Here’s the story of Barlow. I’m not sure what to do…

On Monday, I am loading six weeks worth of dirty laundry into the backseat of my car for a trip to the laundromat. I hoist the last heavy bag of dirty clothes onto my shoulder, lock my door, and head for the stairs happy to be finally getting this project underway as I’d been putting it off at least two weeks too long. Yet on this day I wasn’t meant to do laundry. On the way up the stairs creeping toward me was a small dog. He’d obviously followed me. He had no leash and no owner in sight, obviously an early morning tragedy for someone, whether they’d discovered his absence yet or not. I set down the bag of clothes and knelt down to meet the lost pup. He’d followed me and I felt like he needed my help. Perhaps I’m the biggest sucker I know for helping people and things. I just feel responsible if something like this falls into my lap, or creeps up the stairs as it did in this case.

Ignoring the laundry in my car, I tied the dog to the bannister outside my home and a compassionate neighbor and I began making phone calls and sending out emails with his picture to local apartment leasing offices in hopes that someone had seen him or would call inquiring about him. His picture is up on the local lost animal website. I drove him to a local vet and had him scanned for a microchip. It’s been 48 hours and no luck so far. So I have an adorable, demure, spotted beagle mix roaming my house, infesting my home and my other dog with fleas.  I didn’t want to take it to the pound for fear it would be destroyed. I didn’t want to take it to the SPCA yet because they’d turn around and put it up for adoption making it nearly impossible for its original owner to find him.

He’s kind of an asshole–barks all the time when I’m not in sight. He follows me from room to room and rests at my feet. I named him Barlow (after a song my friend made about a vampire who steals shoes) because I was tired of calling him “Hey Animal” or “Hey Fucker.” All he wants to do is sleep and ignores my other dog who tries incessantly to play with it.  Since he’s come to my house I’ve been in limbo. I’m not used to having a third being around. I have a hard time tuning out his presence. I wonder if I’m really holding someone else’s best friend for a few days or if I’m supposed to bond with him and let myself like him or if I should make a cut-off date for his stay at my bed and breakfast and tote him down to the SPCA to put him up for adoption. All seem equally possible.

I imagine keeping him and introducing him to my future family. He’ll be a friend for more than just me. I’ll learn to deal with two dogs. I’ll eventually look at him and looking back at me will no longer be an interloper, but a friend. My current dog, Inca, will learn to trust the extra dog in the house and stop looking at me for an explanation. I imagine caring for him through his life, training him as well as my other dog, making him even more pleasant to be around. I imagine toting both dogs around town on short errands.
I also imagine taking him to the SPCA tomorrow and forgetting about him. I’ll be no worse  
for the wear. I’ll know I still did the right thing. He’ll be a planned and welcomed addition to someone else’s family. He doesn’t like to  play with my current dog anyway. He has fleas and balls. He’ll be an additional financial liability which is nerve wracking since I’m moving to a fixed income soon. The neighbors are calling to complain about him barking nonstop when I’m gone. I’m perfectly happy with my current dog who is so well-behaved and so intuitive.
And I imagine him being reunited with his owner. He’ll get to sit in the familiar front seat of his owner’s car again. Pee on the same bushes. Right now there’s a chance he’ll never hear his name again. There’s a half-eaten bag of dog food in someone’s garage or kitchen that he’ll never return to eat. Someone’s window seat or spot on the couch lined with his hair is empty. Someone has lost a friend. Was it a family? An older man who lived alone? A young married couple? Did the dog live among curry and rice or oven-baked pizzas for the family’s Friday dinner? Does he have a yard somewhere? A street he’s used to walking up and down on a leash? I’ll never know. He’s being currently reprogrammed with a new name and every day that passes wipes away his old home and chances of being returned to his past.

It’s amazing how things change in a day. One morning he woke up and ate breakfast with his owner. Fate planned his lunch with a good Samaritan and every meal thereafter, possibly. I’m not sure I’m ready to have my life changed, but his presence isn’t killing me either. I didn’t expect this. I’m trying to do the right thing in a situation where it will never be apparent what that is. He’s alright for now. Really soft. I’m thinking maybe.