The young blonde girl watched as the woman tried to control the large blonde mass of fur and skin, grabbing his ruff just like a mother does to her pup. The two other dogs bounded around in the snow.
The woman gripped the yellow dog and turned to talk to his new owners, “He’s quite a handful, you’ll find out why they called him Bandit.” She says, her breath making rings on the cold New Year’s Day.
The new owners smiled as only veteran dog owners do with tough pets,
“Well, I have to get going. I hope everything works out better for you with the yellow dog. See you tomorrow, Jonathan,” the woman said to the tall dark haired man.
“Mommy, why did she grab him around the neck like that? Doesn’t it hurt?” the young girl asked.
The Mom smiled, “No, he doesn’t feel it. C’mon, let’s get out of the cold and pick out a new name for this dog.” She turned and started up the walkway, muttering to herself: “Bandit. Hm. Lucky?… Max?…What about Cosmo!?” And with that the, the family and dogs trundled into the house.
“All right. You sit here Cosmo. Waaitt.” The girl said, taking her hand from her hip, looking down at the dog as she held a camera in her left hand and adjusting the yellow lab’s handcrafted blue velvet collar. As she turned away from the sitting dog, she trailed her fingers through his soft velvet ears.
She retreated, squatted down, and looked at the picture through the old-fashioned viewfinder. Cosmo sat on his haunches, ears folded back, relaxed. He sniffed the breeze, his attention nowhere in particular, obeying the girl’s wishes by staying but not looking at the camera. It didn’t matter. The images said everything that needed to be said about the pair. They were buddies; he knew just how much effort she wanted of him, and he gave just that.
She stood up and said “OK” with a quickness that caused him to bolt off in happiness. He doubled back, looking for her to throw a stick. She ducked down, tossing one off as he raced off to find it. Upon finding it, he decided that the game was more fun than the effort to retrieve it. He sniffed it, thinking about picking it up, but instead, he loped off to the nearest garden bed to follow rabbit trails.
“Come on, Cosmo,” The girl pleaded, her love of her dog not broken by her middle school maturity. “Come on, good boy!”
The big yellow dog’s ears were back, his eyes bulging as he cautiously navigated the bedroom’s wood floor. Wherever possible he hopped from throw rug to throw rug, making you think the wood floor was hot lava. Next to the bed, the young teenage girl patted her bed for him to jump up.
“Come on, up!” She insisted. He looked at her with big brown eyes, knowing very well that this was not allowed.
Taking a step, he launched himself onto the colorful quilt, turning in neat concentric circles to lie down.
The girl leaned over, putting her hand on his head, and leaning her mouth to his velvet ear for a kiss. “Good boy,” she whispered into the fur, “I love you, Doggy.” He looked up at her with his eyes still big, trying to enjoy this special privilege on the bed, feeling how comfortable it was, but knowing that Mom didn’t allow it.
Though Cosmo’s fur whitened and her time during the day to spend with him lessened, they still loved each other unconditionally. She continued to take pictures of him, make him special dinners, and sneak him onto her bed. After a while, his legs wouldn’t let him climb the stairs to her bed, go on long walks, or race around after sticks. He looked forward to those happy Friday afternoons when she came home from school, leaned over, and whispered through his fur, “I love you, Doggy.” His long afternoons spent lying in the sun, reminiscing on past days where energy and time were abundant. She tried make the most of their time together, knowing that his time loomed somewhere in the future.
His body shook with fear; her face was pressed against his velvet soft white ear. He knew. She knew. As the family walked Cosmo up the ramp, through the door, and into the room, she tried hard to hold back her tears. She petted his bony body, each stroke telling him a story, reminding him of their past times together. He lay on the floor, still not comfortable with the linoleum floor and making it seem dangerous as he shook. The vet came; his voice was too nice, his body language awkward among a family holding back an ocean of tears. The calming shot came first. Slowly he stopped shaking, his eyes open, his head between his paws. The pain vanished from his face; the first time he was pain-free and genuinely relaxed in weeks. The blonde girl smiled through her watery eyes. The vet came; his voice was still too nice, his gestures still awkward. Now the final shot. The tears were coming regularly now, all shame lost in the midst of love. Time seemed to stand still. There wasn’t much more to it, a bit of a shake from his legs, signaling the stopping of his heart, but then the sigh. A deep, long, loving, sigh of peace.
The grown girl got up. Her eyes were wet her hands hung limply at her sides. He didn’t look up to see her bend over, but he knew she was there. She knelt down beside the still yellow – white mass of fur. She leaned over, burying her face in his velvet white ear, and whispered, “I love you, Doggy.”