Yesterday an old and spindly man carrying a canvas rucksack got on the S42 train. By his side, ranging far beyond his hip, was the largest dog I have ever seen. The animal’s expansive snout was curved into an unmissable expression of contentment and its panting caused a pleasant breeze to waft in my direction. The pair captured the attention of the entire carriage. One lady gasped and another simply pointed and shook her head.
The considerate hound immediately dove under a row of seats and stretched out its gargantuan mass. The old man plonked himself down nearby. I chose the seat next to him. I had to keep my legs dangled in the air because a portion of the canine was jutting out far beyond the area beneath the seat. The old man took out a newspaper and I opened my book.Shortly after I felt him abandon the paper and read over my shoulder. I hoped my leisurely reading pace suited his. The book was The Diving Bell and The Butterfly. Its author, Jean-Dominique Bauby, a French journalist, became paralysed after a stroke and could only communicate by blinking. He died at the age of forty-four.
The man and his enormous dog stayed on the train for five stops. As he was getting ready to disembark, one of the ladies, who had been staring unashamedly the whole time, blurted out, “How much does he weigh?”
“Sixty seven kilos,” the old man replied in a flash and added, “He’s not a Saint Bernard either; he just looks like one.”
The lady nodded earnestly. “And how old is he?”
The doors slid open and the old man stepped forward. Then he hesitated and turned around again.
He looked the lady in the eye.
“He’s the best thing ever to happen to me,” he said.
Then the doors closed and they were gone.