Popular Posts

Thursday, December 10, 2009

kolo the pup

The Star
Wednesday December 9, 2009
Story and illustration by WAN CHWEE SENG

About a stray that came to stay.

THEY moved in, unnoticed. Then early one morning through the half-obscured mass of vegetation we saw them – a young couple and a little boy of about four playing happily in the garden. It was only then that my wife and I realised a family had move into the vacant house next door. The sound of their muffled voices and spontaneous laughter wafted across the balmy morning air.
The sight and sound were a welcome change in this relatively quiet neighbourhood where children played within high walls or within the confines of their houses. Our hearts warmed as we recalled those days long ago when our own children, now grown-ups, used to play freely in the garden.

Siew Leng with our children, Anita, Lenny and Andrew

Andeww and Lenny
Their shouts and laughter would ring and resonate across the neighbourhood and occasionally we would be startled by a sonic boom as a soccer ball went crashing against the side of our new Mazda.

We were glad and hoped that the silence of the neighbourhood would once again be filled with a child’s voice. Our wish was soon granted.
“Hai, hai,” the voice of a mother reprimanding her child would often break the silence of the day.
Early one morning while weeding in the garden, a flurry of hands attracted my attention. I caught sight of my neighbour’s son motioning to me and pointing excitedly at some unseen object in the drain.
I walked over and craned my neck to find out the cause of the excitement. The boy was soon talking rapidly to me in a language which was alien to my ears.
“Snail,” the mother said with a coy smile. I nodded and smiled.
“I’m Masayo and this is my son Taka. We just come from Kyoto, Japan,” she introduced herself haltingly in English.
Then it suddenly dawned on me that the litany of reprimands I used to hear was in reality the mother responding “Yes, yes” in Japanese to her inquisitive child’s endless questions.
One evening the faint barking of a dog caught my attention. Across the hedge I could see little Taka walking unsteadily down the driveway with a scrawny puppy following closely at his heels. Kolo, the puppy, was a stray which was found wandering at a factory site.
Taka’s father brought it home as a playmate for Taka. The pair could often be seen playing happily in the garden. Kolo, however, had the habit of finding his way into our garden. Taka’s father had taken meticulous pain to patch the holes in the hedge. However, Kolo had the uncanny ability to search for hidden holes and find his way into our garden. Masayo would often apologetically get permission to fetch Kolo from our garden and sometimes my wife and I would help to fetch Kolo and hand it to her over the hedge.
When the family went on short vacations to Japan, a caretaker would feed Kolo, but we would often find the puppy resting comfortably on our front patio and so we helped to care for the puppy. Masayo’s family was appreciative of our concern for their puppy and never failed to bring small gifts when they returned from Japan.

With proper care and nourishment, Kolo grew into a plump puppy, with a sleek brown coat, bright brown eyes and long, floppy ears. As he matured and grew in strength, so did our friendship. Ours was a friendship born out of the mutual concern and care for a stray.

The writer, Taka, and Siew Leng with Kolo

Kolo with Masayo and Taka
One day when we were relaxing on the patio, we saw Masayo, little Taka and their dog, Kolo, at our front gate. After the usual exchange of pleasantries, Masayo informed us that they were going back to Japan.
“You don’t like to stay here?” I inquired.
“We like here, very much, but Taka has to go to school in Japan,” she replied in a voice tinged with sadness.
“Would you like to keep Kolo?” she asked. “If not we have to put him to sleep,” she said in an emotion-choked voice. Behind her thick glasses I noticed sheen of moisture in her eyes.

We agreed to take in Kolo as we could not imagine having him put away. A few days before their departure, I took snapshots of Kolo with little Taka and Masayo.

Taka with Kolo, his playmate
Kolo took instantly to us. In fact, he had always been part of the family. Whenever we came back from work, he was always there to greet us at the front gate. However, there were times when I would find him sleeping on the patio with a faraway look in his eyes and I wondered if he was thinking about Taka, his playmate.

One day when we came back from work, Kolo was not there to greet us. Instead we found him sprawled on the patio. His slow, laboured breathing and the doleful look in his eyes told us there was something seriously wrong with him. We bundled him into the car and rushed him to the vet.
The young cempedak tree
After examining him, the vet informed us that Kolo had been poisoned. The vet tried his best to save Kolo, but he could not be saved. We all felt sad at his passing, but felt sadder at the thought of a stray who had been saved by someone from a distant land only to see its life snuffed out by a heartless person from within our own community. Kolo was put to rest under the cool shade of a spreading cempedak tree.

The cempedak tree is now gnarled and its bare branches throw grid shadows on an unmarked grave.

The gnarled cempedak tree with bare branches

A car toots. Tiny feet patter down the driveway towards a waiting SUV.
“Bye, ma!” Yes, another family has moved into the vacant house next door. The voice triggers a memory and I recall the day when another kid had walked down the same driveway with a stray, a stray who found its way into our homes and right into our hearts.

How much is that doggie in the window _ Patti Page

No comments:

Post a Comment