Losing Family

My father and I convinced my mother to let us get a puppy when I was five, not that it was a long shot; she'd read an article about instilling a deeper sense of compassion in only children by getting them pets. Soon enough, I had a little adopted brother who would grow up with me, without whom I could not imagine my life. One of my earliest memories with him is of the time I wanted to take him on a walk but could find neither his leash nor my parents to tell me where it was. As a last resort, on a childish whim, I scooped him up and paced on the street for a couple of minutes. I think he fell asleep in my arms. Between the two of us, he had the social gene. As he grew older, he became a neighbourhood favourite. We wouldn't worry if he wasn't home, because it meant that he was at his best friend's (a golden retriever who lived up the street), with my father at his office, or at some neighbour's house. When my grandmother held singing sessions with her friends at our house, they sat in a circle in the living room and he would insist on being at the centre of the music and excitement- then he would fall asleep in it. He loved car rides almost as much as he loved people, so we had plenty together. My mother would joke that we really were siblings because of the way I complained as he nudged me off the back seat every few minutes. I know she was right. I can tell by the way it felt to lose him. In the middle of the year's final exams, I was at dinner when I heard a yelp. I rushed outside to see my puppy limping towards the gate. His vet said that it could just be a sprain or a fracture in the hind leg, and he was taken to the hospital the next morning for an X-Ray. I wasn't told that they would also scan him to check for cancer, so without worrying too much, thinking all he would need was a cast, I said goodbye and left to write the day's exam. On the drive back home, my mother revealed to me that he had just been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma- bone cancer. He wouldn't walk again. I resolved to cry it out in the car and hold it together in front of him. I didn't want to add to the fear I knew he would already be feeling. I failed miserably- when I saw him, my composure crumbled in a matter of seconds. I couldn't let that happen again, because I thought he might need strength from me when his own failed. We tried to behave normally in front of him for the rest of his time with us. There were so many heart wrenching decisions to make. We considered chemotherapy, but decided against it. He was already eleven years old. The process would postpone his death by a mere few months, and it would prolong his pain. He had about three months left, but there was so much life in him. He smiled, ate, drank, and wagged his tail. He got excited when his favourite people came to see him. Some days, I'd wonder if he really did have cancer. He couldn't walk, but he wouldn't stay put. He would drag himself around on three legs as if it caused him no pain at all. We couldn't leave him alone; he'd call for someone to sit with him if he was left by himself for a moment. I stayed with him until we both had to sleep- it was for me just as much as it was for him. My parents stayed with him at night, my father sleeping downstairs, ready to be with him if he woke up and called. Each night I'd pray, selfishly, that he wouldn't be gone by morning. Yet, as he slowly grew worse- a tumour beginning to show on his leg, the light in his eyes fading, his appetite decreasing- I began to pray for him to die naturally. It destroyed me to pray so desperately for something that I couldn't have borne to think about a few months earlier. Why did the one who deserved pain the least have to face the most? Why not a quiet, painless death of old age a few years later? God may have had a reason, but I did not know it, so I was livid. In the end, we had to put him to sleep. He died surrounded by people he loved- his parents, sister, grandmother, grandfather, vet, and favourite neighbour. His head was on our mother's lap, and I stroked his head and told him I loved him. I wish I hadn't cried. The grief was not short lived. It has been over a year since he passed, but I miss him just the same. I still expect to see him waiting at the open gate for our car to return, I still glance over at his usual corners from time to time, I still wonder at the lack of fallen fur on the floor in summer. Although the pain is plenty and will not go away, it is very easily overshadowed by the memories I hold dear, the happiness I get from them, and the love I will always have for my little brother. Each second with him was worth everything.

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