He pulled up the drive slowly, enjoying the hum of his new Jeep, fresh from the dealership, and the scenery. As much as the property in the Salinas foothills isolated him, it nourished Joe’s soul, especially on a clear blue day like today. The sun lit the oaks and cast early afternoon shadows that almost hugged the trees as noon faded away. He rolled down the driver’s side window to catch the chatter of blue jays and inhale the scent of sweet, dry grass that cattle grazed. He was alone, but he wasn’t lonely. It had taken only a month on house arrest, with Daniel and Ryan present, to help get him back on his feet and back to the new early days of a life without alcohol. He’d accepted the pain and embraced it. Pushing it down had only pushed Wendy away. Acceptance brought healing in an unusual way, he mused. And Addie. Just knowing how happy she would be to see him, quickened his heart as he pulled under the great oak that shaded his drive. There she was, wagging her body, greeting him with a prance and a bow.
“Hey, girl!” He got out of the Jeep and wrapped her in a bear hug, both giving the other a nuzzle. She licked his face; she ran and brought back a tennis ball. Joe obliged and threw it high and far, deep onto the property. Addie shot forward like a bullet. He waited while she tracked it and sniffed it out, then joyfully returned it to him.
Addie sat expectantly and Joe threw the ball for half of an hour before they both went inside for a drink of water. Joe watched the Golden Retriever lap at the bowl while he finished his bottle of Aquafina. Ryan had been so right. Addie was just what he needed. She’d arrived fully trained at the age of three years. There would be no extra fuss or puppy days to work through which was ideal for him at this state in life. Addie and he were fast buddies through and through and he enjoyed her company so much that he found his days full and complete, centered around her. Thanks to Addie, Joe enjoyed walking twice daily and rode through the country in the new Jeep with her. She slept alongside him and licked away his tears when the loss of Wendy haunted him. She nudged him until he wrapped an arm around her and fell asleep that way, comforted and content knowing that the night would carry on in peace and a good day would follow. As the months passed and became a year, Joe accepted Wendy’s absence and when the divorce papers were served, he accepted those as well. She had never contacted him personally at any time since she’d left, and he had kept his word about not attempting to contact her, though he often dreamt of seeing her again, offering apologies and comfort. He missed her. He often talked to her as if she were there and Addie would watch him inquisitively, then nudge his hand until he smiled down and pet her.