Dog Day Afternoon

My dog died last Sunday. He was nine years old.

We were all just sad. This dog, named by my grandparents, Big Boy II, had been guarding our gates since his father, Big Boy Senior, passed away eight years ago. Junior, the successor, was always playful at the sight of us, jumping onto our knees (which really hurt as he grew), and would just stare at us, wagging its stump where his tail used to be. Don’t ask how he lost it.

At night, whenever I hear him perk up, I would get up, and check our surroundings just to be sure we  were safe. When he barked and grew uneasy, I crept toward the kitchen and took my grandmother’s kitchen knives, one for each hand. I hate to admit, but whenever I did that, I felt I was the Prince of Persia or something. But I would really never know what to do in an actual confrontation. I always figured that Big Boy (Senior or Junior) were there to always back me up. They were the fiercest father-son dog we ever had. Now, neither of them are here. And it simply devastates us.

Eight years ago, we buried Big Boy Senior. I remember resting him to the grave, and my grandfather, in silent grief, watched his dear friend lay there for a very long time. Then he picked up the shovel, and started burying what was the oldest dog in the family. My grandfather worked alone.

When I was seven or eight, Big Boy ran away – of course he would, he was an adolescent pup back then, and remaining within the confines of our walls, never actually seeing what were beyond them, would probably make anyone run off and explore. I remember my grandfather being furious. It was a dangerous world out there, where folks corner a dog, bludgeon them in the head, and toss their dying bodies in a fiery grill – wish that last bit was a poor metaphor, but it isn’t, people here used to kill and eat dogs, often during drinking sessions.

My family thought Big Boy’s fate was doomed. Until a few days later, while my grandmother was about to feed the other dogs, a stray had been barking and clawing through the back gate, and my grandmother noticed it was actually Big Boy. She let him in, and he licked her foot, and ran toward the huge cauldron where we kept our dog food, and he just devoured as much as he could. My grandmother let him, on the verge of tears being happy. There were signs that Big Boy had it rough, he was very thin, and there was a vertical scar on his left eye – and yes, it does make him look so badass. He barked at anyone or if there was something suspicious, and when he was about to bite someone, he didn’t make a sound, just walk toward the person and snap his jaws at them – as witnessed personally, my friend had to go home in ripped jeans.

So, in a way that cannot be described, we felt the same sadness when we buried Junior. This time, my grandfather much older than he was had difficulty in lifting a shovel – he can still, actually, but I didn’t want to tire him out – so I did most of the work alone. It was physically taxing, and just as rewarding to find him a suitable resting place. Just in time too, as the sky darkened, carrying a heavy downpour.

After refreshing myself, I sat on my makeshift bed of a pile of blankets, laptop on, coffee on one side, soda on the other, and started writing until the rest of the day passed and the night waned to daylight. It just felt right, with the weather, the sort-of workout, and the small throb of pain in my chest. I ended up finishing a chapters of my latest “on-fire” story with one of them having the main protagonist getting left behind by his best friend. If it was intended or not, I’m not so sure.