HAVANA TIMES — Our friendship began almost a decade ago. Every night, returning home from work, I would find him lying on the dirt near the bus stop – old, scrawny, his skin covered with disease, slow in his gait, hungry and, most noticeably, sad, very sad. No one was able to tell me where that sorry-looking beast had come from.
One evening, I whistled at him, he followed me home and I gave him some food. This became habit and I began to miss him whenever I didn’t find him at the bus stop.
At first, my family didn’t want him in the house and I had to frighten him off after he’d devoured his plate of food. Bruno (the name I gave him) would then begin to howl inconsolably. Have you ever seen a big old Doberman howling out of sadness? It breaks your heart.
One cold night, after my parents had gone to bed, I let him inside the house for the first time. I gave him food and went to take a bath. What did I find when I came out of the bathroom? That mangy, stinky dog lying comfortably on my bed, almost wrapped up in my bedspread.
Finally, my family grew fond of Bruno and he was allowed to stay – for a little bit of time, at first, then more time, and so on. After I’d cured him and fed him properly, he didn’t look that old. He became nimble and strong, the head dog around the block.
People also took a liking to him because of his majestic demeanor, his gentleness and his restless and wandering ways. In my neighborhood, nearly no-one knows my name, but people got to know me as “Bruno’s owner.”
I loved hugging him, rolling around on the floor and playing with him (though he didn’t like the rough stuff). During this time, he gave me countless shows of love.
Here’s one of them: my father has a small plot of land with fruit trees and, whenever Bruno saw me climb up to the highest branches, he would start howling and wouldn’t stop until seeing me climb down to the ground again. Then, he would throw his big paws around me.
We spent our best and most enjoyable times together hiking around the hills surrounding my neighborhood. We would run around the derelict paths and that gentle giant would become an authentic Doberman: high-spirited and graceful like a race-horse.
What beautiful movements! He would become a wild animal, but one without a hint of aggressiveness to it. I would roll him around on the ground, bite him, bother him, scold him, and never once did he growl at me or threaten me with his teeth.
In fact, I never saw him do this with anyone. His gentleness was such that I always wondered how he would react if someone attacked me. He wouldn’t have lasted long among the Nazis.
That’s how things were while I was still living in my neighborhood, Reparto Electrico. I later moved to Alamar and started seeing less and less of him. My family took care of him, but things weren’t the same. He got a bad case of ticks, lost weight, lost his teeth, had crust around his eyes. Then, he got sick and, a few weeks ago, passed away. He died in my arms and now I’m a bit of a mess.
I reproach myself for not having done more for that great friend, for having failed to take care of him properly, having distanced myself from him. I feel a lot of remorse.
The death of a loved one is something of a lesson about what truly matters in life, a lesson that lasts the blink of an eye. As days go by, we begin to forget the lesson and we return to that mental state in which death appears to us distant and unreal.
The health of a loved one will again slide downhill, we will again fail to be there for them because we’re caught up in other “important matters”, and remorse will again set in to torment us when it’s already too late.
It’s a cycle that repeats itself time and time again, but not in vain. I, at least, feel as though I’m learning something.
As for Bruno, I only hope his memory remains with me for a very long time.