borgo linked earlier this morning to a story titled "I died today". It's about the last day of a dog. Of course, I cried a lot. I remember what it's like to love a pet and what it's like to see one die.
The first thing I remembered after drying my face was the story of this day and three dogs that are still on my heart. This is how I remember that morning.
My Aunt had rescued a dog a few years ago. Her name was made up on the spot, though I don't remember it now. She was happy and playful, but a bit moody. Sometimes she would just get tired of everyone and go sit in a corner, looking at the distance. After a while, we learned that she just needed a few minutes alone, but she wasn't mad at anyone.
Two years ago, she had her first litter. My aunt didn't know what to do with the 4 puppies and we adopted one. Her mother was all white with a few grey spots here and there, but this little guy was all shades of brown, chocolate and black. Hair just long enough to look fluffy and a short nose. We called him "oso" (bear). He spent its first night home crying, and made me imagine the day I'd have to sleep away from my house for the first time.
Oso was a complete mongrel, but that never stopped him from being a great dog. I recognize a lot of her mother's traits in him, mostly his almost endless energy, playful demeanor and desire to protect his family. He was never the biggest, or the fastest or the strongest, but to me he was the bravest.
"Canela" came one day, but I don't know who brought her or how. We named her like that because her hair and eyes were the color of cinnamon. She was the first dog I've met with short hair which was a disappointment at first but a marvel later when I had to wash and dry her.
She was, in many ways, the opposite of Oso. She was slender and walked with grace but without arrogance. She was calm and patient. Yet she shared Oso's taste for adventure and the same enthusiasm about her family. She and Oso got along perfectly, even though he was almost a year and half older.
Tish was the last. She was the only one with a recognizable breed (a tiny, golden English Cocker Spaniel). She was a gift from a former pupil of my mom's, whose family had a dog farm. She had been bred to be small, which became evident when she was eight months old: The other two dogs could and regularly would carry her around from the neck, as mothers do.
She was naïve. She tried to play with both Oso and Canela, even though they more than doubled her in size. She somehow managed to take them out of their siestas to run around in the garden. Tish also tried to play with my sister's cat, who was always in a bad mood. Tish would nibble at your socks right in the angle to let you know how happy she was (which in turn led to several socks meeting an untimely end). She would've been the world's worst guard dog and we loved her for it.
This morning we would move to another state, three hours away, into a small apartment that didn't accept pets. My mom looked around for potential homes for the dogs and they ended up in two dog farms: Tish went back with her mother and had Canela for company. Oso stayed with another friend who had several bloodhounds, so they were used to having big dogs.
Their new families showed up first thing in the morning, just before sunrise. My mom woke us all up so we could leave the house before 9 AM. I had all my stuff packed up and went to the garage with the dogs. Oso came to me and put his face on my chest, maybe he knew what was coming. I hugged him and he started to cry like the big puppy he still was. My mom escorted him to the door where his new family was awaiting, I just sat on the door looking at him. Tish and Canela left only a few minutes later. The last thing I remember about them is their faces licking the car's window.
My aunt kept one of Oso's sisters and we buried her a few years ago, so maybe Oso is now dead as well. As for the other two, this was 16 years ago, so it's possible they are still alive, but chances are dim. Maybe they are dead as well.
I wonder how they lived. I wonder how they did in a new home with loving caretakers but no kids. I wonder how they died.
Over the years, I've gone back to visit and I've stayed in my old house, played in the old park, walked in the same streets and even went once to the same church. Also, I saw new houses and buildings, new stores and businesses. It's a strange mix of "Some things never change" and "Change is the only constant in nature". I can see how much this place has changed in 16 years, but there are three pieces missing here. Three four-legged pieces of my life that went away one day and left no trace of them except a small scar in my arm, a buried plastic toy in the old garden and three leashes begging to be used.