Blue Mountain
by Jim Esch

I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the Blue Mountain rest stop, where I was walking my dog along a strip of grass out where they park the big rigs.
A middle-aged trucker approached me, walking the way you'd walk if you'd been driving way longer than you wanted to; he had the beaming face of a dog lover. A red cap on his head, a bit of abdomen spilling over the belt line.
"That's a beautiful dog. He's nice."
"Thank you."
"How old is he."
"She's nine years old. A Boston Terrier."
"I had a terrier that looked a lot like that dog. He was thirteen when he died, a couple weeks ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that. What kind of dog was it?"
"A rat terrier. Smartest dog I ever had. That sure is a beautiful dog. He died of kidney failure. I still aint over it."
His 18 wheeler was from Lewisburg Ohio.
"That dog could talk to you. It didn't bark like other dogs. It could use its voice to express itself. That's a beautiful dog you got there."
I nodded. He looked like he needed to talk more, and his eyes were tearing up.
"My dog suffered so the last two weeks -- kidney failure. I still don't feel quite right about the vertrinarian, letting him live like that. If I had known his kidneys were bad, I would've put him down, not make him suffer so."
"I'll tell ya, when it's my time, I hope I'm half as brave as that dog." He meant it.
I nodded. "Well, I guess we better get going. You take care." I meant it. One dog lover to another.
"Thank you. That's sure is one beautiful dog there."
He got into his truck. As we pulled out onto the highway, a pregnant woman in a cotton sweatsuit on a guard rail was waving to the cars whizzing by one by one. Holding her hand up like a talking hand puppet: hello, hello, hello.