I woke up later than usual on this one particular Saturday in May of 2010 and noticed a flash of movement outside the skinny window next to the front door of our home as I walked to the coffee maker in the kitchen.
Expecting javelina, I leaned to the side to see more and then I saw what it was. A beautiful blonde labrador-looking dog was sitting cock-eyed against the side wall of the front porch staring directly at me through the glass. His peering eyes were dark brown with a subtle tint of loneliness and fear.
I called Kim over to the window and said to her, “He knows he’s lost.”
Kim unlocked the deadbolt as easy as she could and cracked open the door about a foot. “Hi there,” is all she had to say.
Without a thought in his big bony head, the lost pup got up and came in just ahead of the hurried wag of his tail. He immediately began his search of smells first in the kitchen, then to every room in the house. Kim must have said, “Come here,” in every nice tone she had and at least fifty times until we finally got hold of his collar and stopped his intrigue.
“Let me see, do you have a name?” I asked as I spun the collar around to see the tags dangling from the rawhide. “I need my glasses,” I told Kim as she leaned closer to the unknown dog.
“Jake,” she announced. “Well hello Jake. It looks like you have a number too. Get the phone and I’ll read it to you.”
I grabbed the phone from the charger and told her I was ready. I tapped in the numbers as she read them off. There was no answer, so I left a message. “We’ll try later.”
I told Kim to hold onto him and that I would go get some strapping and make a leash to lead him. Our leash, we did have at one time, was in Kate’s yellow tennis-ball-colored casket buried out back by the strawberry patch under the yellow acacia.
Kate, my best friend, a beautful Norwegian cattle dog, had died only a couple of weeks before we met Jake. I was still grieving terribly.
I steered the runaway to the back yard and let him go. The backyard is sizable and Jake ran from one end to another over and over, nose to the ground at all times. I knew he could smell Kate. About an hour passed and the phone rang.
The man on the other side who I would soon find out was named, Jordan, said he’d be right there. Jordan lived about two blocks to the northwest on nice horse property filled with other dogs, horses and a pig. He came over immediately to gather his lost dog. We talked for quite a long time about my backyard, dogs, horses, horse racing and how much he thanked me for capturing his pet. He picked him up and put him in his truck and left.
A couple of weeks went by and as I was piddling around outside, a group of horses came down the wash that borders my backyard. I see so many, I usually just glance at whoever it is and do a half-hearted wave and continue on with my work. This time I hear a shout from a man and a young girl. “Hello!” they said, adding my last name preceded by ‘Mr.’ to the greeting. I quickly turned to see Jordan and his family on horseback walking west in the wash.
Jordan led the group up the granite driveway and introduced me as the man who saved Jake. We talked for a couple of minutes and they headed back west. What started out as ‘just neighbors’, quickly became friends. I would see Jordan’s family almost every weekend riding casually down the wash heading west and we’d greet each other and talk.
“How’s Jake?” I’d always ask.
“Being Jake my friend,” he’d answer. Then we would talk about how we needed to get together for a family barbecue. We eventually became Facebook friends and occasionally press a Like at each other’s postings. I remember the last time I saw Jordan on a horse out back. He stopped and told me his family had named this stretch of wash by my property where the gravel met the road.
“(My last name in the possessive) Crossing,” one of the kid’s announced. I told them I liked that a lot and how I thought it was for sure going to stick.
A month or so went by and I said to Kim how it was odd that I haven’t seen the Jordan clan anywhere. I checked my Facebook and Jordan was still there. Maybe they moved I thought? This was during bad economic times and anything could have happened. I wondered many things and all were bad.
“I need to go down and see if they’re still there,” I told Kim but never did. How unfriendly of me but I have always been somewhat of a loner. A year goes by and I’m not seeing anything of them at all on my Facebook or in the wash. I soon forgot to worry and soon forgot about seeing them at S&*^%$’s Crossing. Over time, we caught or was befriended by other dogs and returned each one successfully. I soon forgot about Jake. I soon forgot his name.
Two years goes by and I was coming out of a Home Depot and Jordan shouted out, “Hey guys!”
I instantly asked him, “Are you guys still around up here? I have’t seen anyone riding for a very long time.”
Jordan explained that he had been so busy with the kids and showing horses, that time had just flown by and that they don’t get a lot of time to do anything except to work on his new business. I thought he meant he changed jobs but then he explained his family and him were opening a new coffee shop on the Northwest corner of Dynamite and Tatum next to the Ace. He told us they were expecting to be opening soon and for us to come by. They were calling the shop, Saddlecreek Coffee Company. He handed me a card.
We said we would and left the store. I never saw Jordan again after that. I stopped by several times and peered through the window as work progressed but never saw anyone. I liked what I saw. At night, the sign was lit up and the ‘opening soon’ written on paper taped to the glass appeared. That was early September and later that month I noticed people sitting outside but I was on my way to the track and couldn’t stop.
Along comes the holiday weekend of Thanksgiving and I still haven’t stopped by to see Jordan and his shop. What? Couldn’t take the time? How unfriendly can one person get?
I woke up later than usual on this one particular Saturday in November of 2013 and noticed a flash of movement outside the skinny window next to the front door of our home as I walked to the coffee maker in the kitchen. Expecting javelina, I leaned to the side to see more and saw the empty wall flickering with a memory. I asked myself what was Jordan’s dog’s name on the porch and was it black, brown or yellow. I wasn’t sure, there had been way too many others at the door.
We had several cups of coffee and I couldn’t stop wondering about the lost dog. A ‘Blue Man’ type of dog like I describe in The Bailey Days of Summer. A frightened pup filled with significance but never knew it.
I told Kim, “We’re going down to Jordan’s place and get a cup of coffee,” even though we had our fill this morning.
Together we pulled into the parking lot and noticed several people inside holding newspapers or reading news on their iPads. A couple of young women sat at the table outside probably talking about family and friends.
“Jordan’s not going to be here today. It’s Saturday. He probably takes off on the weekends and lets his staff run it,” Kim assumed. I just shrugged off the possibility.
Once in the door, I could smell cinnamon rolls and thought about Mudbug and dunking our morning rolls in the steaming coffee at the track kitchen in Arlington. Kim and I walked up to the extensively food-filled counter and was welcomed to Saddlecreek by a young girl who asked if we knew what we wanted and if we had any questions. I was in awe of the shop’s layout and friendly attitude. Then after Kim had ordered, both of them stood staring at me wondering if I was going to talk or not.
“They have biscuits and gravy,” Kim said, knowing it would get my attention. My eyes were locked on the huge frosting-covered rolls on the other side of the glass but the mention of gravy broke my concentration.
“Really?” I asked. She was pointing at the, ‘Special’, sign board where the words, ‘Biscuits and Gravy’, were written in white chalk.
I asked the hostess how is the gravy and she said without hesitation, “Excellent”. I was sold.
We sat down and started in. My choice was great and the gravy truly was excellent. I got up to get Kim something off the counter when I hear Jordan call out my name. We shook hands and he said he had something to do right now but he would grab a cup and join us. Jordan finished then sat down and we asked how the shop was going and spent the next few minutes listening to how his adventure into ownership evolved into a dream of a lifetime.
This shop, Saddlecreek Coffee Company, is the best coffee shop around these parts and I might go so far to say the best in Arizona. So inviting and calming plus the service can’t be beat. Hellos and goodbyes are a music in the air as new and regular customers arrive and leave. The smells of home are everywhere. The line goes fast and everyone is either smiling or talking.
I broke into Kim and Jordan’s conversation. “What color was your dog we found. Was he black?”
“No, he was blonde.”
The image in my forgetfulness was coming back slowly. I slammed down another question before they could get back to their talk.
“I forgot his name?”
Jordan then told us the bad news how Jake had become very ill with disease and had passed away awhile back. I told him I was very sorry about Jake and how I’d forgotten him because it had been so long and our house seems to be the house where all the strays end up. I looked at Kim for agreement and behind her outside the glass of the front wall, a woman strolls by with a golden and beautiful blonde mix on a leash. I’m not positive but I really thinks the dog looked at me through the windows.
That’s when it all came back. Jake running around the yard like a crazy dog, thundering head-first through the bushes as he mindlessly chased the rabbits, bouncing off and rearranging every piece of lawn furniture and galloping through the pond like there was no tomorrow. How could I have forgotten that? How could I forgotten the blonde dog named Jake who I had led outside with a strap? How did I not know that all this time, it was the other way? Jake was the one who had led me.
And now today, Jake, being Jake, is leading me once again as he had done before, so long ago.
He’s leading me back to a friend.
“The best part of life starts at the head of the stretch.”