He stood against the building breeze, watching as thick storm clouds gathered above the cemetery. He wiped his tears and sniffled, saying goodbye before the rains caught him on the open field.
He turned to leave but heard a dog whine somewhere among the many tombstones. Against his better judgment, he moved to investigate. What he found made him freeze in place.
Pete Richford was a young lecturer from North Carolina. At thirty-two, he’d achieved everything he’d set out to do in his life.
He had a great job, a perfect romantic life, and friends that supported him through everything he did. But despite his achievements, Pete had done something that most people his age rarely did.
Although Pete had made some really impressive steps in his life, he still lived next to his childhood home. A native of the town where he lived, Pete had the most beautiful relationship with his dad.
He’d grown up without a mom, with his dad taking on the role of mother and father. Now that he was grown up, he couldn’t picture a life away from his old man. But that was about to change.
It was a freezing night when Pete got a call from his dad, who’d been sick throughout the year. Although he sounded stronger on the call, something within Pete screamed at him to cross the street to check on him.
But Pete didn’t, choosing instead to hold the conversation over the phone. They talked for hours, his dad telling him how proud of him he was. Then Pete returned to sleep, unaware of what was about to happen.
Pete’s next call was from his dad’s caretaker in the morning, informing him she’d found his dad unresponsive. The hospital had declared him dead on arrival.
Pete couldn’t believe it. He was numb throughout the day, and as the weeks rolled by, all he could think about was how he spent his last moments with him on the phone instead of going to him. He had no idea what fate had in store for his future.
Guilt and missing his dad glued Pete to his dad’s grave. He’d thought the first few weeks after his passing were hard, but the months that followed were grueling.
Pete was talking to his dad that fateful afternoon when he noticed a storm rolling in. He wiped his wet eyes and got ready to leave. And that’s when he heard it.
The sound was a low whine which Pete immediately knew was coming from a dog. He cast his sight around the cemetery, searching for the animal.
The dog whined again, and Pete began looking around the tombstones. He knew many dogs loved spending time with their late owners. He couldn’t let such beautiful creatures be caught in the brewing storm.
A raindrop fell on his forehead as he hurried about, telling him he had to search faster. “Where are you,” Pete called out, frustration welling within him.
He felt compelled to at least shelter the dog from the rain. Maybe it would be a good start for not being there for his dad.
Frustrated, Pete stopped in his tracks. He held his knees, his eyes stinging with tears. I cannot fail again, he thought. He let out a troubled exhale and continued searching.
Pete doubled his efforts. Dark rain already blanketed the horizon. He listened closely to the dog’s whine, knowing it was distressed because of the encroaching storm.
Pete moved across the cemetery until he found the poor dog. She’d curled under a burrow next to one of the tombstones.
“Hey there, buddy,” Pete said, going to his knees. He wiped his eyes as a smile took his face. “A nasty storm’s coming,” he said as he stretched his hand to the dog. “Wanna come with?”
The dog, a tagless golden retriever, barked at Pete. “Is that a yes?” he asked, his smile broadening without his knowledge. “My car is that way,” he jutted his chin toward the cemetery’s gate.
“Not far at all,” he said. He looked over his shoulder, seeing the storm was now closer. “Come,” he urged, and the dog followed his instruction. But as she got up, his sight caught what she’d been protecting.
Curled into the dog’s belly was a litter of the cutest puppies Pete had ever seen. The past few months had been hell for him, and for the first time in all this time, his heart swelled with so much joy it pained him.
“We’re all going,” Pete said quickly, slowly reaching out to the dog and her four puppies. He cradled the pups when he was sure she was okay with him helping her. But then the worst thing happened.
A hail of raindrops assaulted the cemetery, pattering with ferocity. Pete and the dog tore through the building rain to his car.
He removed his jacket and placed the puppies in it, taking them to the backseat. Their mom joined them, barking in thanks as the rains finally fell in full fury. But that wasn’t the end of it.
Pete took out his phone and called his girlfriend, telling her what’d happened. She’d been one of the only pillars keeping him sane throughout his grieving period, and he wanted to share this news with her.
Catie, Pete’s girlfriend, was more than thrilled when Pete told her what he’d found. She even asked for photos of the bundle of joy. But would she be open to what Pete was thinking?
When Pete saw the dog and her puppies, he knew he wanted to keep them. When he shared this with his girlfriend, she agreed instantly.
The two named the dog Ciri after a beloved princess from one of Pete’s dad’s favorite fantasy novels. Although it would take Pete more time to fully heal from losing his dad, at least he had new family members to help him through the process.