Time shifted away from me again, and when I returned, an overgrown white dog guarded the garden gate.
It was Dustin, grown from an adorable pup into a handsome dog.
He looked like a schnauzer with spaniel ears.
He must have taken all of Bartholomew’s coaching to heart, for he’d developed a dignified manner.
He’d kept his predilection for water and became a fan of the daily dip, looking dignified even when doing the dog paddle.
I felt a debt of gratitude towards Lucas, rearing this pup so well, and beneath the debt sat the weight of guilt. What had we done in asking Lucas to give up his life for us, for our pups?
One night, I found Lucas sitting at the poolside eating breakfast for midnight snack. Was he lonely? Fulfilled?
He seemed happy enough. And we surely left him rich enough. But could this be enough? A young man wants a career, purpose, family, friends…
Tanvi had told me he’d wanted to be a master artist, and that was what had attracted him to the position in the first place–a place to stay while he worked on his art. His paintings remained mediocre. Nothing special–copies of work I’d done and hung about the house. He hadn’t progressed much.
Poor kid. He probably never had the chance to practice, with six dogs and a cat to look after. Someone would always be needing something.
And did he even know anyone outside of the gardener and maid?
His mom had been Tanvi’s age, and she crossed over about the time Tanvi did. We passed her spirit now and then, and she asked after her son. Don’t let him have regrets! she moaned.
Still, whenever I stopped by, he seemed happy enough, cheerful, even. His eyes sparkled more than they had when he’d been a little boy, running through the fields after grasshoppers.
And he surely loved Otter and the dogs. He was close with all of them, but he and Dustin seemed to share a special bond, likely because he was there when Dustin was born.
One afternoon, I heard laughter from the house. When I blew through, I found the living room full of blond Lucas clones.
His brother Wolfgang sat on the couch, and with them was a girl with funny top-knot braids, a goofy Lucas smile, and twinkling blue eyes.
Caleb seemed confused by the genetic echoes. I wondered if they carried a family scent.
“Why can’t we get a dog, Dad?” she whined. “Uncle Gunther, don’t you think it would make me more responsible if I had a dog?”
So it was Lucas’s niece, Wolfgang’s daughter. She certainly seemed to like the dogs a lot, even if they weren’t too sure what to make of her.
“There aren’t any more dogs up for adoption,” Wolfgang said. “Lucas has them all. Every single fricking dog in the universe.”
“He’s cornered the market,” said Gunther.
“Can I have one of your dogs, Uncle Lucas?” she asked.
“That’s a thought, Ember. I’m not sure if the dogs would go for that?” Lucas said. “They’re kind of attached to this home? And they’re very attached to each other?”
Mochi looked at Lucas as if she wished, for once, his assertions wouldn’t end in question marks.
“But look how cute they are!” she said. “I think they like me!”
Uncle Gunther chuckled to himself as he took out the trash. “Six dogs and a cat. And my little brother is thinking up reasons to keep them all. That’s so Lucas.”
That’s so Lucas.
I thought hard about that. He had a chance to lighten his load. Surely, re-homing with his own family, with a cute girl who loved dogs, presented a viable solution!
But maybe there was no problem.
Maybe this lifestyle was so very Lucas that it was the life he wanted. Maybe he had no regrets with things just as they were. Happy dog. Happy person.