Champagne glasses glitter and clink. Conversations have the edgy thrill of bright anticipation.
A thrilled murmur starts near the tall double oak doors and rolls over the crowd like ripples of radio waves.
The young hero has arrived!
Standing on tiptoe, I spot him in the distance. He is tall and dashing, a prince. He wears a ceremonial uniform in blues and reds in the manner of a Union colonel of the Civil War. He strides through the crowd, grasping hands warmly with both of his, speaking a few kind words to each person he greets. Men affectionately clap him on the shoulder. Women's eyes shine. He is loved by one and all.
And now, he stands right in front of me, beaming down at me, grasping my hands in his.
But wait a minute.
These aren't hands. They're paws.
I squint up at our hero. Why, it's. . . .