One of my favorite neighbors lives two doors down. He’s a fabulously frumpy and usually mostly grumpy old man with a heart of gold. I’ve written about him before, just after we had our first and one of my favorite quick conversations of all time. He has a little terrier named Lily that he walks with every day for several hours. They’ll leave sometime late morning and if I catch them walking by my house we’ll come up with some quick and amusing banter and then off they’ll go until late afternoon at least. Raymond loves Lily. He’s said more than a few times, “Yep, this little gal’s my best friend, I guess.”

Any time I catch him on the start or end of his walk he’ll tell me one of three stories about Lily that I have heard somewhere between 10 and 50 times already. I’m not sure if he realizes he keeps telling the same stories or if he even cares. I listen, quickly realizing which of the three it’s going to be and laugh where I did the first time. As the story unfolds I say, “oh wow” exactly where I should and where I did the first time I heard it, and eventually end with some sort of closer like, “Well, at least you’ll never need an exterminator” just like I do each time I hear it.

A few weeks ago I noticed him walk by without the dog. I opened my front door and asked, “Hey, Raymond, where’s Lily?” He stopped walking and sort of shouted, “Who?”

“Your dog, Lily.” I said.

“He looked away and at the ground and said, “Oh her. Eagle got her last weekend. She’s gone.”

This was not one of the three stories I had ever heard and if I had heard correctly it seemed an unbelievable one. “What?!” I yelped. “What do you mean an eagle got her?”

Raymond, still looking at the ground, said, “Yep. Was up in the mountains with her, like we do. Let her off the leash, like I do, and she never came back. I seen that eagle before. I know that’s what got her. So, Lily’s gone.”

All I could say was “wow” and “I’m so, so sorry, Raymond.”

He finally looked up at me and said, “Ya well, there’s a little puppy in Olympia I already picked out. Still suckling so I gotta wait a few more weeks. Same breed. Only difference is she’s got two black eyes.” (Lily had a big black spot over her left eye.)

“Well, that’s great. What are you going to name her?” I asked.

Raymond thought a minute. “Think I’ll name her the same. Call her Lily.”

I’m not going to lie, I thought this was a bit strange, but the whole story was strange and the poor guy just lost his little best friend to a huge bird so I immediately replied, “Well, that sounds like a great idea.”

He started to walk his long walk alone and I went back inside and on with my day.

~     ~     ~     ~     ~

Tonight, a few weeks after that conversation, I ran into Raymond again. He patted The Seal and told me the same two stories he always does about labs (one is about how great their shit is for growing flowers) and I asked, “So, when is the new pup coming home?”

Raymond smiled big and said, “Two weeks.”

I told him he needed to bring her by as soon as she showed up and asked if he was still going to name her Lily. He said, “Well, everyone wants to name her Jazz.” I replied that I thought that sounded like a great name.

He responded, “Ya well, I like Lily best.”

“Well, Raymond, it’s your dog, name her what you want.” I said.

Raymond nodded his head back and forth, “Well, there’s another person involved with this new dog and her name.” (I assumed correctly that he was talking about his ex wife.)

I asked, “Does this other person with a say happen to be a woman?”

He smiled and nodded.

“Well then” I said, “Good luck with your new dog, Jazz.”

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