Image of Set Stories Free - 2018
Image of Short Story

It was his prying eyes of hope; it was his smile so you could see his crooked teeth; it was his talent to make me feel better than how my head was feeling: it was he who taught me how to love. He was a mutt. A 20 pound happy, sick mutt. Every breathing second of his day consisted of him  loving people, but while he loved so many, he still suffered in pain and agony. His lungs were crippling; along with his will to carry on. Although I lack the ability to hold in the demons in my head, he had the courage to walk… when he couldn’t even breathe.

 A few scratches were followed by a bark from the other side of my door. As I opened the door, I had no idea this would be the last time I let him in. Leo slowly walked past me to jump on my bed. When he got there, he laid against my pillow. It wasn’t normal-- nothing he did was normal that night. I went to pet him, but his heart was beating irregularly fast. I knew something was wrong, but what could I do? I laid next to him with an unforgettable memory crossing my brain. The day I took him on a walk and he scratched my leg so I would pick him up. Even so, when I was carrying him home, his tongue was out and he obviously had lost his motivation to breathe. This memory isn’t worth a thousand words. This memory fought the anchor in my eyes holding in the waves, but the anchor didn’t fail that night, because I still had courage to walk in quicksand like how Leo did. With my head in stubbornness, and out of reality, he licked me. He never licked a person on a normal day. It was the last lick that meant something to me. 

On that morning, he still laid beside me. It was strange, because I wasn’t late to wake up. There was no yelling at me that I had to leave in five minutes. It was just me and him. The brightness from the window shined heavenly. As I stood in front of my bathroom mirror, there was tiredness shown from the bags under my eyes. I refused to care about what I wore, because I knew my dog wasn’t okay. When I came back, he still sat there staring at me. I rubbed and kissed his boney forehead. The fur that wrapped around the embodiment of love, was laid straight back. I still remember my mom buzzing it, because she thought he would walk better. His disproportionate body, where all his weight was in his stomach and none in his head, made him the handsomest prince I’ve ever laid my eyes on. He still remained on my bed, and he didn’t even think to move his head. I told him to get down, but he didn’t. I told him goodbye, and he still stared clueless, but he managed gave me the courage to be able to leave him, because when I looked in his eyes, I couldn’t imagine him gone. I didn’t know that moment would be the last time I saw him alive. If I knew, I wouldn’t of had the courage to say goodbye to my best friend.

On the ride home from school, my mom received a phone call from my sister. I answered on her behalf. My sister weakly told me, “Leo is dead, Ally.” The moments of desperation of me sitting with him for hours wasn’t enough. I.. wasn’t enough. I couldn’t heal him. The anchor that held down my tears became weak, because I couldn’t have courage to walk in the quicksand anymore, like how Leo couldn’t. I didn’t want to breathe to the thought of him dead. I didn’t want to to be alive with the thought of my dog dead. When I walked into my home, and saw him soulless, my head was hollow. I knew in that moment, that the thing that taught me to love, died.

Of everything and everyone in this world, I never expected it to be a dog that showed me what it’s like to love something: it was no man nor woman, it was no dad nor mom, and it was no boyfriend nor girlfriend; it was him. A dog that was there for me when my family wasn’t family; a dog that gave me the courage to stand up to my sickening depression; a dog that even when I was stuck in a white room with strangers asking me if I’m okay; he still didn’t give up on me. He gave me the strength to smile. He gave me the courage to say three dreadful words: “I love you.” Leo may have just been a dog, but to me he was the first thing I trusted, and the first thing I loved.

 In that selfish, manipulative moment of me holding on to his hardened, cold paw, I knew he was dead. I screamed out “Leo” too many times to count. I screamed out “Leo” thinking he would give me a smile. I screamed out “Leo” thinking that would make him wake up. I expected him to arise from the fatal bones that once held his disproportionate body.  He never woke up. He never smiled. His eyes were left open. I looked straight into the eyes of a body that was once kept by a beautiful dog, and I asked, “Why are you leaving me alone?” I asked that question more than once, and everytime I asked it, the anchor in my eyes got weaker and weaker and my voice got higher and higher. Then, there was sudden stop, a stop that gave me the courage to let go of his paw. My heart started to feel numb, like it was once before.


Rest in peace, Leo (June 12, 2009 - August 17th, 2018).