Mr. Sweetie Pie

I am a small-bag-of-dogfood type of person.   There.  I’ve admitted it.

I have bought the small bags for a couple of years because our dog, who is rapidly approaching the age of seventeen, is really, REALLY old.  There were days this past winter when, having begged to go out every fifteen minutes to do NOTHING but stand in sub-zero temps with her ears blowing straight out on both sides of her head that  I was convinced that she was hanging on just to spite me.  Then, because I do have a conscience, I’d get little pangs of guilt for thinking this because she has been such a good dog and I will miss her when her time comes. Her other humans feel I should be a just a titch more optimistic and buy the jumbo bags but really, what could be more depressing than a full bin of kibble and nobody to eat it?  When they aren’t monitoring my dog food purchases,  they are phoning home to remind me not to let their dog outside off her leash for fear that she’ll wander off into the woods, never to be seen or heard from again.  In my version of this scenario,  the magical thinking one, she would find a soft spot under a tree to take an eternal nap.  I tell them that there are worse ways for an old hound to go than to be on the last rabbit trail of your life when it happens.  However, they are young and not yet able to take the long view  about dogs and death so at least for now, we remain a family divided where dog food purchases and eternal dog naps are concerned.

But back to the dog food…..

Last week,  cursing the cold and I admit, even the dog a little,  I stood in the pet food aisle of the grocery store pondering the size of bag I would buy when I suddenly remembered that she also needed dog cookies and dog chewies.  After the long, cold winter, she also needs a bath like no dog has ever needed a bath in March.  I thought about having to bathe her and picked up dry shampoo for her instead.  As a mom, the only thing worse that living with a dog who needs a bath in March is giving a dog a bath in March and then being accused of intentionally giving the dog pneumonia by your children JUST so that you can be right about the small bags of dogfood you buy.

Trudging to the checkout with my cart full of dog purchases, I noticed an older gentleman in line in front of me checking out my cart. I generally like older men and was taught to be polite to strangers so, despite the fact that I was in a mood, I met his gaze and forced a smile.  He took this as a chance to start a conversation.

“Looks like you have a dog”, he said, peering into my cart.

“Yes. A really old one,” I said.

“I have a cat.  He’s a good one.  Cats are a lot easier than dogs.  You can leave them alone overnight if you have to.  Just give ’em a sandbox and they take care of things themselves.  You can even leave ’em for two days if you need to.  He’s a good cat.  You know what I call him?  I call him Sweetie Pie.  He’s good company. Don’t know what I’d do without him.”

At this point, the cashier tried to redirect the conversation from pets to groceries. “I see you came for your potatoes and gravy! I can  always count on seeing you on dark gravy days!” she said, as she began to ring up the two small Styrofoam containers in his red, plastic basket.   “Yup!  Had to get my dark gravy!  Thursday is dark gravy day.  Best gravy I’ve ever had!” he replied, as he took  a five dollar bill out of the scuffed leather wallet he held to pay for his purchases.

“Hey Ladies!” he said, looking first at the cashier and then at me, ” I just realized something! Do you know what day it is?  It’s March 3rd! We all made it through another winter, didn’t we?  And the first day of spring is March 20th!  Do you know that this means that we only have….wait….17 more days before the first day of spring?  We can make it!  Only 17 more days!”   The cashier smiled.  “Yup, you’re right. We made it. We sure did.” She said, smiling.

Such optimism on a cold March day from an old man buying dinner for one. A man with a cat named Sweetie Pie and a penchant for dark gravy and conversation.

We are, all of us, connected in the most amazingly gentle ways.

Thanks for that reminder, Mr. Sweetie Pie.

Happy Spring.

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