Gwen was mortified when her dog jumped up onto the old man’s lap and began to lick his face. He was a good dog, but he really needed some obedience training of some sort. He couldn’t go around jumping onto everyone that way.
“Bad dog!” she sighed, trying to pull Fred off of the man’s lap.
To her surprise, the old man wrapped his arms around the dog and laughed. Fred squirmed happily and licked his face again.
“Okay, Fred, really that’s enough,” Gwen said, finally pulling him down onto the ground. “I’m sorry, Mr. er.. uh.. Grandpa.”
“He doesn’t talk too much,” the other girl said, “So it’s okay if he doesn’t answer you. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t like you.” She handed the ice cream cone to the old man. He smiled and started to eat.
“If he’s not your Grandpa, then who does he belong to?” Gwen asked.
The other little girl turned to point to the building behind them.
“He lives over there,” she said and turned to point to the building on the other side of the park, “I live over there. I’m Annelise.”
“I’m Gwen,” Gwen said, “Do you bring him ice cream every day?”
Annelise shrugged. “Not every day – just when I have my allowance. Does Fred do any tricks?”
“Not really. He’s young yet, and he’s still learning. Do you have a dog?”
“No, I have a baby brother, though. He’s called Robbie.”
“Oh, I wish I had a baby brother or sister,” Gwen said, “I’m an only child except for Fred.”
Annelise laughed. The two little girls sat, happily chatting, and Barney sat contentedly eating his ice cream and enjoying the sunshine. They were watching a robin pulling at a worm when a lady came out of one of the apartment buildings.
“Who is that?” Gwen asked, “She’s coming over here.”
“Her name is Chloe,” Annelise said, “Grandpa is her Dad. She’s nice, too.”
“Well, hello,” Chloe smiled, “I see Dad has a couple of new friends.” She squatted down to greet Fred as he jumped up, tail wagging happily.
“Hi,” Gwen said, “I’m Gwen, and he’s Fred. We met Annelise at the ice cream parlor. She said we could meet her Grandpa, well, not her Grandpa, but … um … err …”
“Barney,” Chloe smiled, “He’s my Dad, and he’s Annelise’s friend.”
“Barney,” Gwen nodded. “Is he sick?”
“A little bit,” Chloe said, “He gets confused sometimes, and he doesn’t talk too much anymore.”
“Oh,” Gwen said, “Can I be his friend, too?”
“Certainly,” Chloe smiled, “He used to run the hardware store many years ago, and he always liked it when the kids stopped by. They were often the highlight of his day.”
“Sometimes just seeing a happy face is the best part of the day,” Gwen said. “I know when I am sad or lonely, Fred pants and smiles and makes me happy again.” She patted her dog’s head.
“That’s a very wise thing to say,” Chloe told her.
“Ice cream can make you happy, too,” Annelise said.
“That is true!” Chloe laughed, and Barney laughed, too.
Gwen sighed happily, glad to have made new friends today.
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