We do the same, assessing Bob, in baseball cap and navy windbreaker, his dark skin wet from the falling rain. "Have you had other dogs? Why do you want a pug?" I ask. "I used to have Boston terriers," he answers as he launches into a tale about his 88-year-old mother and her health, explaining that a pug would be better suited to remaining at home with her all day. He starts talking about puppy toys and clothes, a Halloween spider costume for Kensington and even as Joan says, "You're mighty sure of yourself aren't you? Pretty sure you're going to get a pup?" I realize that I already like him. The vibe is good. I know he will be taking Kensington home.
"I pick Kensington up. Big, black orbs stare out over the white tuft of fur at his neck. "This may be your puppy," I say, handing him to Bob. Kensington balls up in Bob's large hand, a black glob of puppy love, all head and belly.
"Do you have a name picked out," Joan says. "Don't tell me, whisper it to her." She nods in my direction. Bob leans in and does so.
"Bunja," he whispers.
"Bunja," I mime back. "What does it mean?"
"It's African royalty," he says.
"Tell Joan," I say.
Bunja. She likes it, so do I. We don't like the puppies' names to change, but this one fits. Joan could have come up with it herself. It rings unique.
We go inside and over pancakes and coffee, we tell our stories and ask our questions. They hear the oft-told tale of how Prime Minister Clement Attlee bestowed on Joan her first pug. We learn from them their doggie pedigrees. They read through our packet of information and ask questions about food and shots. We ask where the puppies will sleep. Then back into the rain, still falling hard and gray. We yearn for light and warmth and a brief reprieve for a proper goodbye to no avail. Another hand-off ensues.
I hand Margot to Bonnie with a kiss, helping to zip her into her carrier. And, then Kensington.
"Goodbye little boy," I say, handing him to Joan, who in turn kisses him and passes him to Bob.
She raises her face to the rain and tears echo full and hard down the surface of her face. I stare wide-eyed like the puppies. I have stood by Joan seeing scores of pugs off in the time that I have known her and this is the first time I have ever seen her cry. The world slows down as I watch wondering, why this pug? Why now? Her face flushes red, two rosy splotches in what has become a graying world. I reach out and pat her back. "Joan," I say with a half smile. "She never cries," I say to Bonnie and the men. "Joan?"
Salty tears mix with unforgiving rain, indistinguishable. The puppies blink, squint, and cock their heads, waiting and wondering what will happen next. They don't know they are leaving. I join them, perplexed. The world feels raw and tender and gentle like a baby's breath. Joan is feisty, strong, often unyielding. Here, she melts, offering a piece of her heart as a precious gift. Kensington, now Bunja, blinks away the rain. Joan her tears. Griffles, the puppies' mom, stares out from the crate in the car. Goodbyes are often wet and gray. Who knew that love looks the same?