I am late for work. Today it seems I am late for many things. Late. The word bounces around in my head. I am numb.
I climb into my car, roll down the window and start my music. The Pet Shop Boys song Miracles fills my ears. No miracles for me today. I am on automatic pilot. I drive without seeing. I make my way through the familiar streets. I am numb.
The next song is The Promise by Tracy Chapman. One of my favorites. As I listen I am overcome with emotion. A single tear escapes my eye. Before I can wipe it away the floodgates open.
Little Red. That’s what I called him. A tiny little pup, so scared in the shelter. I met him three times. Each time he was in the same position—curled up in a ball, head pressed against his paws. He never moved.
I cannot get him out of my mind. I send his photo to my rescue contacts. I talk to my friend Yaiza to see if she had room. Everyone working together trying to find a place for this sweet boy who, for the moment had known nothing but sadness and fear in his young life.
His face fills my thoughts. His sad eyes. His tiny shaking body. In a split second I make a decision. I do not care that there is no rescue to back him. I do not care that there is no place for him to go yet. I decide that I will take him anyway. Almost as soon as I decide to go for it, Yaiza calls me. She cannot get him out of her mind either.
I email my contact at the shelter to start the ball moving. I am filled with purpose. I am excited to see Little Red take his first sniff of freedom. He does not know it yet, but his life will be one of joy and love.
My phone rings. I answer. It is the shelter. He wants to talk to me voice to voice. Impound number 4426472. Little Red. The boy who never knew love is gone. I am too late. Fifteen hours too late. My early indecision has cost him his life. I have failed him. Late. Numb. Failed. The words fill my head.
My heart is open and the sadness I feel cannot be ignored anymore. I have not let it touch me since I started going to the shelter. I knew if I started there was a huge possibility I would not be able to stop. Turns out I was right.
I am late for work. Silent tears roll down my face. My vision is blurred. Tracy continues to sing of the promise she made to someone special. The words I hear make me think of Little Red. I play it again. And again.
“If you wait for me, then I'll come for you. I’ll return and fill that space in your heart. I’ll find my way back to you. If you’ll be waiting. If you dream of me, like I dream of you. In a place that’s warm and dark. In a place where I can feel the beating of your heart. To see your face, your smile. To be with you where ever you are. Remembering…You can make a promise. If it’s one that you can keep.”
I didn’t keep my promise. Little Red waited and I never came. I was too late. If only. If only. Those words will haunt me forever, I think.
The only thing I can do is let the tears run their course. They do. Eventually. I am left with a hole in my heart—a hole that may not ever be filled. But, one thing is certain, Little Red will never be forgotten. He will be in my heart when I go back to the shelter. His death will not be in vain. And next time, I hope that all my promises can be kept.