Caring (a short story)

Life for me was care-free when I was five. My parents line to think that they were fairly strict–and in comparison to others, they were. But when you’re young, still learning about all the world has to offer, there’s significantly more freedom to be had in a life of relative ignorance.

At five years of age, I decided to go walkabouts. We lived in a large property back then, in the middle of nowhere. The dog–our big, often scary rescue maremma, opted to come with me as a safeguard, as if recognising that I was making the trip on my own. It’d be an adventure.

One long walk down to a highway and back later, I heard the very frantic calling of my father. He was absolutely screaming my name. Evidently, I was in deep trouble, my impromptu trip having caused quite the stir for my poor parents. While I was endlessly told off for my recklessness, the dog was praised for his initiative.

At fifteen, still learning about the endless letdowns one could suffer as a teenager by so-called friends, I felt deserted and alone. My mother gave me my space. My feet took me to our dam bank–nothing dangerous, no poor thoughts, don’t worry. I just needed time to start over. After all, how does a teenager process quite literally being left behind and forgotten about by people you were once close with?

There was but one consistent figure constantly nearby–a rescue maremma, named Willow. And as is the running theme in this piece, he quietly approached and sat himself beside me on the dam bank as if noticing that I was certainly not okay in the moment of my teenaged angst.

Cut to now, the inevitable happened. As a young adult, you cannot expect the things that held you up as a child or teen to continue to do so for the rest of your life. You have to step up and support the people you needed to support you.

“He’s suffering a complication of cancer. It’s likely he’s ruptured his spleen.”

The words were not only fatal to Willow, but to me as well.

With deep breaths, I came to terms with the diagnosis. It was treatable, yes, but already 13 years of age, the treatment would have been a taxing experience on a dog already in pain.

So I made the call.

Me, at 21 years old. Had you she’d be to do the same about half a decade ago, I wouldn’t have even considered it. How dare you?

At five, I wouldn’t have understood at all, because back then, life was care-free.

Making the call, the final call, was the price of caring.

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