One morning Cletus was missing, so my rooster waited and watched from a sunny spot normally shared with her, his pal and protector. Cletus was a mostly blind and somewhat deaf 13 year-old redbone hound mix. She had the rooster convinced he was safe relaxing anywhere she was close.
The second and third mornings, after signaling the days arrival from his perch in a nearby cedar, he set up post in her doghouse. He came out briefly to eat his portion of her food and drink a bit from her waterbucket. Then he marched right back to the doghouse, sitting in the doorway watching and waiting.
Later in the week when I called for Cletus, knowing that was silly since she couldn’t hear my yells, the rooster circled me in expectation, anticipating the hound’s appearance from the brush she seldom ventured into anymore. But I did venture into the thick woods searching for our beloved hound.
The rooster waited for me, turning his back the moment I appeared without Cletus at my heels. That last week or two, she had strolled at my heels often, nudging my hand to get me to rub her ears or pat her belly if she dropped and rolled over playfully.
The night before she vanished, the rooster and I both visited Cletus a bit longer than usual. She was stretched out on a bed of straw, a comfortable option if she didn’t feel like using the doghouse. As I rubbed the tops of her ears and the soothing spot under her chin, she wagged her tail lazily to let me know she was enjoying the extra attention. The rooster hung around as though he wanted his ears rubbed, too.(I guess roosters have ears, somewhere).
I heard her that night, barking at the edge of the woods as she did sometimes if she caught the scent of a deer. Later, I remembered thinking her barking sounded far away.
She didn’t return. I gave the rooster her name.
This appeared in the Prospect-News, my hometown weekly, on July 15, 2015.