I spend so much time writing about my crazy customers and the venal incompetents who run our marketplace, that sometimes I forget that amazingly good things happen in our midst also.
Our market is Amish-owned, but is supervised by an "Englisch" office manager whom we'll call Sadie. She is the cardinal opposite of an animal lover; she is the one who preferred calling Animal Control to working with a rescue organization when she discovered that there was an "infestation of mangy cats" (her exact words) near our dumpsters. Luckily we heard about this in time to rescue 11 cats and 6 kittens (one of whom is my beloved sidekick Ether).
Anyways, Sadie takes it very personally when people bring animals into the market. She once tried to get the city to pass a law exempting our building from being used to train service dogs. She couldn't prevent people with disabilities from using their dogs while shopping, but she felt that she should at least be able to keep out the service dog trainers.
On most market days, you could see an elderly beagle mix named Bucky tied to the bicycle rack in the shade while his owner, Rob, did his shopping. Rob and Bucky lived alone in a ramshackle trailer on someone else's farm. Neither one of them smelled too good, and they probably both had fleas. But we vendors were touched by their relationship: they never went anywhere without each other. Rob didn't own a car, so you'd see them walking up the road toward our little crossroads shopping district, or sitting outside the donut shop sharing a pint of milk, or playing together in the fields. Though Rob never went to the doctor (one story had him drunkenly stitching together a knife wound on his hand rather than dealing with the hardship of reaching the nearest emergency clinic several miles away), Bucky saw the veterinarian every time she came to the farm to check on the owner's horses. Even the Amish, who are not sentimental about animals, saved scraps and unattractive cuts of meat for Rob and Bucky.
One day last week, my delivery driver Kenny K. came in with tears in his eyes. Kenny is notoriously softhearted, despite his rough-and-tumble appearance and the large Harley-Davidson he uses to deliver my little pink bags of Doorbell Cosmetics, so it wasn't surprising to see him sniffling and wiping his eyes.
"What's going on?" I asked.
"Rob needs to put Bucky to sleep." The veterinarian had diagnosed inoperable cancer, and she recommended that Bucky be put down before the pain became too intense.
"You go get Bucky. Put him in my cart, and bring him in the back door. I'll deal with the Amish."
As it happened, Sadie was taking a day off, so at least I didn't have to deal with her. And when I explained what was happening, the Amish agreed to look the other way. I discovered that I wasn't the only person who went outside to pet Bucky while Rob was shopping. Everyone knew the dog and his devoted owner.
Kenny took the market van and drove back with Rob to his trailer. A half-hour later, Bucky was sitting on a quilt and parading down the aisles of the market in my cart. At the beginning, he was withdrawn, but he soon warmed to seeing his longtime friends. Andy, the owner of the cheese shop, settled Rob and Bucky into the food court and brought out a whole plate of samples. Bucky left exhausted but happy.
Four days later, the veterinarian came to the trailer and relieved Bucky of his suffering forever.
The owner of our pet shop and our sign maker donated an engraved plaque for the trailer's front yard, and we had an impromptu wake for Bucky after closing time on the next Saturday. Rob attended, and we drank Kenny's homemade wine and reminisced about what a great dog Bucky was.
Mother Teresa once said that we can do no great things; we can only do small things with great love. Hopefully, we were able to ease a little bit of Rob's heartbreak at losing his longtime companion (Bucky was 16 years old when he died, and Rob had adopted him as a puppy.)
Sadie came around the next weekend to collect rent, and pointedly reminded me that no animals are allowed in the market. But she had a wry smile on her face when she said it.