Elbow McMaster stood facing the front door, poised to spring upon the woman the moment she entered. His eyes, fixed on the peephole well above his eye level, noticed a momentary interruption in the light on the tiny circular glass view port. Elbow’s legs tensed and bent ever-so-slightly; he crouched in preparation for an attack. The sound of a key entering the lock was barely audible, but Elbow heard it and he leaped into action. As the door swung open, he lunged at the woman’s chest. The instant his taut body touched hers, the woman grasped him with both arms and pulled him to her. Obviously, he thought, she was expecting this.
Of course she was. This was a daily routine. Every day, at almost the exact same time, Elbow lunged at Caroline as she entered the house, home from work. Elbow’s tail, wagging furiously, swatted Caroline mercilessly and his tongue licked every bit of exposed skin from her face to the base of her neck.
But that was yesterday. Today, Elbow’s watch at the front door lasted much longer than usual. The sun’s light in the east windows of the house peaked, as usual, just about the time Caroline usually got home. And then, over the course of an hour or so, the light began to dim. As the minutes passed, Elbow nervously shifted his weight from one side to the other, keeping his legs in condition to spring the moment the door opened. But when darkness fell, Caroline still had not arrived home, so he knelt on the carpet in front of the door, resting his legs. Still, he kept watch, waiting for Caroline to arrive.
Around ten in the evening, Elbow heard a key entering the lock. He sprang into action, ready to cover her with dog kisses. But as he flew through the air at the figure entering the front door, he sensed something was different. This was not Caroline! This was Caroline’s friend, Mona! Elbow turned his head to the right and barked, just as his shoulder smashed into Mona’s chest.
“Oh, Elbow! Oh, boy, I’m sorry I’m not Caroline! I’m so sorry!” Mona kept her balance, even as Elbow ricocheted to the floor from her chest. Mona put her arms around Elbow and hugged him close to her. Tears flooded her cheeks and dripped onto Elbow’s furry back.
Elbow knew the meaning of tears. Caroline had shed tears when her friend, Skip, had left one morning and the police came that night to tell her he wouldn’t be coming home. Elbow knew Mona’s tears meant the same thing.
“Elbow, Caroline’s not coming home. Caroline was in an accident, Elbow. You’re going to come live with me now, boy.”
Elbow’s tears didn’t flow as easily as Mona’s, but they flowed, nonetheless. He hung his head, then raised his head high with his nose pointing to the sky and wept the way dogs do, with a low mournful howl.