I like the streets. You’d think, after all I’d been through, that I would really covet a nice warm bed, cozy house, friendly kids, the works. And I do, but there was something about my life with Clarence that makes me a little wistful. It’s not enough to go back to my old ways, but the memories of that time are soft, and bring a smile to my face when I take a moment to think about it.
Some people out there are angry and some are devastatingly sad; some feel they are beyond human or animal kindness, but some are beautiful. And that is true on or off the streets. The person next to you could be a beautiful person just hurting so badly they can’t express it, and you can’t see it.
Clarence was my constant companion in the Animal Hospital. I was discharged into his care and that’s when I found out that we wouldn’t be going to his home, per say. What need has an angel for a physical home, he asked me. I discovered Clarence was helping me, sans his wings. That glimmer I saw my first night with him was gone. He was human, for a time.
And together, we brought our brand of kindness and love to those we met. I never strayed from his side. We had a routine: we’d wake, see what the Coffee Shop had discarded after the commuter rush and bring it to Millie. Millie had lost her daughters and thus her will. She knitted odd scraps together to keep herself and others warm.
Then we’d swing by Joe, who lived – funnily enough – near the Pet Shop. That was as thrilling as I was willing to get, now. After chatting with Joe, we’d wander down to the cinema. Our town had an old-time movie palace, done up real neat like they had in the 50s. There was a great kid, an usher, who would sneak us in to the classic matinee on Wednesdays.
Other days we would listen to music in the park, or play with the pigeons. Oh, how I loved to chase those pigeons! Although I could watch the Lone Ranger for hours, they were by far my favorite.
Once we found ourselves at a Grateful Dead concert. Clarence wanted to see some Rock n’ Roll. I think he got a little more than he bargained for – but that’s another story!
This was my life. I stayed close to Clarence’s side, and he mine. I knew I was on a journey, I knew I was supposed to be learning something, but for the life of me, I didn’t know what it was. I saw hunger. I saw people on the outskirts of society, but I knew only comfort at the hands of my friends. I knew only companionship at Clarence’s side. He walked me through this life for six months, and I didn’t know fear.
One night, Clarence pulled me into his lap and stroked my fur. We sat for a while and then Clarence began to speak.
“So, my little pup, have you figured it out? Have you learned what freedom is?”
Freedom? The word spoke to my heart and echoed within my awareness. I realized it didn’t mean what it used to.
“I have watched you, Claude. Watched you love others – and yourself – no matter the circumstances. But are you ready to take the lead – and lead another to love?”
I felt his words deep within my tiny body. I licked his face and told him that all I could do was to try.
“Then you are ready, my friend, for the final act.”
The next morning, we made our way around the neighborhood. We couldn’t let Millie and Joe down; we had to say goodbye. When we were done, Clarence stood with me at the gate to the Animal Shelter, and we said our goodbyes.
“It’s been fun, Claude. Thank you for this – remember me, will you?”
I promised I would, and then he was gone.
I was alone.
But I was not bereft. I would be something to someone. My little tail and tiny nose would cheer someone’s day and my tiny pug snore would sweeten their night.
It wasn’t easy. I had only three legs, after all, and despite all that the shelter could do, I was still a scruffy, tiny, 3-legged raisin – albeit a raisin with a huge heart.
* * *
It was my last night with the good ladies at the Animal Shelter. I could only trust someone would find me, because I was not running away again, not this time. The ladies had me out in the fundraising tent – one last effort, they said. This fella – we’ll call him Bill – wandered by their table.
Bill had a glow about him. It wasn’t a glimmer and it didn’t sparkle, but I could just see it. He smelled funny too – almost like he had no smell.
My tail thumped. I knew he was the one. He—I—we’d help each other and we’d never run away from anything again.
There was love enough in his heart for me, the 3-legged raisin, and there was trust enough in me to stay.
And that day, when he looked in the mirror and realized – well, don’t tell him, but I think I saw Clarence, winking at us both from the fire escape. That Clarence, what a guy. But this wasn’t the story of one angel getting his wings; it was about an angel finding his dog and a dog finding his heart.
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