Dog Vi­o­lets

The tiny, vel­vety flow­ers seemed the per­fect way to let Doug know how much she, too, had cared…

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The house had that

‘no­body’s in’ look about it, Cathy thought, dis­ap­pointed, as she walked up to the front door, clutch­ing her plant.

‘Cooee!’ she called through the let­ter­box, but got no re­ply.

A short while back, there’d have been an an­swer­ing bark and the bulky shape of Bruno through the glass panel, wag­ging his tail in ex­cite­ment. See­ing his lead still hang­ing from the hook, she un­der­stood how much Doug must mourn his old com­pan­ion.

She quickly glanced down at the plant. It was a dog vi­o­let, so that gave it spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance. Tiny pur­ple flow­ers peeped out from the bright, new leaves.

It had caught her eye at the gar­den cen­tre when she went to buy plants for her bal­cony, and she’d thought it might cheer Doug up. He’d looked so down in the dumps when she’d seen him in town, and he’d given her such a look of long­ing when she’d said good­bye. It re­minded her of Bruno plead­ing to be taken out for a walk.

‘Be care­ful where you plant it,’ the lady at the till had ad­vised. ‘It tends to take over.’

Cathy smiled and thought of Bruno, who’d in­vei­gled his way into her heart – just a few walks and she’d been smit­ten.

Cathy had seen the ad­vert on the no­tice­board when she’d popped into the shop for her pa­per: Dog walker needed for bois­ter­ous labrador.

She hadn’t been look­ing for a job, but she’d phoned the num­ber and gone round that af­ter­noon. Bruno had made a great fuss of her, bring­ing her his lead and a sock, and look­ing plead­ingly out of his soft, dark eyes. For the first time since Robert died, Cathy felt needed.

Doug – a big bear of a man – ex­plained he’d a bad an­kle sprain and was hav­ing to take it easy for now. Bruno was bounc­ing off the walls with­out enough ex­er­cise. Was Cathy sure she could han­dle him?

‘Of course,’ she’d in­sisted happy to have the op­por­tu­nity.

Cathy loved dogs. She and Robert had al­ways had one, but now she lived alone in a tiny flat, where pets weren’t al­lowed.

Cathy had thor­oughly en­joyed walking Bruno. Ev­ery day, he’d be wait­ing for her at the door, tail wag­ging fu­ri­ously.

‘He’s very good once he gets over his ex­cite­ment,’ she told Doug. ‘A per­fect gen­tle­man!’

Peo­ple she’d never met be­fore would stop and chat when they saw Bruno, and she was re­minded that dogs were of­ten a bond that brought peo­ple to­gether.

Af­ter each walk, Doug would of­fer Cathy a cup of tea, and she’d tell him who she and Bruno had met.

Even when he’d re­cov­ered, Doug asked her to carry on walking Bruno.

‘He’d miss you,’ he told her. Some­times Doug would join them on the walk and they’d wan­der around the park, putting the world to rights.

‘I work from home,’ he’d ex­plained. ‘Com­put­ers. Some days I only see the post­man.

It’s so nice to have com­pany.’

Cathy felt the same. She’d felt lonely since Robert’s death.

But walking Bruno had given her a new sense of pur­pose.

For a mo­ment, Doug and Cathy had locked eyes, then both looked shyly away.

She’d got so used to their walks that it came as a ter­ri­ble shock when Bruno sud­denly fell ill.

‘The vet said it’s just old age,’ Doug told her one morn­ing when Bruno didn’t ap­pear at the door. ‘He’s usu­ally a lively lad, but he’s older than he looks.’

Doug’s eyes misted. Cathy wanted to say she’d be there for him. But she didn’t, wor­ried it would seem like an im­po­si­tion.

The next week, when she went round to Doug’s, she knew im­me­di­ately Bruno wasn’t there.

‘I’m sorry not to have called you, but I wanted tell you in per­son. There was noth­ing the vet could do,’ Doug said qui­etly.

To­gether they scat­tered Bruno’s ashes, then sat on a bench in the park. Cathy felt a heavy sad­ness de­scend on her, but re­alised it was about more than los­ing Bruno. Then…

‘I sup­pose this is the last walk we’ll take to­gether?’ said Doug. ‘Un­less…’

‘Un­less what, Doug?’

Cathy willed more words out of him, but they didn’t come. He just shook his head and mur­mured apolo­get­i­cally that it didn’t mat­ter, and the hope in­side her was quashed.

It wasn’t long af­ter­wards that she’d spot­ted the dog vi­o­let at the gar­den cen­tre and bought it on an im­pulse for Doug. She could have left her gift by the back door, but some­thing told her to seek him out.

She headed to the park and the bench where they’d sat to­gether. She could see the back of his blond head as she walked across the grass. He looked de­feated.

‘Hello, Doug,’ she said gen­tly, sit­ting down. ‘I’ve brought you a plant – a dog vi­o­let. I know you miss Bruno. I hope this will re­mind you of him.’

Doug’s eyes searched

Cathy’s face.

‘Thank you for the plant,’ he said. ‘It’s a lovely gift. And the flow­ers are the colour of your eyes. I do miss Bruno, Cathy, but I miss you, too.’

‘And I miss you, Doug.’

She gath­ered her courage. What was there to lose?

‘Why don’t we have a walk each day to­gether, just you and me, from now on?’

‘Yes, I’d like that,’ Doug replied, smil­ing. ‘I wanted to ask you that be­fore, but didn’t have the nerve.’

‘It doesn’t mat­ter.’ She gave his hand a gen­tle squeeze.

‘Let’s start from to­day.’

At first, it felt odd walking along with­out Bruno pulling on his lead, so Cathy slipped her hand into Doug’s. Per­haps one day Doug would get an­other dog, just as lively and lov­ing as Bruno. But for now, the two of them felt just right.

When she went round to Doug’s, she knew im­me­di­ately Bruno wasn’t there

© Mag­gie Pri­mavesi, 2018

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