When an unexpected friend leaves a legacy.
Written and illustrated by Alejo Porras de los Ríos.
As an only child, my days were frequently spent playing with my neighborhood friends after school. I was typically the one to go around their houses to collect them, but on a very different afternoon I found them on my doorstep first. Their faces shone with excitement as they explained that they had a new friend they wanted to introduce to me. They didn’t say much about this friend, but I did want to go out and play, so I accepted.
When we found the rest of our group, they introduced this friend to me: she had pale blonde hair, was a little skinny but looked super happy and was wagging her tail back and forth. The stray dog had made her way through the bars and walls that surrounded our residencial area. She was very excited to be part of the gang, and when a dog chooses you to be her friend you don’t refuse (even if your parents are not so thrilled about it)!
We named her Luna, probably because she was a little crazy. We liked to surround her very closely and then take off running in all directions at once, making her so excited and confused that she would just run around in circles, barking until she ran after the closest person to her. We pretended she was a bull and we were in a bull ring, running and leaping over our neighbors’ fences to escape from her (but unlike a bullfight, we never harmed her and she enjoyed the game as much as we did).
We had a great time with her every day. When the sun went down the gang would sit on a grassy spot and just talk about kid things. Luna would try to lick our faces, and we’d pretend we didn’t want her to. After some cuddles and pats on the head she would leave for the night, God knows where, and we would all go back to our homes.
And then we stopped seeing her for a while. Since nobody knew where she spent the night, we began to worry and feel sad. It is odd when a friend suddenly disappears. And similar to having a human friend, we began to wonder if we did something wrong to offend her.
Fortunately that was not the case. She had been… umm… busy. She came back with a big belly - Luna was about to become a mom! We realized then why she had adopted us: we were her support group. Pregnancy is not meant to be lived alone; there’s a sense of vulnerability with it that requires attention, love and joy from others. So we did what any nine year old kid would do and started smuggling food from our houses to feed our pregnant friend. We also started wondering how we would help her with the puppies, and we gave her as much love as we could.
I think my friend Cristopher was the first one to find out she had given birth. He found her in the yard of an abandoned house in a cozy and hidden cave she had prepared inside the bushes. When we came to see her she even let us get close, and sometimes left her nest for a bathroom break while we took care of the seven tiny, fat and multicolored puppies.
Eventually we realized her shelter was not safe enough to protect them from the crazy Costa Rican rains, so each of us ended up taking some puppies to our homes until we could make another plan. I ended up with two whom we named Cometa (Comet) and Canelo (Cinnamon). From then on every morning at six, Luna came to scratch the door of my house so my parents and I would take her babies out to her. She would feed them, give them some love for about half an hour and then she would leave to go visit my other friends’ houses and feed the other puppies.
This went on for a few days until we noticed she was weak and not acting like herself. One of my friend’s parents brought a vet to see her and he realized she was very sick from an infection and it was too late to save her. We said good bye to her with our hearts broken.
I don’t know what happened with the rest of the puppies, but mine grew so big and strong that it wasn’t right to keep them in our super small, yardless house and my parents decided it was best to find them a new home. Canelo ended up with a family who had a big coffee plantation for him to run free and Cometa was adopted by a policeman who trained him to detect drugs and search people for his division. From that day on, every time I watched a white police dog in the news, I would jump out of my seat with excitement and scream: “Look! That’s Cometa, he’s a hero!” I like to think that Luna would’ve been very proud.
As I look back I realize how intense those few months were and how much Luna taught me. In a very short amount of time I experienced the joy of acquiring a new friendship, the expectation of new life, the celebration of birth, the grief of departure and the responsibility of caring for the little ones she left behind. I had just wanted to go out and play, but I ended up with so much more thanks to this unexpected friend who was crazy enough to trust us.