89: Home Away from Home

89: Home Away from Home

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

Home Away from Home

A good dog deserves a good home.

~Proverb

My son Matt, his dog Fonzy, and I were on a mission. We had to find off-campus housing for the new school year, a task that proved to be more difficult than we ever imagined.

We studied the local newspaper in his college town. Checked out apartments, condos, and houses as close to school as possible. To our dismay, most people didn’t want to rent to college students. And to make it more difficult, there was a dog involved. We decided to consult a property management company and a real estate agent. To our dismay, both offered apologies. “We’re sorry, but we don’t have any vacancies that allow pets of any kind. But we’ll keep your application on file and let you know if something becomes available.”

Our frustration grew but we continued our intense efforts—all without success. Finally, my son suggested we investigate the next town. “I won’t mind getting up twenty minutes earlier to drive to my morning classes. I just want to find a place for me and Fonzy.” Matt’s determination spurred us on, but to no avail. It appeared Fonzy would have to return home with me until the housing situation changed.

We decided to return to the motel, have dinner, and just take it easy. We’d continue our quest the next day. But for some unknown reason, Matt turned onto another street. “Let’s just drive around. Maybe . . .” He never finished his thought, for right in front of us was a big red “For Rent” sign in the window of an older house bearing a handyman special add-on-wing.

It wasn’t far from school and it had a small back yard. Mrs. Duffy, the friendly property owner, an elderly grandmother-type, welcomed us as if we were old friends. She explained she had never rented out space before but now needed the extra money.

“I was actually hoping for a student to come by. I need someone to mow the lawn, shovel the snow and maybe run an errand or two for me.” She frowned and added, “But usually the college kids want something fancier.”

Matt didn’t hesitate. “This is just what I’m looking for, Mrs. Duffy. And, I have lots of experience mowing, shoveling and running errands. Just ask my mom.” It appeared to be a perfect match. “There’s one thing you must know,” he told her before heading out to the car to get his dog. “This is my best friend, Fonzy. He’s very friendly and we both need a place to live.”

“I love dogs,” she said. “Have one of my own. A cute little Scottish Terrier named Angus.” Mrs. Duffy offered Fonzy a doggy treat.

“My home away from home,” became Matt’s favorite description of his new rental. As for Fonzy, he seemed to be happy wherever he lived, as long as he was with his person. When Matt would have class, he’d put Fonzy in the yard with food and water, and check on him during the day as time allowed. He always worried about his dog being home alone for a good part of the day, but resilient Fonzy never acted like anything bothered him.

One day, Matt’s schedule delayed him from getting home at his usual time. When he did arrive, Fonzy was missing. He looked everywhere: under the bed, behind the sofa and in the kitchen pantry, thinking he might have forgotten to put him out; along the fence line, thinking Fonzy might have dug a hole and squeezed out; around the neighborhood, thinking he left the gate to the yard open. Heartsick, Matt finally consulted with Mrs. Duffy to see if she had seen Fonzy.

She didn’t say anything—just invited him to come inside. Maybe Fonzy was sick or injured! Matt didn’t know what to think or expect. Once in the living room, to his surprise, he discovered Fonzy, curled up on a blanket, and snuggled next to Angus. Matt learned Fonzy had been visiting them every day since they moved there. “He’s learned to squeeze in through the doggy door.”

Embarrassed, Matt apologized for Fonzy’s rudeness. “I just didn’t know.”

“Don’t worry about it. He’s become part of my family, too. This is his home away from home.” She led him into the laundry room. “See, he has his own water bowl and favorite toy.” Mrs. Duffy’s smile assured Matt all was well. “He and Angus are like brothers.”

“Well, I thank you for taking care of him, but it’s time he goes home.” Matt tried to coax Fonzy out of the house, but he would not budge.

Mrs. Duffy came to the rescue. “He and I have this ritual. He doesn’t leave until I give him his treat.”

Matt stood there, shaking his head as he watched in disbelief. Fonzy munched his biscuit, then meandered out the doggy door, without any coaxing, and straight to the back door of his house. “All I can say, Mrs. Duffy, is that having a home away from home has special meaning for Fonzy too.”

~Helen Colella

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