Is there a dog out there?
Even as my father asks the question and I answer, "Archie, you mean is Archie out there?"
I wonder. Does the world exist for him as bursts of time and as each moment breaks to his surface, is he a stranded time traveler left to assess his territory? If we stopped coming by, a few caregivers from now, would he no longer have a dog because he no longer remembered to let him back in at night? Could the dog wander away due to neglect and loneliness and my father would cease to remember his existence?
Or is it simply he has momentarily forgotten Archie's name and is trying to verify his dog's location?
Moments later he asks if I will let the dog out. When I rise to my feet, he turns and tells Archie , "There she'll let you out.". Is it my imagination or is his tone not like that which you use with a dog, but more like speaking to another human? I flash on a month or two earlier when Archie was drinking the pond water and my dad yelled "Hey you! Stop that!"
It creates the illusion that we foisted a dog upon my father. Of course, that's because I know. His dog, my dad's true dog, was Mike, who had been dead less than a year when my mother pushed my father into buying Archie. Her intentions were good. Retired, not getting younger and getting set in his ways, if they waited too long, my father would never have a dog again. Did my mother foresee a time when she would be gone and his only solace would be his dog? If so, she got it wrong by one dog. Archie was a dog, but Mike was like my father's soulmate. Mike put up with my father's bait and switch teasing as if it were normal, expected behavior. That was far beyond the skill set of Archie ...... Or me.