Gus

I feel a wet nose on my hand as I wait in line to board the bus, and I look down to see that it’s attached to a young yellow lab. His bright eyes peer up at me, almost glittering against his bright golden fur. My first instinct is to reach out and pet it, at least until I notice the working dog harness that’s attached to it. The woman holding the other end of the harness pulls the dog back as he stretches to sniff my treat pouch belt.

“Gus, lay down,” she commands him. He persists in sniffing my treats, and she pulls him again. “Gus.”

He reluctantly lays down on the ground, careful to stay right next to her legs. He can’t be more than two years old, and I find myself impressed by his behavior. “I’m sorry,” I tell the woman, fingering my treat pouch. “I just came from walking dogs, and he smelled my treat pouch full of Chewy Louies. I’ll put them in my bag.”

Her laugh is surprisingly high for an older woman, and I smile as she turns towards me, even though she can’t see it. “It’s okay, he works for treats. You can give him one if you have an extra.” To the dog, she adds, “Gus, up!”

Gus stands up immediately, his four paws squared and his tail curved upward; his ears are perked for the next command. I bend down slightly and feed him the treat, and I swear he smiles a little as he devours it. His tail wags only slightly, as the urge to be excited loses out to his drive to work for his owner.

“What a good dog,” I say.

The bus pulls up. “What number is it?” Her hand tightens on the harness.

I look out the window, playing her eyes. “The 166. Which bus do you need?”

“Oh, any of these.” There are four buses that go down our street, and they all stop at this same part of the bus terminal.

People start to move, and Gus goes to work, leading her out to the bus. The people in front of them let the door slam back, and I reach around them quickly to stop it from ramming into Gus. He takes the first step on to the bus and then the second, seeming to know precisely where he’s supposed to go. I wonder how often they make this trip as I offer the woman my hand as she takes the first step, as Gus waits for her to move, step by step. We sit next to each other in the front seat, my favorite spot. Gus lays down between the woman’s legs, his nose on his paws, sniffing the half wall in front of our seat.

“What a good dog,” I say again.

“My old guide dog passed away last month. I’m still breaking this one in. But I trust him, and I know he’ll take care of me.” She reaches down to pat Gus on the head.

Oh, to have that, I think. Oh, to have that.

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