When he was young

Written in response to: Set your story at a silent retreat.... view prompt



Quiet whimpers filled the cave.Fresh water dripped onto moss.The silent damp filled the air. The old dog was ready to go to another life. It’s bones were weak and heavy,ears drooping,it’s once sharp mind dulled. He could no longer run with a pack,or serve someone. It didn’t want to upset his human either. So it came here,it's silent retreat. The human noticed it leaving all the time,and worried murmurs filled the air. 

“Rex doesn’t look good.He’s getting old.”

Little did they know just how old he felt.The dog was much older in his mind. He knew joy, he knew sadness.He had seen many owners come and go, good and bad. He had run free in the fields and worked in the snow and on the pastures.He had seen it all. What more did life have to offer? The rest of his time on earth,barely alive,constant visits to the vet,sleeping curled by a fire? He had seen better times. He would run in the fields again,but not in this world. In this world,age was irreversible.Life here always ended old,or sick, or in the flash of headlights.In the stars he would find peace. The old dog closed his eyes and slept…

Flashing lights.

“The dog’s here!”

“Oh my god…I really thought I lost him forever!”

He opened his weary eyes,not to the sight of the stars comforting him,but the blaring fluorescent white lights of the vet table.

“He’s alive!!!!”

He was met with a flurry of hugs and pets.

“Thank god,I don’t know what I would do without you…”

He was back home. Finally, he was confronted with the life that he dreaded. Sitting still all day,wasting away while the younger dogs leaped outside and nipped at his ears. His owners spent all day coddling him, but he didn’t enjoy it. He wanted to run, he wanted to be the dog he used to be but they wouldn’t allow it. They would keep bringing him back to life for their own sake, so they didn’t lose their “special boy” even though he so dearly wished to go to a better place. They wouldn’t let him move on. So he watched as a new puppy came to his house. He thought,maybe now I can leave this place, but as soon as he tried to slip away, the humans pulled his back with harsh words and barely masked sadness.Stay,Rex! They’d say,but he didn’t have the words to tell them he wanted to leave.

He spent his days barely alive. His hair fell out, he stopped eating, and he was constantly shepherded to the vet, to be examined, to forcefully prolong his life by mere seconds,to endure more pain. So much money was spent on a dog that didn’t want it, a dog that only feebly barked and tried to push away the owners it once devotedly adored. He didn’t even have the strength to die. Sweet relief was kept from him by humans he could have easily overpowered in his youth.

He dreamed of his life as a puppy. When he could run in the field without his legs giving out, when he would bark his joy to the world. He knew it was a dream, but didn’t want to wake up. But he did. It was the pesky puppy, yapping and biting his ear. He let out an irritable bark. Young blood was just painful to look at. It was rolling onto its belly, an open invitation to play. He just looked away, but it kept on insisting. So he rolled him around for a while. Even though he was determined not to enjoy it, he found the excitement radiating off the puppy caught on to him and made him feel just a bit more alive. 

It was a routine now. The puppy would wake him with a nip on the ear or by jumping on his back and he would tap him on the head or let him lay on his head. As every day went by he found he had more and more energy and reason in his actions. He didn’t secretly despise his humans anymore; he lay at their feet while they watched a movie. He went outside and smelt the fresh air once again; he snapped at butterflies and ate grass. He might be happy again, like when he was young.

The days went on, his life improved. His hair grew back and his joints didn’t feel so painful. He was happy. Sure,he couldn’t run as fast as before or smell as sharply but he didn’t need that to be content with his more subdued lifestyle. He would sit in the sunlight and lazily roll on his belly, live far past the years his wild brothers would have seen. He could play with the puppy, he could walk on the fresh dewy grass and smell the crisp autumn leaves. 

He still dreamed of being young. He could feel the wind whistling past his fur, the howls of his pack around him. He would vividly remember the hard, satisfying work of pulling the sleds, the sheep bending to his will, the many balls thrown, his ears blowing wildly, a perfect catch, but when he awoke to the image of his youth there nipping his ear,it wasn’t painful.He only kept on going, jealousy fading over time, because he was happy. He had nothing to be jealous of.

“Get him to the emergency room!”

“Oh god…if I lose you now…”

He was fading,but this time he didn’t want to go.He struggled against the dying light, he reached for his owner's hand,he tried to summon the energy he once had…but it wasn’t enough. He was falling into the stars, sinking into the past,his glory days…

He wanted his death to be his own decision. That's why he went to his retreat. He dared to be happy again. Now his death was all the more painful. He didn’t want to go back. He was fine as he was. As he stared at his owner's face,finally claimed by death, he only wished that he wasn’t grieved for. Because death was what he wanted all along.

February 17, 2024 22:44

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