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My Last Puppy


Bob Chassanoff

I'm terminally ill, and I need a puppy," an old man's voice said over Jay's telephone. "Cathy, at Pekay Kennels in Georgia, said you just had a litter of golden retrievers."

"Ah . . . Ah," Jay mouthed. "Who is this?"

"I'm David Isaiah. I'm dying from cancer, and got some things to finish up. I need a puppy for the kids. I told `em I'd get `em a puppy."

"All my puppies are already promised," Jay blurted truthfully.

"Well, free one up. They can wait. I can't!"

"Give me your number; I'll call ya right back." And Jay called a young couple to break a puppy reservation because David Isaiah's need was greater than theirs.

"I'm nervous," Robin, Jay's wife, said, as she put out a bowl of fruit on the coffee table. "I've only seen dying people in hospitals."

"If he falls down we put him on the couch and call 911," Jay said, because he saw an expensive car, probably David's automobile, come up the driveway.

David was a tall man, thin and stooped over. His wife was considerably younger, and Jay guessed she was his second wife. David's eyes were sunken and dull, with dark brown rings; Jay assumed from medication. And his cheeks and ears were droopy, like an old dachshund. But David Isaiah still carried himself with a proud demeanor, and Jay got a steady and firm handshake.

"I'm David Isaiah; I need a puppy." Then he added excitedly, "And in a hurry too!"

"Come and sit on the couch, and we'll show you the puppy we have for you. Would you like a cup of tea?" Robin offered.

Jay went to the puppy pen to pick up a little guy and Julie, the mother, got up to leave at the same time, so Jay opened the gate for her. Then the other puppies jumped up and rushed the open gate, while Jay had his hands full.

Julie was halfway across the den, toward the couch, to meet the new guests. And Julie's puppy brigade, nine little rotund Buddha-bellies, white as polar bears, spread out to charge across the floor, yapping, galloping, onward, onward, like the English Lancers at Balaclava.

David Isaiah's tired eyes went wide, and Jay closed his own. Oh no, Jay thought.

When the puppies arrived they jumped up on David, trashing his beige cotton slacks. One little guy got his front paws up to David's belt. Jay saw what looked like, might have been a dressing or colostomy bag under the old man's clothes. David's wife was concerned and tried to brush the puppies off. Robin came from the kitchen. Jay finally got his wits about him, and also hurried to the couch.

David Isaiah laughed heartily, and threw his arms up in the air with glee, as Julie's puppy brigade tried to climb up on him. "This is great," he said joyously, reveling in the exuberance of life's energy that flowed to him from the puppies. "This is fantastic!" David pulled the alpha, the leader, up and cradled him in his arms. "This little guy knows what it takes to get ahead in life."

When David left with his puppy he smiled, and told Jay, "My last puppy. Good job; thanks."

David Isaiah died two weeks afterward and his passing affected Jay because the man accepted death without a need for a last bitter battle, not to say that he didn't have fear and apprehension. But David Isaiah must have died with few regrets, and maybe that made his passage easier.

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