He went to the porch that day, in the mid afternoon, to retrieve the newspaper. He was thinking, idly, of some hamburger, that he had, for his dinner, fixed in some fashion or other.
The dog sat there, and wagged its tail, as soon as John, John Winters, opened the door. John was surprised and said a very friendly: "Hello there."
The dog, was a dachshund that was a bit wintery about the muzzle and, apparently, totally friendly.
In going out to the porch, John had left the door open a bit and the dog, tail still wagging simply walked into the house. He turned to the right, as soon as he was in the house and went into the living room, where John, taking a day for himself this Saturday, and having done his work here in his workroom at home, had been reading a book about the history of Rome.
As he read his book, John had it propped up on his lap by a cushion, which ended on the floor, once John got up to retrieve the paper from the porch.
"Well," John said, "Come right in, pal. You look a bit tired."
John looked at the dog for a few moments, who had, in the meantime, simply climbed up on the cushion that was now on the floor and rolled into a ball, sighing and resting.
"Long day, I guess," John said, and each time that he spoke to the dog, the dog wagged his tail, hitting it against the cushion, on which he was resting.
"Well, I'm wondering if you lost your way or something," John said, and, as though he realized that John as speaking to him, the dog barked.
"Thought so," John said. "But you know what, pal; I was about to have some dinner. I have some hamburger that I was about to fry up and some potatoes — not very healthy, I know, but what I'm in the mood for now. So, why don't we just share the bounty?"
The dog barked at John's statement and John said: "Good enough; let's go to the kitchen and I'll get it ready, a plate for me and one for you."
The dog, tail wagging, eagerly accepted his plate of hamburger, into which John had also put a few potatoes, and, afterwards settled down again on the cushion in the living room, that he'd adopted from the very start.
"It's getting on, old pal," John said. "I'm not sure that we'll find anyone coming around just at this hour to seek you out but you're more than willing to stay the night here."
Again, the dog barked in response.
"You know," John said, "You're a great talker and a very polite listener. But there might just be someone out there who is grieving that you've gone missing. We'll have to see about that."
It was tv that evening, with John selecting a streaming movie. John moved from his reading chair, by the fire place to the couch in front of the tv for the evening's entertainment.
Almost as soon as John was established on the couch in front of the tv, the dog jumped up and rolled into a ball next to, and in contact with, John's thigh.
John idly stroked the dog's head and the dog wagged his tail, beating a tattoo of it on the cushions of the couch.
"What a nice treat you are," John said, his words accompanied by the beat of the dog's tail on the couch.
They spent the evening watching tv, and the dog hardly moved from his spot. When the movie was over, John asked: "How about a late night snack?"
The dog, as though understanding quite well, looked up at John and barked.
"Good enough," John said. "For me it's going to be yogurt but I have a treat for you, my friend."
John fetched his yogurt from the 'fridge and pull out a hot dog from the meat drawer, which the dog eagerly accepted and settled down by the front of the stove, on a small roundish carpet, to work on it. He seemed to be savoring it.
John Winters was a 37 yr old bachelor. He's spent a good deal of his grownup years learning his trade as an architect and working in his Dad's architectural business.
He'd dated off and on in a fairly normal fashion but was never taken enough with any one woman —a fact he mentioned to his lovely Mom, Adrienne, time and again, who always cautioned John to be not in a hurry.
Her message was always the same, and was simply a message about the truth: "Johnnie," (Her constant name for him.) "You are such a lovely man; your turn will come, probably unexpectedly at that. Just be patient."
John did in fact cultivate his patience and put his time, energies and efforts into the business, which was doing remarkably well, and which, his Mom and Dad told him, would one day be all his.
He lived alone in a large house that he'd bought for himself, all spread out over one lovely level, with various downstairs rooms, including John's workout room —he was particularly faithful to his workouts. It also had an in home office for him, where he could work on current projects.
He had often thought of a pet, but it was an idea that just sat in the back of his mind. At least until that very day, when the dachshund invited itself into the house for a rest, and into John's life.
After the bedtime treat, John told the dog: "It's shower time for me, old pal. Tomorrow we'll see what we can do about finding your loved ones. It's not that I don't want you to stay; it's just that I'm afraid that someone is missing you and grieving about it."
As John took his shower and, afterwards, got into his pj bottoms for bed, the dog stood on a rug in the bathroom and simply watched.
After the shower, John started doing the rounds of the house to lock the doors. At the back door, the dog began to bark. John wasn't sure if the visit was really, at that time, over or what was the case.
He did, however, open the door and watched as the dog wandered into John's large back yard, picked an area and did his business.
Then, as John watched, the dog came wandering back to the house, where John stood, now holding the door open. As though he were the very master of the place, the small, light reddish brown dog simply walked in and sat on a kitchen rug, with his tail thumping.
John understood right away and got a piece of a hot dog from the fridge to reward the dog for going outside.
"I'll clean that up in the morning," John said and the dog barked, as though in agreement.
John sat then, with the dog between his knees, and stroked the dog's head for a bit, while the dog bounced his tail on the floor, receiving the richness of the attention that John was giving him.
"You're wonderful!" John said, and the dog barked.
"Well, what do you think?" John asked. "Me on the couch or do you want to try the bed out?"
The dog barked twice then.
"Okay," John said, "The bed it is then."
John walked into the bedroom and pulled back the covers, getting into bed. The dog, sitting on the floor, only watched John for a few moments and then jumped up on the bed himself, rolling into a comfortable ball backed up against John's thigh.
They both were asleep fairly quickly.
The next day was Sunday and, again, an off day for John, though he usually looked over the work that he had on his board down in his in-home office.
When he woke, the first thing he saw was the dachshund's happy face, and heard the bouncing tail.
"Time, pal?" John said, then, thinking, "I might begin to call you Moses, since you've come, kind of, out of the wilderness to me here. But let's get you out and then it'll be breakfast. I will go shopping today and get you some proper food though. We'll make due again this morning."
The dog wagged his tail eagerly, as John went through this speech.
John fixed himself some breakfast and also got some of the left-over hamburger from yesterday for 'Moses', as he was calling him.
Moses went out first thing and again used the back yard to do his things. John waited on the porch and, when the dog was done, used a plastic bag to gather it up and trash it.
Moses attended John then, as John got breakfast for the two of them ready.
"Think that we'll wait today and keep and eye on things to see if anyone is searching for you, pal." John said, with Moses apparently attending to what he was saying.
They did it that way. John, who usually was a church attender, skipped that morning to spend it with Moses and see if anyone was out seeking him. No one came.
They settled down that day to football games, in which John had an interest, though he was not, by any means, a rabid fan.
Moses curled up next to John on the couch and they simply had a great day of it.
In the afternoon, as a break from the football, John did go to the store, with Moses in the seat next to him, and he bought things for the dog: food, and some toys he might like. Then it was back home to the games for the two of them.
To see them, at that point, you might have taken them for life-long friends, even though Moses had only been there for a day or so.
It was a pleasant day and no one came looking for Moses.
The next day was a work day for John, though the projects that were in the front of his que were things that he could work on at home. It gave him the chance to spend the day again with Moses.
They had a rhythm that was being established for themselves. It was up in the morning and out for Moses, with John doing the clean up and then breakfast.
The one wrinkle to their schedule this day was the walks that John took, several times, with Moses. He was doing it to see if anyone laid any kind of claim to his canine pal, though by now he was half hoping that no one would.
During that afternoon, while John was taking a break from his work and talking to Moses, he told him: "Pal, I think that what I'm going to do is put an ad in the paper and a picture. We need to see if anyone is looking for you and maybe grieving from losing the world's greatest dog."
Moses barked his acceptance of that plan, and they spent the rest of the day, and the night, very peacefully.
The ad in the paper ran the next day. It simply said that this dog had been found and gave an address where owners could call for him.
John was half afraid that someone would claim Moses. He was torn by it.
It was that afternoon, at a time after school would be out. There was a knock on the door and the ringing of the doorbell.
When John opened the door, there stood a lovely young woman and a little girl. John judged that the girl was probably about six years old.
Before the woman could even speak, the little girl said, apparently close to tears: "Do you have my Schotsie?"
Before John could even answer the question, the dog was there and was barking up a storm, with his tail wagging from side to side and his butt wiggling. He made small doggie noises and was obviously in love with the little girl.
John said: "Yes, I guess I do have your Schotsie."
The little girl had her hands around the dog's neck and was crying now into the dog's fur. Moses responded by thumping his tail on the floor, in what looked like complete joy.
"Please come in," John said, "I'm John Winters and I've been calling my pal here 'Moses'."
This made the little girl giggle and she said 'Moses' and kissed the dog's neck. 'Moses' simply thumped his tail and panted with his tongue hanging out.
"I'm Celia Carlson," the pretty young woman said, "And this is my Susie Lou."
"Hi," John said, extending a hand to Celia and then getting a hug from Susie Lou.
"Oh," the little girl said with a rush, "I love you for taking care of my Schotsie."
The dog, of course, hearing his name, was there in a trice with his tail beating on the floor.
"Can I get you something?" John asked, "Hot chocolate? Coffee? Tea?"
Susie Lou cast a hopeful glance at her Mom, who shook her head 'yes', and said: "Yes, coffee for me and chocolate for Susie Lou."
"In the kitchen?" John said, and as they went there, Celia said how lovely the house was.
"Yes," he said, "My major indulgence up to this point, until Moses, I mean Schotsie came for his visit."
It made Celia laugh a little.
He seated them at the table in the kitchen breakfast nook, that looked out over the back of his property.
"I like this, Mommie," Susie Lou said, and by then she had Schotsie sitting next to her on the breakfast nook bench.
"Always kind of felt that I'd fill it one day," John said with a smile, and got a smile in return from Celia.
"But let me tell you," he said, and went into the story of how Schotsie came to visit him; how the dog simply went into the house, as he went for the paper and settled down.
"We've had a lovely, lovey visit for these few days," John said.
"I'm glad to hear that," Celia said.
She hesitated then and went on: "You see, it's been such a jumble at our house these past days. I've been caring for Momma and Poppa for almost a year now. Had to leave my job and do the caring full time, and Susie Lou has been my brightest light all those times."
She sipped some of the coffee that John had given her, saying how good it was.
"I like it strong," he said.
"So do I," she replied.
"Sorry," he interjected, "You were saying."
"Yes," and she continued: "Poppa died first about 8 months ago and Momma just kind of faded after that. She died maybe a week ago and everything was up in the air. We were in the process of getting things ready for friends to drop in and all and Schotsie just wandered away. It was the final little disaster in a year or so of disasters."
"I see," John said, and waited.
Celia continued: "Your caring for him, while he was 'on vacation' has been a true treat." she said.
She stopped then for a moment, letting the emotions of the moment kind of sweep over her.
He put his hand on top of hers: "Sorry for all the trouble that this year has provided."
"Thank you," she said, sipping her coffee again.
At that point, Susie Lou was off with Schotsie playing, and making their noises.
"This is such a lovely house," she said.
"Thank you," he answered. "I'm an architect, you see; I bought and did my learning on the house."
"It's so well done," she said to him.
"Like to look around at my work?" he asked.
She gave him a wide smile: "Love to," she said.
"Susie," she called, "We're going to have a house tour now."
"We're coming, Momma," the little girl said and she was even preceded by the barking Schotsie.
He took them on a tour of his house, then, pointing out the special things that he'd done with it.
"My Dad, as well as advice, gave me a free hand to convert this place. It was a gift from him and Momma, and it's been both a joy and a challenge. Though it's not all finished."
"No?" she said.
"No," he said, "There are some 'hers' areas that I have to work on yet. Didn't seem the proper thing to do to work on them until there was a 'her' to put in her two cents."
"No candidates?" she asked, and immediately apologized for the question.
"No, that's fine," he said, "We're just becoming friends here."
"Yes," she said, "Friends."
"But no 'her' whose advice would help me to finish it off. Still waiting."
The very last area that he had shown them was his work area. He explained to the two of them, with Schotsie in attendance and showed Susie Lou especially his drawing board and various pencils and work implements.
"Oh," Susie Lou said happily, "I'd love to have a drawing board like this."
"Well, look," John said, with a sudden inspiration. He took then a hassock that was lower than the chairs and put a large wooden panel on it.
"This is Susie Lou's drawing board," he said.
It left her clapping and jumping up and down joyfully, exclaiming to her Momma: "Momma, he has a drawing board for me too."
"That means," John said, "That whenever you and Schotsie want to come and visit here, your drawing board will be ready for you. I'll even get you a proper chair for it and all."
This caused even more excitement for Susie Lee, who gave John a hug immediately.
"Thank you, thank you; I think that Schotsie and I would love to come and visit some time."
"Good," John said, "We'll simply make those arrangements with your Momma for a special time."
Once the grand tour of the large house was finished, John showed them to the door. He got a very lively 'farewell' from an almost impossibly happy Schotsie, and then a long hug from Susie Lou.
"I love you," Susie Lou said to him, "Thank you for taking care of my Schotsie and seeing him back to me. And thank you for my own drawing board."
Celia was smiling broadly, as they were at the door ready to go.
"Made a friend," she said.
"She is lovely, like her Momma," he said.
Celia blushed and he began to apologize for what he'd said but she put her fingers over his mouth and wouldn't allow the apology.
"We'll make arrangements for a visit, if that's okay with you," Celia said.
"Grand, is what I say," he replied. "I work so often at home and am flexible. Whenever you need someone, please think of me, and Schotsie is always welcome here."
"I believe that he knows that by now too," Celia said.
Then they were standing, the two of them, and, for the moment, just looking at each other. It was only at the very last minute that they didn't indeed kiss.
She put her hand up to her mouth and blushed and he grinned. They both had noticed the closeness and the small hesitation.
"Celia," he said, "May I have your number?"
She gave it to him and took his number too; then it was another hug for the two of them, as they, together. led a very happy Susie Lou and Schotsie out to the car.
He was working the next afternoon in his workroom, when the phone rang.
"Hello," he answered.
"We're bothering you again," she said into the phone.
"Never, Celia," he said. She kind of giggled into the phone in response.
Then she said, "Since yesterday the topic of conversation has been her drawing desk at your place. She's really excited about it."
"Got it all ready," he said.
"Do you mind terribly?" she began.
"Not at all," he answered.
"We'll be right there," Celia said then.
"Good, I'll be waiting," he said, as they hung up.
He met them at the door, and they'd brought Schotsie also.
"He would have been inconsolable," Celia explained, "If he were left home."
"I'm sure that's true," John said and then collected a hug from a very happy Susie Lou.
"Hi, love," he said to her. "Guess what?"
"What?" she asked.
"It's all ready; your drawing desk is all ready. Want to see it?"
"Oh, may I please?" she said.
He glanced at Celia, who was just grinning at him.
He took them then to his work room. In one part of it, he'd taken the pallet board that he had for Susie Lou and had it now on legs. Next to it, in the same way as his own was set up, he had a cup with drawing pencils, rulers, erasers. It was everything that Susie Lou would need for her drawing.
She was positively jumping up and down with the excitement of it.
He sat her down to the drawing board and showed her how he would begin.
"But you use your imagination," he said, and she grinned at him and then at her Momma.
Schotsie, meanwhile, had settled down on a cushion that was on the floor especially for him.
"Look, you two," Celia said, "I don't want to interrupt the workers. I have brought stuff for dinner for the three of us and will go and begin the preparation, if that is okay."
"Fine," he said with a smile. "Let me know if you can't find something that you need."
"Yes," she said, and went to him, before fetching her bag of groceries.
She pulled him into a hug and simply clung to him then.
"Momma," Susie Lou said, from her drawing board, "Isn't he, isn't our John wonderful?"
"Susie Lou," Celia said, bending to kiss the little girl, after hugging John, "He surely is."
She smiled at them both and went off to the kitchen, followed by Schotsie.
They worked for about and hour, with Susie Lou being as intent upon her work, as John was his. It was then that Celia appeared again. This time she had a glass of red wine for John.
"Thank you," he said. "Almost done for the day here."
"Yes. And my partner here has been working away also." He nodded at Susie Lou, who was smiling at both grown ups.
"Schotsie has had a snack," Celia said, "And dinner is well on the way. Maybe we'd better think about hand washing in the next ten minutes. That okay?"
"Yep," he said, "How about you, partner?" he asked Susie Lou, who said that she'd be finished by then too.
She was doing a drawing for her Momma.
They settled down to dinner after a bit, with Schotsie at their feet. Susie Lou said the dinner prayer and they enjoyed each other's company through the meal.
After dinner, both Celia and John did the clean up and then they opted for some tv for the three of them, with Schotsie on the couch with them. They all fit nicely, and Susie Lou was between her Momma and John, and was very happy about that.
It wasn't too very long before Susie Lou was beginning to drift off to sleep.
"Oh, dear," Celia said, when she noticed Susie Lou's nodding.
John, making an instant decision asked: "Stay the night?"
"May we?" Celia said.
"I'd love that," he said.
"We would also," was her response.
"We can put her in the guest suite, it's across the hall from the master. She'll be fine there. I also have an intercom system that will let us hear if there are any problems for her with the strange house."