The Puppy

A tall man played with a black puppy on a soccer field of a city park.

It was 5:45 in the morning. Elmer the husky and I were talking our usual walk through the neighborhood at that hour. I saw the man from 50 yards away.

I put it at 50/50 he was homeless and living out of a vehicle in an encampment across the street from the park. Or he resided in the apartment building next to the encampment.

Elmer and I paralleled the field and the man and puppy came better into view. It was a shepherd mix and he chased a stick thrown by the man, clenched it with his teeth, raced around, plopped to the ground, rested for a few seconds, then bolted up and ran around some more, ran up to the man, danced around the man’s feet as the man danced himself.

There is nothing more uplifting to me than seeing a human being play with a puppy. There is nothing more of a downer to me than seeing someone with a puppy and that person is fiddling on their phone.

At one point the man kicked off his flip flops and played with his puppy barefoot on wet grass.

The man took off running and the puppy bounded and barked behind him. They roughhoused together. I could hear him talking to the dog.

Homeless man or housed? I had to know.

I circled around the creek with the intent of returning to the field.

Ten minutes later, I saw the man walking the puppy on a leash toward the direction of the encampment/apartment building. 50/50. I chose the encampment.

The man veered to the encampment and approached his domicile: a 20-year-old Acura SUV in decent shape with Washington plates and no tags.

He opened a rear door, He picked up the puppy and hugged it.

Elmer and I were closing in. The man was in his 30-40s and a Pacific Islander. Our eyes met.

“You got yourself a new puppy!” I said. He smiled, nodded but didn’t say anything. The puppy was licking his face.

Elmer and I kept walking. I turned back for a final look. The man was wiping down the puppy with a towel. The back of his rig was outfitted with a mattress and crammed full of possessions. He set the puppy down on the mattress and climbed inside. The door closed. I assumed he and the puppy went to sleep. It was six in the morning after all.

We walked away and I felt myself ready to cry. This one really got to me.