He didn't know how it happened. His Dad had called him to go for a ride, he liked rides, so into the truck he went, and they stopped at a field, and when he came back from his run, the truck was gone and Dad was gone.
He had been walking in the dark for three days now, no food, and no clean water. He was cold and tired and hungry, and the only distraction from the fleas were the burrs matted into his coat. Nothing looked right. Nothing smelled right.
He turned his head to a small, low house at the bottom of the hill. Something about it smelled familiar. From where? He didn't know. But he knew it was a safe place, somehow.
He trotted up the steps to the front porch. At least there was a roof, and a doormat. He curled up on the doormat and put his head on his paws.
Yeah. This seemed right.
"So it just showed up?"
"Yeah. Just hopped up on the porch and went to sleep."
"Going to keep it?"
"Sarah, it's almost winter. Maybe if it were spring, or summer, but we don't have anything to do with it now."
Sarah picked up the framed picture on her desk of herself, her brother, and her dog, Kipp.
"Kind of like what Kipp used to do, isn't it?"
After a second of dead air from her mother's end of the telephone line, the conversation turned to something else, but not Sarah's thoughts. What had it been, three, four years since Kipp died? The sheltie hadn't been the same after the stroke that cost him his hearing and sight, but he seemed no worse for several years after that. He passed away quietly in his sleep while Sarah was midway into her sophomore year at college, saving them all from having to take that final trip to the veternarian's, or more likely due to Kipp's attitude toward riding in cars, that last walk in the field while Dad loaded his shotgun. As she stared at the photo, memories came flooding back to her: running through the 12-acre woodlot in the backyard, chasing rabbits out of the garden, games of rip-the-rag...
...crying into Kipp's fur when no human could adequately assure her that she wasn't worthless. He would just stand there and let her, and somehow, Sarah always felt better.
"If he's still there... take him to a no-kill shelter, OK?"
"We'll see what we can do. Good night, love ya."
"Love ya lots, good night."
It was a good place. It took them a few days, but the humans eventually started feeding him. Water wasn't a problem. The old man from up the hill came down and left him a dish full after he had started drinking from the birdbath.
Sometimes he left him a cookie.
Things were as they should be, and somehow this bothered him. He had never been here before, but people smelled like people he should know. They acted like people he should know. But he didn't know them, or at least he thought he didn't.
He curled up on the porch again. Perhaps it would make sense after another nap.
Sarah was nearly home for Thanksgiving when it occurred to her- her parents had never actually told her what became of the collie.
It had been three weeks since the phone call. Sarah had been so worried about it that she called them both the next day to make sure they knew about the collie rescue group in Ohio and West Virginia. They had promised to look into it, but never let her know about it.
Too late to worry about it now, she thought as she steered her car down the street where she grew up. Not much had changed: turn right at the White Bear Inn, three houses and a field, turn left. She could do it in her sleep.
As she threw her car into park, she looked up toward the porch, particularly noticing the lack of a dog sleeping on it.
She popped the trunk and got out of the car. "Maybe they took my advice," she muttered sadly as she slung her duffel bag over her shoulder. She turned around to look into a pair of soulful brown eyes examining her from the hillside.
It was the collie, and he was waiting for some sort of input.
She cleared her throat. "Here, Kipp!"
He knew these people. He had protected these people. He loved these people.
He loved her.
A lifetime of memories came flooding back to him as large paws ate up the ground between his nose and her outstretched hand. How was she? Did she still cry? Did she still run? Did she still laugh and sing? He wanted to jump and see for himself, but he knew he wasn't to, they didn't like that. Instead he danced around her legs, avoiding the pack slung across her shoulder in case it fell- it hurt when it hit him last, even though she didn't mean it.
She laughed and cried, and ran with him up to the front porch, throwing her luggage to the side. She sat on the swing with him at her feet and stroked his head.
The Dog and his Girl sat on the porch, watching the colorful autumn sunset, two souls chasing each other through eternity. They sat in peace until her father found them like that, as if nothing had ever changed.
Nothing had changed.