Heather Lynn Hanson
Once upon a time, a girl named Ramona and a boy named Roberto had a wonderful dog. They named the dog Feliz because he was so happy when they came home from school each day. He bounded toward them, barking and tail wagging madly. His sandy brown coat was sort of wavy around the shoulders but straight and smooth around his haunches. Under his chin he had a ruff of fur that Ramona liked to tangle her fingers in. He had dark silky ears that Roberto liked to stroke. Feliz was always getting burrs caught in his hair, so the children took turns every day brushing his coat.
With their dog, Ramona and Roberto would roam their neighborhood. Sometimes Feliz would run ahead, chasing a squirrel. When they went to the pond, Feliz would swim with them. Sometimes they would sit on a tree stump and the dog would sit quietly beside them. His tongue hung out and his tail wagged as he rested. Once in a while, if something sad happened at school, the children would tell Feliz all about it. He would look at them with his brown eyes, and it seemed like he understood. When they walked to the supermarket, sometimes bigger kids would try to tease Ramona and Roberto, but Feliz growled at them, and the bigger kids left the children alone. They learned to walk and not be afraid when they walked with Feliz. They loved Feliz very much, and Feliz loved them.
Then one day something terrible happened. Feliz got very, very sick. He must have eaten something very bad for him because he never got well and he died. The children cried and cried. And then they found a place in the garden to bury him and they wrapped up his body in a pretty scarf and covered him up with dirt, and planted a pretty bush by the grave. And they thought about all the fun they had with Feliz and how much they missed him.
A few days later, Ramona was walking home from school, and a dog came bounding toward her, tail wagging. It reminded her a lot of Feliz. "It's like Feliz is part of that dog, too," she told her brother. Roberto saw a squirrel running like crazy across the school yard. It brought back memories of how Feliz chased squirrels. "Do you suppose that squirrel saw Feliz's ghost?" he said, and the children laughed.
Ramona and Roberto had to walk through the neighborhood where the mean kids lived. The children remembered how confident they used to feel with Feliz at their heels. They decided to pretend that Feliz was walking beside them, and they walked bravely past the other kids. The bigger kids said some things, but Roberto and Ramona kept on going, thinking Feliz would be with them if he could be.
That night they asked their dad: "Do you think dogs turn into ghosts or angels or something when they die?"
"I don't know," said dad. "You miss Feliz a lot, don't you?"
"Yes, I miss brushing his coat."
"And I miss his silky ears and his waggly tail."
"Sometimes it seems like he's here somewhere, but just out of sight."
"Sometimes I see another dog, and I think it's Feliz," said Ramona.
Mother said, "You still imagine him sometimes, don't you? How he was so friendly and playful—all the ways he was special to you? You can see him even when he isn't here." The children nodded.
"You can feel happy for the wonderful dog he was, even though you are sad, too. His love lives on in your memory. Maybe that's what it means to live forever—remembering the friends you love and who love you, and, letting that love fill you with happiness, and live inside you. When you remember Feliz, part of him lives again in you."
"I like that," said Ramona and Roberto. And they smiled.
Do you like that idea?
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Last updated on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.
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