The first one I met on the tour was Champ. “Champ” was something of a misnomer, as I quickly learned. Champ was no champ. He was more like a chump. Not that anyone there cared much, and before long, neither did I. Champ was eager to share his story.
Like a lot of dogs, he was welcomed into the home of a pack of humans (I kept trying to impress the term “family,” but Champ didn’t want any part of that), and received all the love he could ever want. At first. It didn’t last, and he spent more time locked away from the humans than with them. They built a doghouse for him, but he didn’t use it much. Didn’t get the chance.
One of his happiest memories was being walked on a particularly crazy night, where it seemed like all the humans, and there were a lot of them, were trying to act a lot like animals. It took me awhile, but I eventually figured him to mean Halloween. He was walked for a stretch of this experience by someone I recognized as a younger version of myself, and so I bowed my head an apologized. He said don’t worry about it. Happens to everyone.
What happened, I asked him. He said he was given up, near as he could tell in a matter of months. Never quite came to grips with why, never really figured out humans. He wasn’t bitter, though. Animals don’t get bitter, even roadkill. He missed his pack of humans. He said he knew they still remembered him, just like he still remembered them, but he wondered which memory would last longer. I tried to tell him that humans don’t think animals have very good memories. He just scoffed into his bowl.
It was at the Roadkill Café that I learned the concept of memory, discovered it to mean a lot more about devotion and a lot less to do with time. Champ helped me with that. I told him he was a champ to me. He shrugged it off. Said it didn’t matter anymore.
I asked Ribsy if they were all like that. Probably, he replied. He said if I really wanted to know, I’d probably ask Barky, but Barky wasn’t around. Barky was the third member of Ribsy’s group, after himself and Foxy, but neither of them had ever seen him. I didn’t have the heart to say I had, but I’d never talked to him. When I brought this up, Foxy said Barky would talk to me, if I proved worthy, if I didn’t waste my time at the Roadkill Café.