Piper and Joanie
There was this dog named Piper. A wonderful hulk of a golden retriever with the spirit of a mustang and the heart of a friendly bear. He was Ginny’s dog and he only had three legs. He was Joanie’s friend.
We stopped at Mabel Murphy’s on our way to her sister, Ginny’s in St. Paul that Sunday. It was a time we took to take a breath, have something to munch on and talk about where we going. A stop at Mabel’s in Fergus Falls, meant we were almost to the Twin Cities.
Joanie was worried. She was worried, not just about the radiation treatment she was going to have, but was concerned about being a burden, or intruding on Ginny and Ed’s life for the next six weeks. She knew she was going to have a lot of time on her hands, especially since the actual radiation treatments would only take about half an hour, at the most, each day. The implants would take about three days each in the hospital.
She was a sensitive person, and one who understood the difference between being a house guest for two or three days, and being a house guest for six weeks. Virginia, or Ginny, as everyone knew her by, had been so gracious as to open the door to their house for us and Joanie didn’t want to be a problem.
Joanie was adopted, and in recent years had spent much emotional capital in trying to find out about her natural mother and family, (she had even gone to court, but to no avail). She had been supported in those efforts by her adoptive parents, Bud and Phyliss Wigen, as well as her brother and sister. So when Joanie found Ginny, and they met, it was a special time in her life, and she worried about how this situation might affect their relationship. It wouldn’t.
Sitting at a heavy wooden table in the cool, dark, pub-like surroundings of Mabel’s, we quietly talked. We ordered a beer for me and a glass of wine for her, and a plate of beefy nachos. Think of it as our traveling version of Sunday’s bagels, bacon and cream cheese. We didn’t talk about the radiation, we had done that much of the weekend. I knew she was nervous about being a burden or imposition on Ginny and Ed, so we talked about that. I did my best to reassure her that this was going to be okay. Ginny’s offer was heartfelt, and their generosity and hospitality was genuine. They had always made us both feel at home. It was something we could never thank them enough for.
Attempting to lighten things up a bit, I told her she’d have Piper to help her make it through the day. Piper was Ginny’s dog, the dog with three legs. The first time we met Piper was when we parked the car in front of Ginny’s house in St. Paul. She lived in the Grand Avenue neighborhood, on a secluded, narrow, tree lined, one way street. He met us at the edge of the lawn, this beautiful golden retriever, tail wagging and jumping around like you see happy dogs do, and then we saw it. He only had three legs. It didn’t take long for Joanie, to fall in love with Piper and become real friends.
Piper had been hit by a car, and lost his right rear leg in the process, but it had done nothing to dampen his spirit, and it always seemed to me, in watching him, that he felt having three legs instead of four was perfectly normal, and that dogs with four legs just had an extra one. A few times I would accompany Ed when he would take Piper for an evening walk around the neighborhood, without a leash, it was a joy to see him romp around the block, with Ed having to call after him from time to time so we could keep up.
I told Joanie, as we sat at Mabel’s, Piper would now have somebody to play with during the day for the next six weeks, and she would too. I promised I wouldn’t tell Muffin or Peaches that she was consorting with a dog, let alone having feelings for him. She smiles, with that look that told me she knew what I was trying to do, and so she lets me get away with thinking I’m doing it. I think she wanted to buy it, but I’m not sure she did. What I did know, was that Piper would be good for her during this stressful time.
We finished up at Mabel’s and got back on the road, and she seemed more relaxed now. It may have been the wine, or it may have just been that she was tired. We got to Ginny’s in the early evening, and as we walked up the driveway to the house, Piper came running with that now familiar gait he had.
He headed for Joanie, tail wagging and jumping around, glad to see his new friend. Joanie was rubbing and scratching him and glad to see him too.
I thought to myself, “This dog with three legs, and this woman with cancer are gonna’ get along fine for the next six weeks.”