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Widowed, retired postal worker Fred sat on the front porch with Barney, a Chocolate Lab, at his feet for 15 years. From the first hint of Spring until November chill, Fred slumped in his wicker rocker while Barney dozed. Fred watched passing traffic, waving a thousand times a day.

Weekly, Fred leashed Barney and walked to Hy-Mart. Barney wagged like a puppy, hoisting a leg on every shrub along the way. Both light eaters and growing older, the grocery bag was always small.

Fred timidly rapped on his next door neighbour's door. "Mrs. Wilkins," he cleared his throat. "I've got to be away a few days. Do you suppose you could feed Barney. He won't be no problem."

Mrs. Wilkins enjoyed minding Barney. When Fred hadn't returned in 10 days, she picked up his favourite dog food at Hy-Mart.

She was surprised to see a younger, unknown woman on Fred's porch. Mrs. Wilkins stepped over to inquire. "I'm Sara Broadkins, Fred's niece. Didn't you hear Fred died during surgery at County General last week? As executor of his estate, I'll be staying here a few days. I'll watch Barney."

Mrs. Wilkins was stunned and dismayed. Ms. Broadkins often sat in Fred's old wicker chair, Barney on his leash, visibly uncomfortable and morose.

One morning, Barney lay dead in Fred's back yard. "I think he never really took to me," Ms. Broadkins said sadly. "Fred's loss broke his heart."

Perhaps one human had been enough.

Story by:

Gary Clifton

28 August 2012