“What did the animal shelter say?”
“Is it a minor injury?”
My mother set the dog crate carefully on the floor.
“Ramones fractured her right paw the night she took a misstep. They’re going to schedule an appointment with the vet soon. In the meantime, we’re going to continue fostering her until her surgery.”
“Yay!” I suppose I should have been sorrowful about our foster dog’s condition, but I was delighted to keep her longer. Even though she looked more like a stray and had a queer name, we all loved Ramones. She was playful, ever cheerful, and so soft to pet. I’d put her on my lap and stroke her while she tried to lick my face. When I watered our flowers, she’d follow me, busily inspecting each wet bush.
Ramones had a scared look on her face as she, shaking violently, cowered in the corner of her crate. The nurses had to stretch out her broken paw to take an x-ray. We lifted Ramones out, careful not to cause her any more pain. I remember sitting on the carpet with my laptop on a stool. I remember typing my history research paper with one hand while the other rhythmically stroked Ramones’ head. She curled up into what my sister called a “puppy donut,” still shivering as she rested on a towel. Gradually, her heartbeat lowered, and comforted by my hand and soothed by the sound of pages turning, she dozed peacefully.
Since she could not walk, we carried her like a princess everywhere. Ramones was always surrounded by attendants, a royal bearer and a herald to lead the way. Meals were hand-fed to her three times a day. Once, when she lay in the sun in our backyard, my brother went so far as to set up a mat and an umbrella for her.
Then the terrible day came; we had to return her. We dropped her off at the foster center and watched a volunteer place her in a cage. My mother and I peered through the glass doors and waved to Ramones. She whined and wagged her tail, wondering what was happening. I memorized her eager, innocent face before we left. The house was quiet without her. My brother slammed doors more often, and my mother often sat still, staring into space. I especially wanted Ramones back because my brother would be leaving for college next year, and I would the only child in the house.
And so, the very first day Ramones was placed into adoption center, my dad and I went to the shelter to adopt her. Her name was crossed off the list on the whiteboard, and her cage was empty. I didn’t want to see any of the other dogs, so we turned to leave.
Ramones was there at the door. “No!” I silently screamed. Her new family was just about to take her through the front door to bring her home. We were one hour too late. The man holding her let us see Ramones for the last time. I stroked her silky head and even let her lick my face. Trying not to cry, I watched as her new family, not us, took Ramones and left. She was gone. I never saw her again.
Back at home, I sat alone on the brick patio of our backyard. Yes, God has a plan, but knowing is different than believing. As tears streamed down my face, I looked up into the sky. Was it ridiculous to cry over a mere dog? Life would return to normal, but normal was not what I nor my family wanted. I spied one of Ramones’ old toys we had overlooked: a green, white, and purple rope lying in the grass. I picked it up, clutched it tightly, and breathed a shaky breath. My family may forget Ramones in a few years as time blurs memory, but I never will.
Goodbye, Ramones! I love you.
Do you have a story to share? A personal narrative about something you learned to overcome, a funny experience, a memorable experience? Your story can be featured in this column if you send it to me: firstname.lastname@example.org