My guardian angel

You were the tiniest little thing when you came into my life. A tiny, mewling creature who wouldn’t stop peeing everywhere. You’d been picked up from your litter by my father, who was helping a friend out by taking one of his dog’s two month old puppies out of their hands. You were the fattest, my father said, and the most active.

You didn’t like it at first, but you fell asleep quietly in my lap, unaware of the chaos your entry had caused in my house. We had to give you to a friend to foster until my mother came around, but that went disastrously, and after listening to how terrible your living conditions were, my mother finally had to agree to letting you back into our house. You were always destined to be with us.

You were full of mischief, growing up. And grow up you did, but you were always my baby brother. You still slept in my lap, but slowly, you outgrew my lap, until only your head could fit in my lap. Still, you came to me for cuddles and kisses, and let me love you to my heart’s content.

You were probably the only one who saw the true extent of my anger. I was growing up along with you, and my anger was my constant companion, residing at the tip of my nose. I’ve yelled at you when you didn’t listen to me. I’ve yanked your mouth open and stuck my hand in to remove whatever rubbish you picked up off the streets. You learnt to slowly stand up to me, and stopped taking shit from me after you grew up. But whenever you do something you’re not supposed to, you still look at me, waiting for me to beat your ass.

Then came the choice of what I had to do with my future. I didn’t really know, initially. Our dad had plans for me, and I went ahead with it, not knowing any better. But life has a way of changing without a moment’s notice, and I ended up taking science, whereas I always thought I’d take humanities. But when I had to choose between taking human medicine and engineering, I looked at you. And you were my answer.

You gave my life a purpose. And, without knowing it, you saved my life.

My life had gone to shit. You didn’t know it, but at the time, I watched my happiness slipping further and further away from me, until I didn’t know whether there still was any purpose to living. As I walked in the house, the balcony door was open, and the thought came to me, ‘What if I jumped?

I walked out into the balcony, and looked down. The balcony wasn’t new, neither was the view. But never before had it seemed so… Far away. So inviting.

Whatever I was about to think next, or do next, was interrupted by your bark. I turned around, and there you were, wagging your tail, looking at me expectantly. And in that moment, I remember thinking, ‘What if he jumps, if I jump?‘ I couldn’t do it. I never thought of doing something like that again.

Life was shitty, but it wasn’t shitty enough for you to watch me die.

So, I focused on the path that you had opened up for me. I studied to get into veterinary school, with you asleep in my lap, my books spread on top of your sleeping body. When we went running, I told you my dreams and wishes, and you just continued to run, not really comprehending what I was saying. And eventually, I got in.

School was far, but I’d get to still see you on weekends. The day I went away, my parents told me you checked my room, searching for me for two days, before getting used to it. And when I came back, your happiness knew no bounds. Mine didn’t, either.

And before I knew it, I was done with veterinary school, and you’d become older. You’d joined the geriatric club, and while I couldn’t spend as much time with you as I wanted, I still watched you grow up. You developed skin tags and warts. Your eyes grew cloudy, even if it was mild. Sometimes your forelimb would get tingly if you got up too fast, and you’d need a massage before you could walk again. You didn’t want to play as much, go running as much, but you’d still find the energy to bark at people randomly while on your walks.

And I became a doctor. I’d dress your wounds when you’d get hurt, send your blood for testing, give you your vaccinations, and open your mouth to give you your tablets. Some part of me still freaked out if anything little happened to you, and the thought of you passing away would leave me sobbing in fits. You are, and forever will be my favourite and most well-behaved patient, and I will always love you for it.

Past two days, you knew I was leaving. I never told you anything, but you knew. Even though the trolley bags had been out in the open for a month, and I constantly kept chucking things in and taking things out, you never really bothered. But the past two days, you wouldn’t leave my side – you’d give me the look that meant you wanted to sleep in my lap, you’d give me paw – your way of telling me you wanted something – but you didn’t want food, or to go out. You’d give me the full effect of your moist puppy eyes, complete with the downcast look, and would perk up whenever I called you to give you cuddles and kisses.

Today was the same. I cuddled you in my lap for a while, and you didn’t stop sighing the entire time. I couldn’t help but think of how I wouldn’t be there if you needed me, how I’d miss watching you grow older. For you’d shown me the path, and I chose to walk on it, even if it meant walking away from you.

My suitcases were packed, the weight of my bags were negotiated, and the cab was booked. It was time to leave.

As I got things ready, I heard you whine in a way I’d never heard you do before. I looked up, and you were whining loudly to our mother, and she kept comforting you, telling you that I had to go, and you had to say goodbye. I hugged my mother, and then kneeled in front of you and gave you a hug.

“I love you, you old goofball. And I’ll dearly miss you, with all my heart.”

You didn’t want the hug to end. I didn’t, either. But the luggage had to be loaded into the cab, and I had to leave. You came down, and inspected all the four wheels of the cab, as well as the cab driver, who had come to help me put my luggage into the trunk. Our mother called you to get off the road and come inside, but you just sat there outside the house, and waited. Finally, with one last kiss, I sent you back inside.

As the cab drove away, I heard you bark. And my heartbreak was complete.

None of this makes sense to you, I know. You can’t read English, nor can you use the internet. But darling old boy, if I could tell you how much I love you, and how much you mean to me, I would. If I could give you the world, I would.

But, old boy, something tells me that you already know all that.

Take care of mother and father, and everyone in the house. Continue to bring joy to all of our neighbours with your antics and your constant begging for food. Eat your meals on time, bark at strangers, guard the house and drink lots of water. It’s getting hotter, and you mustn’t get dehydrated.

And, as always, continue to look over me. For I had asked the Heavens to help me, and they sent you to take care of me. And throughout your life, every single day, you’ve been the angel that God intended you to be.

My mentally-five-year-old baby brother stuck in a ten year old dog’s body, I’ll miss you.

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