Taking care of a dog, especially a smallish, elderly dog such as Precious, helps put everything else in perspective. This is true of taking care of anyone, really. When we are accountable to another being who needs us, even if that need is as simple as being taken outside to pee, our lives take on form and structure that we cannot find any other way.
Franny mused about this as she watched Precious find several other spots to pee, or to pretend to pee after her little dog bladder had run dry. Big responsibilities to other humans terrified Franny. Consistent responsibility to and for this smallish, elderly dog somehow comforted her.
As each leaf on the local oaks, chestnuts, and maples was touched with some color other than green – gold, crimson, burgundy, pale yellow – every moment with Precious was tinged with melancholy as well. If Marilyn was here and well, and enjoying her marriage to Douglas, Franny would not have Precious in her apartment and her daily life. The very fact of the little dog’s presence in Franny’s routines served as a reminder of loss, impermanence, transience.
Several times a day, Franny pondered giving Precious to Leo. Well, that’s not precisely true. It worked this way: several times a day, something would happen to make Franny think of Leo. She’d make a batch of soup in the crock pot, or she’d take a walk in the autumn wind. She’d spread out computers and books on the table he’d given her, preparing to work on class preparations or grading. She’d hear a particular type of music, a lone guitar or soulful voice. These actions would trigger a memory of Leo, a smile, a sense of warmth.
Immediately following, Franny would recall how little effort Leo had made to keep in contact as the summer wore on. How after they’d confronted one another in the hospital that day, she’d wondered for a while if he’d left town.
She’d remember finding out from the barista, Kassandra, that Leo had moved. But not out of town.
Franny would frown, remembering the day her neighbor Allison moved out of the apartment next door, with Leo’s help. He’d said nothing about the fact that he was moving in with Allison. Franny had learned that from Kassandra a few days later, when they were chatting about Allison’s big move: buying the old green house just up the street from Marilyn’s, moving in, with the plan to renovate it.
“That guy, the musician, the really sweet one? The one who knocked me over that night. He’s living with Allison. They’re renovating together. I guess he knows a lot about old houses,” Kassandra had explained.
At this point in the memory chain, Franny would pause and consider leaving Precious at Leo’s doorstep, with a note, and finding her way to some other small town. One that wouldn’t hold such memories. One where she would be free of all emotions, and could just get to work.