If you saw Ed walking around town, you saw Buster, too. Inseparable through freezing cold, pouring rain, and steaming heat, they got up and out each morning to collect cans and bottles. Word was Ed had some disability income. But people figured it was modest, seeing how worn his clothes were. Buster was a stray mutt he found years back. Buddies, they lived in a tiny, droopy house next to Harder's Auto Garage.
If you passed them on the sidewalk, Buster'd let you pet him, his tail wagging. Ed would make eye contact just long enough to admit the interaction. He was a loner where people were concerned. When I was a kid, I heard that he'd been abandoned for being "a little slow." Most in town took him as he was, though, and let him be. The diner and quick-mart had water bowls and dog treats ready, local cops kept one eye peeled in case kids tried to prank them.
One summer day, Buster stopped eating and had trouble walking. Ed knew something wasn't right so he stayed inside, sheltering his partner. After a long night with the both of them laying together on the bedroom floor, Buster went still.
Ed understood death but couldn't bring himself to leave his friend. Maybe if he just kept talking gently and stayed nearby, things would go on fine. But after a couple of hot days Buster got to smelling and, besides, somebody called the police to make a wellness check. They convinced Ed to open his door and let Buster go.
Nobody told him to forget his best friend or act like nothing happened. It was weeks before Ed accepted an invitation from the shelter to meet other dogs. After a bit, he warmed to two strays that were rescued together. They took to Ed like a long lost brother. Dogs know.