My curly red hair flew out behind me as I ran. What I desperately needed was a place where I could be alone, a place where all there was for company were the chirping of crickets, the flapping of birds, and the occasional breeze.
Luckily, I knew exactly where that was.
Lost in my determination of my journey, and so absorbed in my thoughts that a stray twig slashed a cut on my ankle as I ran—it didn’t matter. Nothing matters when the most faithful dog you’ve ever known leaves Earth, because then it seems like the world is over, and what is a little gash compared to the loss of the greatest dog in the world?
Finally, after much huffing and puffing, I stopped at the creek. My creek. My place. My hideout. Looking in the water, I pouted, and in the water a freckle-faced girl pouted back at me. But she was soon swept away with the rush of playful little waves frolicking on the rocks. The laughing waves left behind mounds of tiny bubbles, and I could see the reflections of hundreds of geese circling overhead, all squawking noisily. It was nice to let myself sink into another world, to escape from one in pieces… A single teardrop fell through the creek.
I thought, and mourned over what had happened just hours earlier as I sat down, dipping my feet into the creek.
This morning, my dog, the best dog in the world, who, after eight healthy, fun, and very spoiled years, had got run over. Now that I think about it, Spotz had not been just my dog. Spotz had been my life’s companion. She never criticized me. Instead, she comforted me. And when I was upset, when I had a bad day, or when we got some bad news from the bank, Spotz would always trot along with me—no matter how much she’d rather explore our food pantry, or roll in the mud—to this creek, to our place. To our own secret hideout that only we knew. To where I could calm down my anger—and today I had a lot of anger bottled up inside me.
I was mad at myself for never realizing until now how important Spotz had been in my life. And now Spotz had… It was much too late now.
If I had stayed at home instead of going to Cecilia’s sleepover, none of this would have happened. Spotz would accompany me to my rough years, and maybe she’d even see me graduate!
I had a dozen questions for myself. Didn’t I know that Spotz was scared of thunder and hated it? Didn’t I know that there would be a storm that night, yet I still went to the sleepover, leaving dear Spotz all alone? Didn’t I know that when Spotz heard thunder, she’d dig a tunnel beneath the fence to escape? That she would be terrified? That she would be out of her mind? That… that she’d accidentally get run over by a car?
No, a tiny voice in my head whispered. You couldn’t have known that Spotz would get run over. True. But… for not thinking about my beloved Spotz, for focusing on the sleepover, did that make me a bad person?
Replaying the events in my head was too painful for words. How Spotz had playfully licked my hand and looked me in the eye for what I didn’t know then was the last time. And seeing Spotz’s limp body on the side of the road, helping Mom and Dad bury her… it was all too much… I couldn’t stand it. And I cried. First, tears welled up in my eyes, then, gradually, a flow of tears began dripping down in the creek. Lying down on the cool black earth, I cried myself to dreams, while the serene scene before me faded away slowly.
* * *
"Jeana, Jeana, wake up!” Annoyed at this, I sat up. Blinking a million times faster than usual, I gaped at the tall, brown-haired woman beside me by the creek, sitting patiently.
It was Mom!!!!
Suddenly, I felt flustered, shocked, and a mixture of all the emotions that make you go red in the face, and I’m positive that my face had turned into an awkward-looking tomato. “Er, how, ho-how, di-did you fi-fi-find…” I sputtered, knowing that my words made no sense.
Mom surveyed my face. Gently, she said, “Jeana, when I heard, I knew what you would do. The number of times I saw Spotz and you come here…” She grasped my hand tightly, and I saw her eyes glistening with tears. A shadow of guilt flickered across them. “Your dad and I should’ve watched her more carefully. I know how much Spotz meant to you. I… I really, really am sorry.” Mom sniffed. So did I. Mom continued, “It’s hard, I know, but try thinking the other way. Spotz had a great eight years with us. It’s OK to mourn now, but remember, you’ve still got a life to lead. Spotz may be gone, but she won’t ever go away in our hearts.”
Mom didn’t get up, and her presence itself was comforting. As we watched the orange sky dissolve into an indigo night, it was then I realized just how much Spotz had been a part of my life.