It was an icy night in Newburgh and the Hudson River was nearly
frozen over. The big, red ferry boat Dutchess had to cross back and forth
all night long to keep her river path open.
In the ferry house waiting room, Jake, the night watchman, stopped to warm his back at the big, round radiator. For a moment he thought he was dreaming because the radiator suddenly started whimpering. It was cold enough that night to make even a warm-hearted radiator complain. Jake flashed his light and took a closer look. There, underneath the radiator, was a skinny, shivering puppy dog.
Jake picked up the unhappy bundle and took it to show Harry, the toll collector. Harry, sitting in his usual place in the cage by the turnstile, shook his head.
"Never seen him before."
When the Dutchess pulled in, Jake took the pup aboard and spoke to the deck hands. Again, no help. But the pup himself was content just to be in somebody's arms. He trembled a little and cuddled up close to Jake. Jake smiled down and said, "You're a scared and hungry one, ain't ya. Come on and let's see what you can do with this." And he opened his lunch box and shared the sandwiches and warm drink from his thermos with the furry stranger. Pup gobbled up the food, sighed and let himself be put back under the warm radiator while Jake continued on his night rounds.
In the morning there was such a rush of cars and passengers hurrying to work across the river, that no one noticed the pup, still under the radiator. The stampede of thudding, hurrying feet scared him and he scrunched back even further. The owners of the feet were far too busy with talk and their morning papers to notice a tiny, tucked away, puckered-up pup.
The whole ferry house shook as the Dutchess rumbled and banged into her dock. The cars and trucks revved up their motors and thumped their way across the wooden ramp. The hundreds of feet moved on and away from the pup's eye view. The gates clattered shut; the bell clanged; the Dutchess pulled out and pup's world was quiet again.
Rudy, the taxi driver, came into the ferry house from his stand out
"Man, it's cold out there today," he called to Harry at the toll booth. Rudy warmed himself -- back and front -- at the radiator. All of a sudden he felt a tugging at his pants leg. Startled, he looked down and scooped up a scrawny, kicking lump of skin and bones.
"Hey, Harry, who belongs to this?" Rudy asked.
"No idea," answered Harry, "but I daresay someone's bound to claim him soon."
Rudy smiled at the pup who was busy licking the skin right off the back of Rudy's hand.
"Okay, okay. No need to eat me. C'mon home and we'll feed you."
What excitement at Rudy's house when the children caught sight of their lunch guest. Mother gave him a bowl of warm soup. Joey gave him a ball. Little Rudy brought him his rubber duck. Sarah just hugged him and said, "Oh, please, Daddy, please can we keep him?" Rudy studied the three eager, expectant faces. "Well, I don't know about that. He may belong to somebody." Joey chimed in, "If he belongs to somebody, they can't care too much about him to let him get lost." Rudy finally promised, "If nobody claims him, I'll bring him home to lunch, again, tomorrow."
That afternoon Harry telephoned the local radio station. The announcer added the pup to his daily list of lost and found.
"Found at the ferry house: one brown and white puppy dog, pointy nose, pointy ears, large feet, bushy tail."
Still no one claimed him. So, every day, regular as the ferry boat, Rudy and the puppy went home together in the taxi for lunch.
Pup was getting used to people. He would come out from under the radiator to be fed or patted. The stomping of feet and the clattering, banging ferry house noises didn't scare him any more. And it was a good thing, for he was getting too big to squeeze under the old radiator.
Taxi in the news: