A Woof in Four Chapters

By: Andrew Ramon

Yukio Mishima was a prolific Japanese author, and perhaps the most influential writer of the 20th Century. He was also the founder of the Tatenokai, an unarmed civilian militia dedicated to traditional Japanese values and veneration of the Emperor. This organization is infamous for invading a military building and taking control of the general’s office, where Mishima would deliver a speech on the balcony to over a thousand assembled servicemen. It was in this speech that he tried to convince them to overthrow the Japanese constitution. After failing to win support for his extreme political beliefs, he committed seppuku. This is a ritual suicide which he did by disemboweling himself with his own sword, right in the middle of the general’s office. Needless to say, this is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. Unfortunately, my mother disapproves of my obsession with this demagogue. This is one of two reasons I knew she wouldn’t be pleased. Firstly, I knew she wouldn’t like the name. Secondly, I knew she wasn’t going to be happy about a ninety-five pound Alaskan Malamute sitting in her kitchen. 

“Mom,” I said to her, already predicting her reaction, “this is Mishima.” She looks at me with an almost homicidal expression. “Mishi for short.”

“Anabella!” she screams. “We can’t take care of this… this thing!” 

Mishi whimpers and looks up at me. “Jesus Christ are you even sure it’s a dog? It looks like a fully grown wolf!” 

She isn’t exaggerating. Mishi really does look like a subspecies of Canis Lupus. I’m not blaming her for worrying either, she knows that I have never managed to keep a hamster, turtle, or even goldfish alive for more than a week. What she doesn’t know is that Mishi came from the “kill shelter” I volunteer at. Most people don’t know that these places are obligated to serve the community they’re in, regardless if they have room for it or not. Unlike the private “no-kill” shelters, that have a choice of which animals they get to take in, kill shelters get absolutely no support. No one wants to help the heartless monsters that kill innocent animals, and that’s exactly why they never get any adoptions. The surplus of dogs, plus inadequate staffing, equals an increase in euthanizations. Everyone assumes that these places are staffed by horrible people that love torturing dogs in their free time, but the reality is that they’re filled with volunteers that work so hard every day so that they never have to see another animal be put down. It’s exactly for this reason that I spend every Monday and Wednesday at the shelter by my house. Thankfully I’ve never had to do the deed myself, but it’s not like that makes it any better. This is why it’s important that I don’t get attached to any of the dogs, because I know the impending doom in store for most of them. I was pretty good at this until one night coming home late from school, when I stopped by a gas station and saw the biggest dog I’ve ever seen in my life.

 It was panting like it was seconds away from dehydration, so I thought it wouldn’t be a problem for me to empty some water into the empty tupperware I had used for lunch. The second I did, it came bolting at me, and in a moment of panic I jumped back in my car and closed the door. What was originally terror became guilt as I saw his face. He slowed down and stopped by the tupperware, which I had accidentally knocked over when running away. I saw the look of disappointment in his eyes, and it just shattered me on the inside. He was so heart broken. He had finally found someone caring enough to help him out, but scared them off because he was so big. That’s when I knew what I had to do. I couldn’t take him to the shelter, no one would ever adopt him. I might as well be leading him to his grave. He stared at me with these giant brown eyes, and before I knew it, I was explaining to my mom the benefits of having a dog. It took a while to convince her, but in the end, she would much rather me come home with a dog than a positive pregnancy test. 

For most people the hardest thing to say in the English language is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” a word that refers to the lung disease contracted from the inhalation of very fine silica particles from a volcano. For me however, the hardest thing to say in the English language is I love you too. This has at least been the case for every boyfriend I’ve had so far. My record for breaking a heart is four dates in, when I responded to him by saying, “coolsies.” Hopefully, this time will be different though. I’ve been dating Aaron for three months now and he seems to be really amazing. I mean, he’s not perfect. But no one’s perfect, right? Besides, he’s the only thing that makes work bearable. Without him I’d be standing for hours, just waiting to scoop ice cream for anyone that walks in. However, the job isn’t that bad. It’s helped me stuff my freezer with all the ice cream that I didn’t want to be thrown away, and it’s helped me stuff my bank account with over ten thousand dollars. 

I’m saving up for college so that I can become an environmental engineer. Currently, scientists predict that climate change has already gone far past the point of no return. I know it might seem scary, but I promise you, it’s even worse than you think. Swelling seas drowning entire cities, the North Pole being hot enough to tan in, and an island of trash twice the size of Texas floating around in the ocean don’t even scratch the surface. Hell, we might not even be able to escape this planet due to the giant beehive of garbage that is surrounding the atmosphere, possibly cutting us off from space travel within the next decade. Despite this absolute pointless effort to make any change, I still think it would be fun to try. This is exactly why I want to work with the environment, and it’s always been my dream to study this at The University of Pennsylvania. That was until I got accepted to Princeton. I thought I was hallucinating when I got the acceptance letter, but was quickly grounded in reality by the screaming coming from my mom. Mishi didn’t know what was going on, but his tail was wagging enough to understand it was good news. Albeit, his tail wouldn’t be wagging for much longer. 

You never know the pain of watching your dog getting hit by a truck until it happens. Fortunately I probably won’t either, but I’m guessing it’s less painful than gastrointestinal obstruction. According to the vet, it’s extremely painful. He says it’s an item that’s blocking the passage of fluid in Mishi’s small intestines. It could be any kind of object, probably a penny or something like that. But this penny will cost just enough to drain my savings. My mom isn’t happy about it either, she’s grown fond of Mishi. She asks me if I want to bury him in the backyard next to her garden, and I respond by telling her that I already scheduled a date for the surgery. Her face turns white, and with that I watch as the ungodly wrath of an angry Hispanic mother unleashes upon me. 

“And where do you expect to get that money, Anabella? Do you think that I can afford it? Oh I forgot! Let me just pick a few hundreds off the money tree that’s growing in the garden! Right? It’s perfect except for the fact that it doesn’t exist! Silly me! But wait, I seem to have forgotten about all the money that you have saved up. The thousands of dollars… that you have saved… for Princeton! A school that will already put us in debt for the foreseeable future! And now you want to ensure that I die in debt for this… this mutt you found behind a gas station?”

I tell her that I need to walk Mishi to clear my mind. She continues yelling as I walk out the door and put my headphones in. When we return, Aaron just so happens to have miraculously dropped in by coincidence. Not at all called by my mother in order to help persuade me. We step outside to talk while my mom watches from the windows.

“I know this is hard. I know you think you want this right now, but you don’t. If you give up the funds you have saved from the past few years, your mom won’t be able to afford it by herself, and you will likely be put into debt for far longer than you had planned. I know you love Mishi, and I do too, but think about your future Anna.” He grabs my hands and holds them in his. “Think about our future. Are you really going to throw it all away for this stupid dog?” Was I? As I try to answer this in my head, I begin to tear up. Aaron puts my head on his chest and says, “Look, sometimes you just have to make sacrifices in life.”  So I did. I made a sacrifice that day. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the necessary one. 

I’m lying on my bed watching Curious George on my laptop. Maybe it’s just the nostalgia I get watching it, but it always manages to cheer me up. It makes me feel better every time I watch it, without failure, ever since I was a toddler. Halfway through Jack Johnson’s immaculate work on the soundtrack, I feel something lick my leg. I glance past my screen to see two large brown eyes staring back at me. Mishi’s been restless for the past few days, the doctor says I can’t take him for a walk until his stitches heal up. Paying for his surgery may have delayed my plans a little, but it bought me a few more years without being separated from each other. That’s a separation I wouldn’t be able to handle. The separation with Aaron however, was very easy to handle. He was pretty surprised when I broke up with him there on my lawn. He went on for a while about our future together or something. I wasn’t really listening. Somewhere in there, I think he said he saw himself marrying me? Yikes. 

“Mishi,” I say. His ears perk up and his tail begins to wag. “I love you Mishima.” My eyes begin to tear up as I look into his. “I love you so much.”


Art Piece by Chris C.