I sat on the porch step, listening to the countryside around me.
I always sat here, on this step. In my room were tons of Polaroid pictures of me sitting with my dad, sitting with my mom, sitting with my grandparents, my friends, and my dog.
My wonderful, amazing dog.
My mom always said we were like two peas in a pod—and we were. My dog and I did everything together. We slept together, we played together, we ate together, we travelled together, everywhere I went, he came with me.
That dog was my everything.
“JOVIE! DINNER is READY!” my mom ordered for the forty-fifth time.
“Okay, just one more minute!” I yelled back while throwing a tennis ball to Akiva. He jumped up with mighty force and caught it.
“Good boy!” I said in my dog-voice.
“JOVIE! YOU SAID THAT TWENTY MINUTES AGO!”
I should probably go, I thought. Akiva and I can play later.
“C’mon, boy,” I said softly.
Akiva wagged his tail as he followed me from the yard to the dining room, holding his tennis ball with a triumphant prance.
“Thank you,” Mom sighed as I settled in a chair.
We prayed and began eating.
“So, Jo,” said my dad, “how was Akiva today?”
I didn’t look up from my plate. “Fine,” I mumbled.
My mom pushed the conversation. “Do I need to get a stronger painkiller? Lighter?”
“He’s fine, mom,” I said sharply.
Akiva was getting old. The fourteen year old dog was already living longer than the vet had said he would, and his arthritis was gaining on him.
But he was strong, I knew it. Akiva was always strong, always has been and always will be. After all, I named him Akiva because it meant “protecting.” When we first met, Akiva was just a mangy stray puppy, looking even more like a wolf pup than he does now.
I was crossing the street across my house one day when a speeding car came out of nowhere. The driver was going above seventy miles per hour. I could have sworn he wasn’t there when I looked for cars.
But there that car was, coming at me like a rocket.
I hadn’t the slightest clue he was there until I heard a little yelp, followed by a little bark. When I looked to my right, a little puppy was standing across the road, jumping up and down, barking and howling. His coat was slate grey with white and tan. His ears were upright and alert. He stole my heart at first glance, and for a moment I stood in the center of the road, wondering what he was making such a fuss about.
Breaking my ear drums, he let out the loudest, most panicked bark. Worried now, I looked to my left.
The car was right at my feet.
Quicker than I’ve ever moved before, I dove out of the way and landed with a wheeze in the grass.
I sat up, rubbing my head. The pup was going after that car, barking his head off. When I stood up, he returned to me, staring at me from a few feet away.
I squatted down and reached out my hand. ”Hey, little guy,” I said softly. “Where did you come from?”
The pup looked at me with a glaze of distrust in his eyes and stood his ground.
Remembering the muffin I had in my backpack, I swung it around and onto the grass and started digging inside of it. Finally, I took the muffin into my grasp and showed it to the pup.
Intrigued by the smell, he wagged his tail slowly as he trotted over to me. With a few quick gulps, all that was left on my hand were crumbs and slobber.
What if he has rabies? What if he’s really a wolf pup? What if Mom and Dad won’t let me keep him? My mind wandered. I hated it when I overthought every little detail, but I couldn’t help it.
“Let’s go to the house. I bet you’ll love what Mom is cooking for dinner tonight; steak! I might help her with the beans and the risotto, but I don’t know. And I know you’re going to love the yard…” I said to the pup. Many subjects poured out of my mouth like I was the host of a tea party. The pup was a very good guest, in that case. He listened to every word I said, quietly trotting alongside me.
I wondered why he had become so attached to me. Of all people around us, he could have gone to the city and found someone else to get a muffin from. But instead, he chose me. He chose to protect me.
I still wonder about that to this day.
“I’m sorry, Jo, I didn’t mean—“ my mom tried to say.
I interrupted, aggravated now, “I said he’s fine. He did just fine today with his back legs and he was hardly at all weak.”
My dad sighed. “I’m sorry for bringing up the subject, Jovie.”
The plate of steak tacos suddenly didn’t look appetizing any longer. My stomach was twisted in knots and my arms felt like noodles. A choked feeling came up in my throat and I tried to keep it down, knowing that if I let it take control, I would start crying right there.
“May I be excused?” I murmured with watery eyes.
Trying to talk normally and look calm while you’re about to break down in tears is the hardest thing I can imagine.
My parents looked at each other worriedly.
“Sure, honey,” my dad said finally.
I stood up and left before he even began talking.
Those were the days Akiva was still here. The days he was still right by my side, begging for food, drooling on my lap, stepping on my feet, hitting me with his tail, barking at any cars that trespassed his road, going on walks, running through the cornfields, everything and everything and everything.
I just wanted him back.
I just wanted those early days back, where I was still learning how to be a good dog owner and still trying to find out why he chose me. It makes me laugh sometimes, how funny we were together. I could act like something absolutely amazing just happened and he would join right in and celebrate with jumps and barks, not even knowing what I was excited about. I would paint his nails with bright red nail polish and dress him up in so many outfits. I taught him how to play tag once, so I would touch him on the back and dart away. He would go after me, shoving his wet nose into my leg.
Gosh, I miss him.
I never knew how precious tiny moments were at that time until they became memories, and they go on and on and on in your memeory, replaying and wishing they would come back.
So I sat on that porch step, listening to the countryside, looking at the empty seat next to me, wishing my heart out and waiting for that special friend to come bounding towards me once again.