Maggie stared upwards into the steel gray sky. The giant oak’s branches were barely visible 20 feet above her, shrouded in fog. Brittle brown leaves fell softly, plastering the lawn she’d just raked clear. She sighed at the futility of it all.
Jim would have made her laugh at herself. And then he would have leapt into a pile of leaves, scattering them everywhere.
God, how she missed him. Especially with Christmas coming.
Maggie could hardly believe he’d been gone a year already. The weight of the silence pressed heavily upon her. Wrapping her heather gray sweater tightly around herself, she hung up her rake and gardening gloves and went inside.
Determined, Maggie backed the car out of the garage and headed south. She remembered how much Jim enjoyed their frequent drives into the surrounding countryside, and sensed he was with her in spirit, as she headed out on this new journey.
Maggie pulled into the parking lot 20 minutes later and leapt out of the car before she could lose her courage. She plodded into the concrete, one-story building with children’s paintings in the lobby. As she rounded the corner, 20 dogs erupted in a cacophony of barking, each vying for Maggie’s attention.
She looked carefully at each dog, leaning down to pet and speak with them. At the very end of the row, a tri-color border collie lay on his bed, curled in a ball, disinterested in all the fuss and excitement. Maggie squatted down in front of his kennel and held out a piece of cheddar cheese. The dog’s ears perked up and the tip of his tail began to wag ever so slightly.
“Hey, boy,” Maggie said. “What’s your name? How did you end up here?” She slowly reached out a hand and gently scratched his fuzzy head. He looked up at her then, and their eyes locked. Maggie saw his intelligence, and he saw how much she needed him. The border collie nimbly got to his feet and licked Maggie’s hand.
The next day, Maggie and Max the border collie raked leaves together in the backyard. Max dashed about madly, chasing squirrels and falling leaves. Finally Maggie raked the last leaf into the pile and hung up her rake. Max took a running leap and dove into the file, barking excitedly. He climbed out, shaking leaves from his thick coat. Max looked back over his shoulder at Maggie mischievously, tongue lolling out in a doggie grin, eyes shining brightly.
Maggie laughed out loud. “I think you’ve been very naughty this year, Max…but Santa may still bring you some cheese.”