I rubbed my eyes and looked up at the slowly brightening sky before jumping out of bed. The sounds came from the guest room, where we kept our two puppies. Both of them were only one month old, with sleek fur and big round eyes. I was almost giddy with happiness when I saw them for the first time. To me, they were a childhood dream came true. We spent a lot of time thinking up names for them and finally agreed on Abscissa (“Scissa”) and Ordinate (“Nate”). I guess these are the kind of names you get for your puppies when your parents are both obsessed with math. But one look at the puppies changed the whole thing. Since they were so young, they couldn’t really understand what their names were and were too delicate for training. So we just called them Brownie and Frostie, since one is more white than black and the other more black than white.
I laid my hand on the door handle and hastened to open it when I heard the frantic sound of claws scratching the wooden door. Brownie yelped at the sight of me, and both of them used chubby legs to dart out of their little nest toward the fridge before looking expectantly at me. I sighed and rubbed my eyes again before boiling some hot water to dunk the dog food in.
The clock ticked to six o’clock. I wrapped a long coat around myself and carried the box downstairs. Inside, Brownie and Frostie were struggling to squeeze their heads out of the slit of the box. I half-walked, half-jogged to the center of the small garden and let them out. I watched them play and fool around for a while and then went to sit on a bench to try to get a wisp of that great dream I had been dreaming before the puppies woke me up. I longed for my soft bed and warm covers. Just as I was about to fall asleep again, the puppies yelped to signal their tiredness and hunger. On my way back, Brownie finally struggled out of the box, only to drop straight to the ground. His hopeless yelping of pain echoed loudly across the empty yard, bouncing off trees and walls. My heart was squeezed again and again by each sound as I quickly scooped him up and carried them home.
Inside, the apartment was still quiet. I gave Frostie some dog food before tending to Brownie. Now he was walking with a limp and shivering slightly, probably because of the pain. Knowing that I had zero experience with nursing injured people or animals and that there was a pet hospital three blocks away, I carried Brownie and ran, with tears welling up in my eyes.
“Two more blocks,” I murmured to myself, hugging Brownie still closer. I could feel Brownie’s heartbeat (or was it mine?) pumping frantically, as if we shared the same heart.
“One more block,” I thought.
My footsteps seemed to be a lot heavier and my breath came out short and jagged. The chilly autumn wind swept against my skin, blowing my hair in all directions like helpless strands of seaweed.
“Come on, faster!” I urged myself. The hospital was right around the corner. One step, another step, then another. As I pushed open the front door, I was suddenly engulfed in a sense of gratefulness. Grateful for the short distance. Grateful that I had finally reached it.
Brownie was the first patient at the hospital. The nurse at the front desk handed me a tube of medicine and, after confirming that it was just a minor injury and nothing to worry about, told me to keep Brownie from moving around too much. I walked back home, only to find the guest room in complete chaos. Missing Brownie, Frostie had taken out his anxiety on the sheets and mattress, accompanied by occasional peeing. I let them both out before ignoring the reeking smell to clean the room.
At eight o’clock, having finished all the cleaning, feeding, and medicine rubbing, I collapsed on the armchair, exhausted. This was the second day the puppies were here. Having a pet was always my dream. I liked how their cute little faces would stare up at me in wonder, though probably wondering if I had any food to offer. I liked how they followed me around all the time, like my very own personal sidekicks. I liked how they snuggled up against my feet while I was reading or doing my homework, radiating warmth from them to me. Never had I thought about all the troubles I would be put through after having them.
The door to my parents’ bedroom opened and my mother walked out, having evidently enjoyed sleeping in after a long day at work.
“Have you taken the dogs out yet?” she inquired.
“Yes, and I also took Brownie to the hospital to check out his leg,” I replied with my eyes closed.
After explaining the whole thing to mom, she exclaimed that I am finally becoming the responsible person she had always wanted me to be.
“Remember how you used to leave all your dirty clothes to me, and your room was always in a complete mess? Remember how when you already had a sore throat, you ate that jumbo ice cream anyway, only to result in your having a fever?”
I hastily put a stop to the list of accusations before feeling all defensive again.
“Honey,” Mom said as she sat down beside me, “I’m just glad that you’ve grown up so much.”
I opened my eyes, focused on Brownie and Frostie again, and thought about how, a moment ago, I was complaining about the hard work I had to go through just to take good care of them. But maybe in the process of taking care of the puppies, I also learned how to be responsible for my words and actions. I remember how I had begged my parents for years to have a pet and promised to take care of it all by myself before they finally nodded in agreement. I had thought about giving up. But one look at Brownie and Frostie just reminded me that they were my responsibilities, and I should be a strong person that they could rely on.
Responsibilities are something you’ll have to carry with you on your way to growing up. It may be hard and unpleasant, but in the end, you’ll be glad that you didn’t back out on your words.
After I sorted all this out in my head, Frostie climbed clumsily on my feet and put his head down on my slippers, followed closely by Brownie. Together, they became quiet and fell asleep. And I leaned back and relaxed.
So on a clear, sunny morning, the three of us fell asleep at the same place at the same time, with light smiles on our faces.
Yifei Wang is a 14-year-old Chinese girl living in Zhengzhou, Henan Province. She enjoys reading books, listening to beautiful melodies, and showing her mind in her own writings if she can spare time from her piles of homework. As a big fan of the Harry Potter series, she dreams of turning into J.K. Rowling in the future.
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