When I was about six years old, my parents gave me a dog. It wasn’t anything special and looked much like Petey on the popular television show from long ago, The Little Rascals. I didn’t even know what kind of dog she was, but that didn’t matter—she was mine.
I named her Inky because of the large black spots that were scattered randomly all over her body. Inky became my best friend and followed me everywhere I went, which was all over our neighborhood. We were inseparable, and I loved that dog.
I was completely responsible for her. I had to feed, bathe, and make sure she had water to drink. Caring for her was actually good training for me, as it taught me a lot about responsibility.
Inky and I had been together for about three years, and my love for her had grown stronger each year. I came home from school one day and couldn’t find her. I searched all over the neighborhood looking for her. I kept calling her name, but there was no response. I thought she was lost. I was devastated.
I continued searching for hours, and finally I saw her under the house. Back then, our house didn’t have a foundation curtain wall around the perimeter. There was nothing to prevent you from seeing under the house. I called her name, but she didn’t move. I crawled under the house to get her. When I put my hand on her, she still didn’t move and felt cold. I continued talking to her, but there was no response.
I ran inside the house and told Mama I found Inky but I couldn’t make her wake up. Mama came outside with me and called to Inky, but she still didn’t move. That’s when Mama hugged me tightly and started crying. I didn’t know what was going on, but I figured it wasn’t happy tears, as she sometimes called them. This was very different—I could sense pain as she started talking to me in a shaky voice.
“Inky is. . . um, Inky went to dog heaven to be with Jesus,” she said.
“No she didn’t! She’s right there. Mama, make her wake up!”
“Tommy, Inky’s spirit is in dog heaven with Jesus. She’s not coming back home. You need to bury Inky’s body because her heart has stopped beating. I’m so sorry, but Inky is not coming back. . . she’s dead.”
I shouted, “No! No! No! I want Inky to come back! Please let Inky come back to me,” I yelled as I ran to my secret hiding place up in the huge oak tree in our backyard. I climbed up as high as I could and sat there crying my heart out. I wanted Inky to come back home to me. I sat there for about an hour, I guess. To me, Inky was just resting. . . nothing else. I knew she would come back out from under the house to play with me.
Then Mama walked out to the tree with a shovel in her hand. That was the day when the frailty of life hit me hard. I had never considered that Inky could be dead. I didn’t really even know what being dead meant. I had never experienced anything like that before, except for the fish Dad and I caught. Even then, I didn’t think about the fish being dead. It was the process we went through in order to eat them.
“Tommy, I know you’re upset, but this is something that happens to all living things. They are born, they live for a while, and then they go to heaven. Now come on down. It’s time for you to bury Inky. She needs to have a proper funeral. You can put her grave over there by the fence.”
I came down from my hiding place, and Mama handed me the shovel. I could hardly see because of the tears in my eyes. All I could think about was I didn’t want to bury Inky, but it didn’t matter. Mama told me I had to do it. She handed me a plastic bag and told me to place Inky in the bag before I buried her.
I started digging and my tears continued streaming down my cheeks onto the soil. I cried so much while I was digging that I think I ran out of tear juice. I placed Inky in the hole and covered her with the tear-soaked soil. When I finished, Mama came over and handed me a cross that had “INKY RIP” written on it. I placed the cross in the ground at the head of her grave. Mama said it was time for us to say a prayer for Inky.
I bowed my head as Mama said, “Jesus, Inky is in dog heaven with you now. Please take good care of her. She was a good dog, and I know she will be good for you too. Amen. Do you want to say something, Tommy?”
All I could manage was, “I love you, Inky. Please come back home.”
I then climbed back up into the tree to my hiding place and sat for a long time. Mama didn’t say anything else and went back inside the house. Having Inky with me for three years was great, but having her go to dog heaven was tough on me.
When I came home from school each day, I went out to Inky’s grave and knelt down beside her. I talked to her, but I never heard her bark in reply. I did this every day for about a month. I managed to live through the experience, and I guess it helped me appreciate the time I did have with Inky…
Tom Tatum – Author – 2015
+++ BACKGROUND INFORMATION +++
The preceding is a true story from my youth. I changed the name of the boy and used the story as a scene in my novel ON GREEN DIAMONDS: PURSUING A DREAM where one of the main characters (Gabe) reflected on an experience from his childhood. There are many other life lessons throughout the book. Hope you have a chance to read the full story, which is available from most online bookstores in eBook, paperback, and hardback formats.
Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/tomtatum
contact Tom by e-mail at OnGreenDiamonds@gmail.com
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