Albert Payson Terhune, the famed dog writer of the 1920s and 1930s who authored the Lassie books, often told this story about his friend Wilson to illustrate the deep love that people and dogs share. It also shows how sometimes what seems to be in the best interest of all concerned may not apply when one of those concerned is a dog.
Wilson’s dog, Jack, was an energetic, six-year-old collie that would meet him every day at the trolley station when Wilson returned from work. This was a ritual that had begun when Jack was a pup. The dog knew the route to and from the station like the back of his paw—and following that route was the highlight of his day. So when Wilson changed jobs and had to move to California, he thought it best to leave Jack on his home turf in Philadelphia with a relative. He explained all this to the dog upon leaving and told him that they both would have to adjust to new homes.
But Jack didn’t want a new home. He would not stay with the family he’d been left with. He returned to Wilson’s old house, even though it was boarded up, and there he passed his solitary days beside an abandoned chair beneath the portico. But every evening, tail wagging, he trotted off to the trolley station. For as long as Jack had been in the world, Wilson had always taken the same trolley home from work, and Jack had been there to greet him. But evening after evening, there was no sign of the devoted dog’s master. Confused and sad, he would return alone to the deserted house.
The dog’s depression grew. He refused the food left for him, and as the days passed, he became thinner and thinner, his ribs noticeable even through his thick blond coat. But every evening, ever hopeful, he’d go to the station to meet the trolley. And every evening, he’d return to the porch more despondent than before.
No one knows why Jack’s new family didn’t contact Wilson, but Jack’s deteriorating condition did not go unnoticed. A friend who lived nearby was so upset by it that he took it upon himself to send a telegram to Wilson in California, informing him of the dog’s situation. That was all it took.
Wilson bought a return train ticket immediately; he knew what he had to do. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he waited several hours just so that he could take the same trolley that he always did when coming home. When it arrived at the station, sure enough, there was Jack, waiting and watching as the passengers got off. Looking and hoping. And then suddenly there he was, his beloved owner. His master had returned at last! Jack’s world was whole once more—and so was Wilson’s. Wilson later told Terhune, “Jack was sobbing almost like a child might sob. He was shivering all over as if he had a chill. And I? Well, I blew my nose and did a lot of fast winking.”
Wilson took his devoted dog, Jack, back to California with him. They were never separated again.
©2005. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.