|http://www.sina.com.cn 2004/03/02 08:39 英语沙龙|
Banjo came to me by way of a paper bag deposited on my doorstep, apparently the unwanted runt of a litter of German shepherd puppies. At the time, I was single, pushing thirty and living in the country, so I was able to take on the responsibility of a new pet. But did I want one?
These questions disappeared the moment I lifted that black and brown furball into my arms. And in the years that followed, I never regretted my decision.
Later when I married, my wife Sandy didn't share my feelings about Banjo. She made it abundantly clear that she wasn't fond of dogs. To her, Banjo was simply the cause of hair on the couch and mud in the carpet, and a nuisance to make arrangement for whenever we went away.
But in time, I noticed a change. She insisted that she had accidentally added too much milk to her cereal, and instead of wasting it, she might as well give it to Banjo.
Sandy's love for Banjo truly blossomed during the second year of our marriage when my work took me away from home for ten weeks and Banjo became entirely her responsibility. Banjo never had it so good. The two of them did everything together, becoming better friends than Sandy ever dreamed.
Our life together with Banjo continued for ten happy years. Then Banjo's health began to deteriorate. When he was diagnosed with cancer, Sandy and I reached the painful realization that Banjo was leaving us.
In the weeks that followed, we were glad for every extra moment we had with Banjo, but we couldn't shake the sadness we felt. We were concerned when Banjo's dear face told us he wasn't feeling well, yet we were unable to make the decision that the time had come to help him along. And although we prepared ourselves for the inevitable, the end was no less painful, no easier to accept.
The day Banjo died, he walked unsteadily over to me as I was pulling on my coat. I believed he was asking me to stay. I knew why. So I helped him outside one last time, then took him next to the fire and held his head on my lap. We talked about a lot of things, alone in the quiet, just as we had in the beginning, ten short years ago. After all, it seemed like only yesterday Banjo was curled up in the crook of my arm making contented little grunts, a sound only a puppy can make. It seemed like just last week I was explaining to him for the umpteenth time that the rawhide bones were his and the furniture was mine. If I had any regret, if I thought I could have done certain things better, if I wished I’d been a little more understanding with a young, rambunctious puppy, none of this mattered now as Banjo and I were ending our relationship the same way we started it: just the two of us holding each other close.
He was in pain, and as the glow of the fireplace enveloped us I kept telling him it was okay to let go. And he finally died, leaving me feeling very alone in the middle of the living room, wondering how the last ten years could have possibly gone so quickly.
Though his life had slipped away, he was still Banjo, still my friend, and I wasn't ready to give it up. All I could think of, as tears ran down my cheeks, was that I wanted him back.
I wanted him waiting for me at the door, barking up a storm and acting as if after ten years he was still amazed that I actually came home to him every day. I wanted to see him wriggling down the hill behind our house on his back, making the first tracks in a freshly fallen snow. I wanted to hear that long, moaning sigh as he fell asleep next to our bed, a sound that clearly said, "This is a fine place to be."
I could have gone on forever with the memories, but Sandy would be home soon and it was important to me that her last time with him be as dignified as possible. So I folded a blanket around Banjo, arranged his head across his thick pillow, and let him lying peacefully in front of the fire.
When Sandy came home and walked through the front door, she knew by the expression on my face that it was over. I believe her heart broke even more deeply than mine.
We stayed with Banjo for a long while before composing ourselves and carrying him into the woods where he so loved to run. We buried him, covered his grave with pine bows and placed flowers against a hastily made cross.
And then the forest grew silent, except for the wind that pushed through the winter trees. When we finally turned to walk away, Banjo's gravesite seemed small, so small for a dog so large in our hearts.
A few months have passed since we stood in the snow and said good-bye to Banjo, and I still miss him every day. But an outpouring of love during the ensuing weeks helped Sandy and me deal with our loss. Cards came through the mail, flowers arrived at our door, friends stopped by to offer their condolences. Even neighborhood children, who knew me only as "Banjo's Dad", came around to say how sorry they were. It was a warming feeling, knowing Banjo had touched so many lives, in however small a way, and that people understood and cared about what Sandy and I were going through.
I'd like to think Banjo and I shared an extraordinary kinship, one worthy of being recorded and remembered. But frankly, there was nothing unique about it. The world didn't spin differently because of us. The simple truth is we liked each other, and that's all that really mattered.
By David C. Hoopes
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