Holding her in my arms, slowly and very carefully I climbed down the stairs. She was very weak and could not stand up by herself, let alone walk. I had to be very careful in the way I held her so as not to hurt her more than what she was already going through. Sally gave me an affectionate lick expressing her gratitude. I pressed my forehead against her's, something I had been doing for the seven years since we got her as a puppy. I never understood who or what God is, but at that moment I was praying, as hard as never before, with the utmost sincerity I could muster in my 12 year old heart to God to turn the tide and prevent the inevitable. A reluctant tear dropped from my eyes on to her cheeks. Before she could sense my emotions, I laid her down in her favorite corner of the garden where she could relieve herself.
Sally was my friend, a confidante with whom I could share anything. I would tell her my worries, my fears, and she would listen patiently without judging me. I have spent entire evenings playing with her. I have cried on her furry shoulders while she would try her best to lick my sadness away. It was all going to end soon, much sooner than any of us wanted to. I could not share my sadness with her. I needed to be strong for her. To be there with her in her final days. I lay on my bedroom floor looking at her, my mind flooding with all the memories that we'd shared in the past 7 years. There were our little secret which would never be told to anybody else. Who will I talk to once you are gone, Sally? She opened her eyes meekly. I think she sensed my sadness. You are going to get through this, I tell her. But her resigned look told me that she also knew what was coming.
We first noticed something was wrong two weeks earlier. I had taken her for her daily evening walk, and we did a small jog on our way back. Being the lazy dog that she was, she didn't like jogging much so she was lagging behind. When we reached home, she suddenly froze for a moment and then collapsed on the ground on her side. I didn't know what was happening. She was up within a few seconds, but the sight of her falling like that scared me. Her heart has become weak, the vet told us. She does not have much longer to live. Our world was collapsing around us. What do you mean she does not have long to live, I wanted to ask. You are a doctor, you are supposed to know how to cure these things. What is the use of being a doctor if you can strengthen a weak heart or save a life?
I was angry and I didn't know whom to blame. Was the vet at fault because she wasn't able to make Sally better? Was Sally to blame for being in the state that she is? Or was I the culprit for forcing her to run when I knew she did not like it? Later that night, I snuggled to my mother and hugged her tight. You are also a doctor Ma, can't you do something for Sally? She patted my head in the way only mothers do. We can give her some medicines which would make her live a bit longer. But she is going to get very weak soon. And the longer we keep giving her the medicines, the longer she will suffer. It is a tough decision we have to make.
Sally's last day had finally arrived. I wished that the night would never end. Let morning never come, dear God, let this night remain dark. But it didn't. Daylight broke and I was all ready for school the earliest I could be. Sally would be taken to the vet one last time while me and my siblings were away at school. I wanted to spend as much time as I could with her. Her head on my lap, we sat without any words being uttered. The silence and the finality of the situation did all the talking. My father put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed it. Its time for you to go or you will be late to school, he said. Just one more minute Pappa, just one last minute more. I kissed her cheeks for one last time. No more of your fur on my clothes Sally. No more will I be welcomed home with that black wagging tail. No more will anybody beg me to share the snack I'm eating. Will you miss me as much I will miss you Sally?
It was the toughest walk to school. I wanted to go back and be with her. I wanted to cry without anybody seeing me do so. You could not make it rain, could you God? You could not do anything to wash away the tears that wanted to come out but could not. Do you even exist God? Why are you so sad today, my friends asked me. My dog is being put to sleep, I tell them. They laugh at me. Look at him, they say. Crying over a dog. Just get another one na, some suggest. How do I explain to them that you can't just get another dog? How do I tell them that it isn't a toy, where if one is gone you buy another. She is my Sally for heaven's sake. She will always be my Sally.
When I reached home in the afternoon, everybody was sad. We ate our food in complete silence, as if the first word spoken would shift the delicate balance of our universe. Will you take me where she is buried? I asked my parents. Yes, we will go there today evening.
I plucked the biggest flower from the garden before going. Sally was gone, and all we had left were the beautiful memories. She will always be there in our hearts, Ma said. Try to remember the love we shared for 7 years more than the last 10 days. I told them to leave me alone near her grave for a few minutes. I'll miss you Sally. Wherever you are now, I know you must be sharing your love because that's what you always did best. I placed the flower on the stone marking her resting place. I have got you your favorite biscuits Sally, will you eat them? I opened the biscuit packet I was carrying and held the biscuit forward in my hand. I could not take it any longer. My eyes pinched close as the tears finally started flowing. My mind couldn't keep them inside any longer.
Suddenly I felt a tiny mouth attempting to pick the biscuit from my hand. I opened my eyes and there was a little brown puppy with tiny floppy ears looking at me in anticipation and wagging it's tail. Are you hungry? I asked the puppy who started wagging even more furiously. You are so dirty, you need to have a bath. Come with me, let me clean you up a bit. I picked up the puppy and went back to my parents who were waiting for me. Somewhere deep beneath the ground, Sally smiled.