He sat up straight, dark brown eyes focused ahead, ears hearing everything. Anna smiled at his stoic manner as she flipped through her Facebook feed on her phone. She was in the waiting room of her doctor’s office, an appointment in the middle of endless appointments thanks to a brain tumor. Her husband hired Jack at the beginning of the ordeal, some six or seven years ago, as a means to keep an eye on Anna while he worked because he feared to leave her home alone. Jack was an all business sort of guy, by the book, and it was two or three years before they saw him even crack a smile. Now though, Jack was accompanying her everywhere. Anna’s husband had recently passed due to cancer; Jack devoted himself solely to her immediately.
“Anna Thompson” the nurse chirped out. Jack was the first one up and he waited patiently as Anna gathered her things and stood up. He followed dutifully behind, eyes scanning the surroundings, making sure all was well. “Isn’t he handsome?” the nurse asked softly as they walked through the door she was holding open. Anna agreed but Jack simply passed without looking and followed his charge around the corner to “room six today dear,” “chirpy chirpy” was all Jack could hear.
The usual tortuous, silent wait ensued after the nurse took Anna’s vitals. She knew better than to start a conversation with Jack, he wouldn’t utter a word back to her. Instead she studied the thick black hair that managed to stand straight up on his head no matter what. It was always a source of amusement for Anna and she smiled at it for the thousandth time as the doctor finally came into the room to break the silence. Jack didn’t move or even acknowledge that another human being shared the room with them now. He listened to the mundane dance of their voices for several moments then the doctor announced that he’d “like to draw some blood today to make sure that new med is working for you.” Anna nodded in consent but squirmed subconsciously on the table at the thought of another needle. Jack reflexively moved slightly closer. “Who’s your bodyguard?” the doctor asked.
“This is Jack, since my husband died he started coming along with me to my appointments.”
The doctor held his hand out to Jack, but the latter merely stared ahead. “He’s quite the professional,” the doctor laughed and shook off the rebuff in good humor as he moved towards the door.
“Yes he is,” said Anna and she gave a little wave as the doctor turned around and left the room. The nurse came back and fulfilled her role as a vampire. Jack shifted uncomfortably from side to side for a few seconds when Anna winced at the needle prick. “He’s protective of you isn’t he?” queried the nurse.
“Very protective.” Anna responded.
“Well, at least you know you’re safe,” said the vampiress as she set everything back on the tray and took her gloves off. “See you in two weeks,” she sang with the same chirpy voice and she was gone out of the room like a puff of air.
They left the room, left the office, left the building, then left the entire city behind as they drove home, stopping at the neighborhood Wal-Mart before calling it a day. Jack sat silently in the passenger seat (Anna loved to drive, so he let her) and muttered not a sound the entire time. When they arrived home, they both jumped out of the car and Anna opened the gate for Jack to go through. Inside the house she picked him up and gave him as many hugs and kisses as he could stand, interspersed with high praise: “You did so well today, baby!” “You were such a good boy!” “Mama’s so proud of you, your first time out and you behaved like a pro!” Jack gave a shake to put his fur right when Anna set him back on the floor and then graciously accepted the small beef bone Anna pulled out of the fridge. He took it to his bed and sat stoically for several moments before he began to gnaw gently at its tender middle. He slept well that afternoon, dreaming of car rides and the chirpy voice of the nurse.
Happy Friday Kids, and go kiss your four-leggeds!
*Authors note: I dedicate this story all the amazing service animals out there who serve their masters with dedicated and admirable aplomb. They are treasures of this life to be cherished deeply. Jack is one of the best of these heros….