oh, I just help out. I feed them and hold them and do what needs to be done.”
As I was responding, the other man pointed a pale swollen finger at Louie. “He’s not interested in us, too much going on at the park.” His face looked so sad, as if Louie were letting him down, as so many others had, by not being interested in him or his life.
I turned and looked back at the soccer game that was happening behind us. A coach was yelling at some boys to get the ball. Louie stood still watching and listening to the sounds of the coach and the crowd cheering. All three of us watched silently as I tried to find words to alleviate the unhappiness I felt emanating from this man in his belted trench coat and worn eyes. I wanted to say something kind to him, but I just couldn’t think of anything. And I had somewhere to be. I settled for a “Well, say goodbye, Louie.” I added a smile and an “It’s been nice talking with you.”
“Take care, Louie,” the sea captain said. The gloomy-eyed man didn’t say anything.
I wished he had a pet, a dog like Louie who could be his friend. Maybe he had a pet, but I didn’t think so. He could tell his furry friend so many things that he may not be able to share with his companion on the bench.
I felt a tug on Louie’s leash. He had spotted a small chihuahua and he wanted to catch up with him. “Bye, it was nice talking with you,” I said. They nodded.