The car crept along, just below the speed limit, on a rather dreary February 14th. Valentine's Day. Sugar felt a familiar sense of loneliness coupled with early evening hunger pangs. She kept her eyes fixed on the short driveways and the trees thick with Spring greenery as her owner plodded home in their 10-year-old Honda. As usual, Sugar was never quite sure of her owner's comfort behind the wheel; being a canine, she couldn't properly conceive of why she sensed his uncertainty, but she was certain that his eagerness to throw the ball around or take a hike had waned markedly over the last few years. She missed this ritual and longed for a playmate, maybe even another dog to share her enthusiasm for fetching sticks and filing her teeth on a good, solid piece of braided rope.
Sugar's owner approached the red light at a snail's pace. Hunger and lethargy had begun to blur Sugar's view of the street outside, yet through the fog she caught sight of something that made her ears perk up. When she registered the handsome Golden Retriever smiling goofily at her from the car alongside them, Sugar sensed a kindred spirit behind the deep hazel eyes intently gazing at her. For the first time in months, she lifted her aching body up and stuck her head out the window, trying to reach her potential playmate. She smiled and felt a surge of pride thinking about the red bandanna adorning her neck; both a festive accessory and her trademark. Sugar let out a soft bark of greeting, to which the handsome Golden responded with a low, friendly "ruff!". Sugar felt encouraged when she saw her owner look over and smile thoughtfully at the Golden's distinguished-looking owner, a woman of about 65 with flowing silvery hair. As the light turned green, Sugar felt a rush of panic; her new friend might be gone forever and they hadn't even played tug-of-war yet! Sugar layed down in the backseat, dejected.
A few minutes later, Sugar and her owner reached their little home. Slowly, Sugar dragged herself out of the Honda, hunger her only motivation for moving. As she began her sluggish steps toward the front door, she heard an engine purr and shut down closely behind her. Sugar turned around and instantly became elated. Her new friend!!! She bounded toward the car and happily pounced on the handsome Golden as he jumped gleefully out of the backseat.
"Henry, sit!" exclaimed his silvery-haired owner, looking flustered.
"Sugar, come here!" her owner called to her. She sensed a shift in his energy; all of a sudden there was renewed vigor in his voice and manner.
"I'm sorry about that, she just gets excited." her owner explained, giving Sugar's neck a loving scratch.
"Oh, that's alright. Henry is just as shameless." replied the woman with the silvery hair, smiling at Sugar's owner. Sugar didn't know what to make of this exchange, but she knew she wanted Henry and the woman with silvery hair to stay forever.
"I'm sure they'll be good company for each other while we're at dinner." said Sugar's owner, a grin spreading unabashedly across his face.
"Absolutely. I'm glad this worked out; I haven't had a date for Valentine's Day in about 10 years." said Henry's owner, blushing a deep red.
"It's been about the same for me. I'm glad you made it. You look just as beautiful as you did when we were in college...", Sugar's owner had a look in his eyes that she recognized, but she couldn't recall the last time she had seen it.
"You've aged quite well yourself."
"Well, thank you."
"Let's get these two some dinner, shall we?"
"Sounds good to me. C'mon, Sugar!"
Sugar and Henry spent the evening sharing marrow bones, wrestling, and eventually taking naps alongside each other. Somehow, Sugar knew this would become her new ritual. As she dozed off with Henry's warm body beside her, she felt a sense of bliss she had been missing for many months. It was certainly a Valentine's Day to remember.