Friends wouldn’t really call him amiable. And honestly, friends probably wasn’t the right word for them. Colleagues would describe them better. He never really went out on a limb for anyone. Never really tried hard, or at all, to make an effort to be friendly towards anyone. He never contributed to the whip round they’d have in work for birthdays or retirements. He’d sit out in his car at lunch so as not to mingle or be forced in to small talk with his workmates. People would describe him as standoffish if they were being polite. Ignorant jackass was mentioned a few times if they weren’t.
He just wasn’t a “people person”. He came in, did his job and went home. The higher ups weren’t concerned about him not making friends as long as he did his job, and he did it well. So he was left alone. New staff were always told to keep their distance from him. It’s not like he was volatile, but there really was no point in making an effort to be friendly towards him. It just seemed to go right over his head. In the few instances when he had no choice but to commune with others, he was prompt, straight to the point and left the conversation as soon as what needed to be communicated was said and understood; so as not to have to repeat the interaction.
If you were to know his past you could, perhaps, understand the man. At six, both of his parents died tragically in a house fire. His grandmother was too old to take care of him and so he was put in a home. The effect his parents death had on him was devastating. For a long time he refused to speak at all. Not to the carers, his teachers or the other children. Unfortunately, this made him an easy target for some of the older boys. They knew they could send him home with a few bruises or a black eye and he wouldn’t tell on them. Even as time past, as he got older, as the pain of his parents death began to ease and he started speaking again, it was only ever when it was necessary. He never opened up to anybody, even though his carers and teachers did try, he only answered what he was asked. He didn’t expand, he didn’t ask and still, he didn’t tell.
But nobody knew his past. Not a single person that he had met in his lifetime was deserving of his confidence. And so, life went on with others thinking him peculiar. Not surprising then to find out that he lived by a very strict routine. On the days that he worked he was up promptly at 07:10am. He showered and shaved, had a breakfast consisting of oatmeal and a glass of orange juice, dressed in the suit he had laid out the night before and left for work at precisely 07:40am. He would arrive at work 10 minutes later, make coffee in his own personal mug in the staff kitchen and sit at his desk ready to start his day. Lunch would consist of either a ham or chicken sandwich, an apple and another cup of coffee which he would have in his car. At 5pm, he would shut down his computer, gather his things and leave work.
Going to the local grocery store, he would buy a variety of vegetables and meat or fish, which he would cook and eat at home, finishing the evening off by watching the news and reading a book. His weekends were not much different. Instead of work he would have his clothes dry cleaned, go for a brisk walk in the local park and play chess against himself for a few hours. His evenings never differed. Despite his best efforts, however, this life of solidarity was due to take an unexpected turn.
While passing a building site on his walk home from work he noticed a small ginger dog in distress. Now, if he didn’t have much time for humans, he had even less for animals. As far as he was concerned they were all dirty, smelly little things that had no place in a person’s home. But at the same time, he wasn’t a monster, so he slowly approached the animal to see what was wrong. It seemed the dog, while out exploring, had managed to get its paw wrapped up in some wire fencing. Being cautious of the creature, he knelt down and gently took a hold of its paw. Encouraged that the animal didn’t show any immediate signs of aggression, he grabbed the wire and slowly started to untangle it.
After only a couple of minutes the dog was free. Giving the paw a quick check to see if it was hurt and feeling fairly confident that there was no real damage done, he let go of the dog and continued on his way home. It wasn’t long though before he noticed that the dog seemed to be following him. Shooing it away and picking up the pace didn’t seem to deter it and by the time he reached his front door, the dog had followed him the whole way home. Ignoring it, he let himself in to his house and went about his evening routine.
The next morning, while getting ready for work, he didn’t give the dog a second thought. That was until he opened his front door and found the dog curled up on his doorstep. It had slept there all night. Thinking that if he continued to ignore it and walk straight to work, it would most certainly be gone by the time he got home that evening. He was wrong. As he walked up the street toward his home he could see a small ginger form sitting in his doorway wagging its tail. It was impossible to keep ignoring him….her…..it, and there was no way he was letting it in his house, so he grabbed an old towel, picked up the dog and went straight to the local dog shelter.
The cheerful but bedraggled looking woman who eventually answered the call bell apologetically informed him that the shelter was full to the brim and that if he was to bring the dog to the pound it was likely to be put down. A quick call confirmed this. What a pickle he had gotten himself in to. He didn’t want the dog but at the same time he didn’t want it to be put down. It seemed friendly and besides maybe needing a few feeds, it looked healthy enough. What was he to do?
Well, since it was Friday evening, he decided that he would spend the weekend looking for a new owner. He printed out fliers which he hung up on every notice board he could find and put ads on the internet hoping someone would show interest. While he waited, he made the dog a makeshift bed in his shed and bought a few cans of dog food. After getting some food and water in to it, the dog thrived. He was energetic, curious and terribly friendly. But, though many people called about the dog, none seemed to want to take over care of it.
As Sunday night arrived and he was preparing for work the next day it seemed like he didn’t have many options left. He resolved that by days end Wednesday, if there was no further interest in the dog, he would have to bring it to the pound. The calls became less and less as the days went by and come Wednesday it seemed like his decision was made for him. Walking home from work he called the pound and made an appointment for the following evening. He would leave work a little early and once he picked up the dog he would walk straight there.
On Thursday morning he woke with a heavy heart which he didn’t quite understand. It’s not as if he had grown feelings for the dog. It was a dirty animal and if nobody else wanted it, he was under no obligation to keep it. So determined to act like today was like every other day, he continued on with his morning routine, disregarding his feelings as nonsense. Come 4pm, he gathered up his belongings and detoured home to pick up the dog for his appointment at 4:30pm. Arriving at the pound, the veterinary doctor brought them in to an office. There was a tall table inside, and what looked like syringes already made up for the procedure.
The vet asked if he would like to stay during the procedure to keep the dog company and to say goodbye. This was answered with a prompt “no”, so the vet asked the assisting nurse to escort him out. “It really makes my job difficult having to put a healthy girl down”, the vet said as the nurse closed the door behind them. He didn’t quite know what it was; finally knowing the sex of the dog; coming home to it, no, her, wagging her tail at him; or the licks of affection and appreciation she would give him which he was initially disgusted by; but that dog had unravelled feelings in him that he hadn’t felt since he was a young boy.
A sense of love, belonging, and a new sense of loyalty. This dog, that had only been in his life for such a short time, had put all her faith and trust in to him and what was he doing in return? Before he stepped out the front door of the pound he had changed his mind. He couldn’t go through with it. He raced back to the office calling for them to stop. Even as he did this he couldn’t help but think how unlike him this was, but that little ginger dog had changed him. If he left that pound alone, he could never forgive himself. Luckily the vet hadn’t time to begin. With what looked like a grin on her face and a wag of her tail, the dog was sitting on the table, facing the door, as if waiting for his return.
The vet, of course, couldn’t be happier. Because the dog was a stray the vet gave her all of her vaccinations, made an appointment for her to be spayed and gave a lot of information of how best to care for a dog. Leaving the pound, walking alongside this little furball of joy and feeling a strong sense of responsibility felt utterly surreal to him. He had spent his life a loner, an oddball, content with his life of solitude. Now, he felt he had a bigger purpose.
He knew how ridiculous that sounded, it was only a dog after all. But if something so seemingly insignificant to him could enforce such an emotional change in him, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have to live a life of loneliness. Because if he was truly honest with himself, he was lonely. His life had felt empty, his routine was a way for him to feel like he had control but he was realising that too much control, too much routine left him isolated. And he knew that the first friend he’d made since childhood, would uproot his life in ways he would have never thought possible. For him it was a scary thought, but he knew, at that moment in time, he was happy. And right now, that’s all that mattered.