It was an optimal summer job for a nineteen-year-old on hiatus from junior college. The student paper’s help wanted ad requested, “Dog sitter needed for elderly dog.” This said dog was in Paris, of all the lucky places for a dog lover. Kaitlyn crossed her fingers and applied. Would a Parisian dog owner accept a sitter from Rochester, Minnesota? Her folks would foot the airfare, but her day-to-day expenses were on her. Three weeks in Paris, a young girl’s dream. She emailed her resume and a half-page letter covering how she’d had a favorite golden retriever for the past ten years and what an asset Booker, their “mascot and cheerleader,” was to her family.
The positive response came the next day, followed by a phone call. Raphael’s owners established how she would be returning for her last year in September and not moving in on any level. Now retired, they had spent many summers at the Mayo Clinic, filling in for physicians on vacation. Kaitlyn had never been to Paris or even to Europe but had two years studying French. This was a rare opportunity to practice what she’d learned.
A departure date was set, and Kaitlyn was good to go. Mrs. Robinson said upon her arrival, “Raphael, our wonderful Scottie, is getting along in years, as we are. My husband and I thought it best to leave him in his familiar surroundings while we summered in Lyon, the south of France.” Raphael listened as attentively as Kaitlyn did to their instructions. “He does take several pills, and that’s all laid out in the instructions on the counter.” She gestured to the nearby shelf, heavy with a trove of pills. “Raphael gets at least two walks a day. He also has this weighted thunder shirt, if he has any anxiety.” She held up a small flannel dog jacket, of sorts.
Numbers, locations, and contacts were exchanged, and before Kaitlyn knew it, the Robinsons were off. Raphael gave a soft “woof” and headed for his doggie bed.
The first week went well. Raphael ate heartily. Took his pills and walked gingerly. The second week he slowed down and was a bit unsteady on his feet. A trip to the vet confirmed he had an inoperable blockage, and before the day was gone, so was Raphael.
“He was a good soul,” Mrs. Robinson said, accepting his death gracefully. “My husband wants you to bring him down here for his final resting at our summer place. We can bury him in our flower garden, where he spent many delightful hours. It will be his final peaceful place.”
The next morning Kaitlyn and Raphael were ready for their trip. Kaitlyn planned to go directly to London after depositing Raphael with his owners. The Robinsons said they would meet her at the train station.
The Palais Royal Musee du Louvre was the closest subway. Kaitlyn would take the subway to catch a train down to Lyon. She dutifully locked up the house and started off with her two pieces of luggage, her own suitcase and the brown leather one with straps for her charge. She’d wrapped Raphael in his thunder shirt with two bath towels, his ID still around his neck and his favorite toy for company.
“Looks like you have a heavy load.” A young man, around her same age, appeared from nowhere as Kaitlyn approached the subway. “Here, let me help. I’m catching a train to Cannes and only have my one backpack.” He held up a small black sack. She gave him the brown leather case that was getting heavier by the moment. Together they rode down the escalator and trudged across to the platform, each pulling a suitcase. They both seemed to be taking the same train. Within moments it arrived, and they stepped off the platform together into the car and waited for others to board. Kaitlyn thought how nice it was to have this generous help with her bags.
Suddenly, just as the departure bell blared for final boarding and the doors began to close, her helper jumped free and exited the subway. He waved and smiled, holding tight to the leather suitcase, with Raphael intact, as the car slowly pulled away.
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