For the past year and a half, I have come to know an old, homeless man (whose name I never got) who is accompanied by an old dog (whose name I did get -- Bullet). Bullet was by no means named for his fleetness of paw and spirit. He looked like a cross between a pit-bull and a lab, and limped noticeably. He clearly had considerable age in his hind-quarters, and was never able to keep up in stride to the old man. Whether the old man was Bullet's owner, or simply a companion ... I may never learn. The old man is semi-articulate, a product I imagine of combined age and mental degradation; I do know that the old fellow is not drug addicted nor a drunk. He simply wanders the neighborhood, and he and the old dog sleep together out in the open.
I write about this duo because I was touched by the simplicity of their daily lives, at least as they respectively appeared to me. The old man walked, the old dog followed. They stopped on occasion, rested, ate and drank (the old man enjoyed the occasional Dr. Pepper I proffered).
One day, I found a very touching sight: the old man was cleaning old Bullet's ears. Bullet, in his dog-like way, semi-growled appreciation -- itchy ears for a dog is a bitch to deal with; I know this from owning a German Shepherd for ten years, and nothing he liked better than a good scratch, Ringo did he! The old man cared for the old dog much in the way an old man might care for his equally aged wife, or vice versa. Some would say that perhaps the relationship between man and dog was symbiotic merely; the man needed the dog for company, the dog needed the man for food, water, and the irrevocable ear-scratch. It is not a theory I buy. I feel, though I have heard the old man grumble at Bullet on occasion, calling him 'slow-poke' and 'old cur', that the fellow really loves the dog. And in his inarticulate way, the dog, Bullet, loves the man in return. What they have, I believe, is more than what many folks have in a lifetime.
And then one day ... Bullet disappeared. I found the old man, who I had occasionally given money to, or bought something for he and Bullet in the past, outside of a 7/11 near my house. I asked where Bullet was. The old man simply waved off the question, as if dismissing me for my presumption and curiosity. I have not seen Bullet since. Was he dead? Had man and dog simply separated, and is Bullet now on his own, or worse, consigned to the pound?
It may not be a tragic ending. But I do not know. The old man is not forthcoming with what has happened to his canine companion. Bullet remains MIA. And I am saddened by his absence. I can only hope that one day, he reappears ... for now, he exists only in my memories.