Lots of interesting people visit Sunnybank’s secret garden, especially during the Traverse City Cherry Festival. One man, especially, will always remain bright in my memory. Tall, about fifty and in good shape, he rang the garden bell one mid-morning and wandered in-- wearing a smallish dog.
A homemade open carrier was secured to his lederhosen-like suspenders. Comfortably arranged in it was a mostly brown fifteen-pound mutt with floppy ears who was fitted with a special harness secured to the carrier. White fur encircled one bright eye, giving him a clownish appearance. His nose twitched as he surveyed the landscape. Though dogs are never allowed in the secret garden, I made no objection to this arrangement.
The man sat down carefully beside me on the big bench, moved carrier with doggie inside onto his lap, and we exchanged introductions. He was Jason, and his bearded charmer answered to Twiggy.
“I found him late last year lying on a state forest dirt road miles from anywhere, and managed to get him to a vet, who speculated he’d been flung from a car. The poor guy had a broken back. I visited him every day while he mended. That took a month. I really admired his spirit. It was ‘touch and go’ for a while, but he finally healed. Twiggy can walk, though it’s not that comfortable for him. He prefers to stick close to me, and is happiest up here, where he can view the world safely. I don’t mind toting him around; it’s good exercise.” He looked thoughtful. “I think the vet was right—he was abandoned, and the experience haunts him. He worries that it could happen again. Sometimes he has bad dreams.”
He shook his head.
“He was so happy when I kept coming back to visit that I had to adopt him. He chuckled. “Hell, he’d already adopted me!
“The vet thought Twiggy was about six years old. In his opinion his age, plus his special needs, would have made placement unlikely.” He shook his head. “I knew what that meant...”
The little dog looked up at his master and sneezed.
“Things have worked out just fine. I make outdoor furniture at home, so we’re always together. He just curls up on his blanket and watches me work. I named him Twiggy because he was so skinny, and was mixed in with branches and twigs when I found him.”
Twiggy’s stumpy tail wagged. I stroked his head. But there was one particularly strange thing--every now and then during the narration he’d look up at Jason and howl softly.
Not bark. Howl.
“Why does he do that?”
Jason thought for a bit. “I think the bark was knocked right out of him when he was thrown away. The vet guessed that he’d probably barked for help for days before finally giving up and howling, which is what got my attention when I drove by looking for fallen timber. When he has something to say he howls, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly. In all the time we’ve been together I’ve never once heard him bark.”
A nervous rabbit peered out from between two plump spirea bushes. All three of us noticed.
“He smells that rabbit, but in strange territory he’s never tempted to chase one. Moving faster than a walk is tough anyway, because his back is cockeyed.
“I’d never considered having a pint-sized mutt. Bigger dogs are more my style. But he’s my buddy. We stay together, thanks to this carrier. He’ll climb out for his toilet, but he’s happiest right up against me. I can’t leave him home alone, worried I’d never come back.” He sighed. “I doubt if he’ll ever feel completely secure.”
He fondled Twiggy’s ears affectionately. “He even sleeps at the foot of the bed. And he snores, which took some getting used to. But, hey, maybe I do, too.
All in all, I feel lucky to have him.”
Bright-eyed Twiggy, riding high, front paws curling over the basket’s rim as the twosome left the garden, polished his black nose and nuzzled Jason’s neck.
Henry David Thoreau once noted: the most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.
Here it was, in its purest form.
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