Heroes

Jon had been standing on the bridge for hours, long since watching the sun go down. Rush hour traffic had faded and the world was getting quieter. Jon reflected on the many wrong turns he had made in his life, all leading to this moment. Failed marriage, failed career, failing health – it seemed to Jon that he couldn’t really do anything right. Looking down towards the water he sighed heavily. He turned and slowly trudged towards home where nothing awaited him except for the beer that would help him “sleep” – just like last night and the night before.

Approaching the end of the bridge he paused, an unusual sound drawing his attention. Listening closely he heard it again. A tiny yip coming from the long grass growing where the bridge span made its return to earth. Jon climbed down off of the walkway.
The cardboard box was wet and damaged, laying partly in the water, duct tape holding it closed. Jon could see the box moving as the yipping continued.

Without further pause, Jon tore the box open to find two cloudy brown eyes surrounded by soft golden-red fur peering up at him. Their gaze locked before the puppies mouth opened and a raucous set of tiny yips and barks spewed forth. Wrapping the young dog in his coat, Jon headed for home with the soft squeaks of the now happy puppy cheering him on.
The next morning, Jon called the local shelter.

“I don’t know where it came from, I found it under the 15th St. bridge” Jon explained. “I would guess its about 6 months old? I’m not a real dog guy so I’m not sure.” Jon paused before adding, “I can’t keep it, sorry. I can barely look after myself.” Jon said the last part with a chuckle although he really wasn’t joking. “Sure I can drop him off in an hour, thank you.”

Jon opened the basement door and his new friend awkwardly bounded up the stairs to greet him. Jon didn’t know much about dogs but he knew one thing – this one never quit barking. At least not until now. The puppy looked up at Jon and tentatively wagged it’s tail, like that was enough to make up for it’s all night vocal barrage.

“Come on dude,” Jon sighed “let’s get you out of here”

The shelter had a few forms for Jon to fill out and he reiterated that he knew nothing about the sad little canine. From the kennel Jon could hear the now familiar barking start up again; He wouldn’t miss that sound.
Paperwork complete, Jon walked out to the street, thankful for the quiet brought on by the closing door. Life was back to normal. At least normal for Jon. He took a deep breath and headed down the dusty grey sidewalk.
Days continued to pass, the boredom in Jon’s life unflinching and his health continued paying the price. Each day blurred into the next as he simply existed, not really living but surviving.

It was another unremarkable evening when Jon’s phone rang. He chose to ignore it, letting it instead go straight to message.

“Hi Jon, this is Kathy from the shelter. I’m just calling to let you know that the dog you brought in is going to be put down tomorrow. He is just too damaged to rehome. He has had infections and he is almost completely blind. His anxiety has him barking non-stop. So sorry Jon, I just thought you should know.”

That’s what the message was at least, but Jon never heard it. He hit delete before it even played. Jon grabbed a beer and turned back to the TV.

The sense of someone beside him caused Jon to awake with a start. There was something beeping beside him as well. And why was it so bright? Confused, he tried to sit up and felt a hand on his arm.

“Easy there fella, you’re ok. We gotcha.”

Now awake Jon realized that he was in a hospital bed. Monitor lines ran to his body and a nurse stood by his side.

“Whats going on?” Jon asked weakly.

“You’ve had a small heart attack,” said the nurse, “you’re lucky to still be with us. Your dog saved the day for sure!”

“My dog?” Jon’s brow furrowed.

“Yes, he was on your porch barking his head off. Your neighbor went over because of the noise and saw you lying on the floor though the window.”

“But… I don’t have…”

Jon was cut off by the door opening. A stranger in a brown uniform poked his head around the corner and looked at the nurse.

“Is he OK to come in now? He won’t shut up!”

The nurse laughed, “Sure, we are stable here, come on in.”

Before the stranger had time to answer they all heard a yell from down the hall. “Grab him!!”
Jon instantly recognized the yipping as it grew louder, approaching down the hallway at a very high rate of speed. The door burst open and the barking dog bounced clumsily off of the door frame before launching himself onto the bed, instantly licking Jon’s face, his whole furry body wriggling and shaking. For the first time in as long as he could remember, Jon started laughing. The wiggling, wagging and licking machine didn’t let up. The Dog handler breathlessly arrived at the door.

“I’m so sorry, he slipped right out of his collar!”

The nurse smiled. “It’s fine, he just had someone he wanted to see.”

The dog handler interrupted, “We just got a call from the shelter, this guy escaped from there last night. I’m sorry sir, we just assumed he was yours, he’s been waiting to see you all night. We will get him out of your hair”

Leash in hand, brown hat took a step towards the bed.

“Not a chance!” Jon said, “he is mine. He knows it. I just didn’t know it.” Jon smiled and scrubbed the dogs head.

“How you been buddy? Good to see you.” Jon paused, “I hear that I owe you one.” For the first time in a long time the barking had stopped. A wet tongue gave Jon’s face another lick.

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