Illustrated by Yoonji Woo
It was one of the happiest days of Violet’s life, her 9th birthday. She named her new Shetland Sheepdog “Flurry,” because he was always moving in an adorable flurry of actions. One minute, he was bounding up to Violet’s parents, begging for snacks, or sniffing curiously at his new toys. But he always, always, ran back to Violet in the next second, curled up in her lap, and whined at her. She knew: he wanted her to give her attention to only him and nothing else in the world.
Violet was all smiles, all day and all night. Who wouldn’t be, with a companion as loyal as a shadow, as jealous and loving as an overprotective parent, and as beautiful and bright as the sun that the two loved to play in? Not a day would go by when Violet and Flurry weren’t romping around in the back yard grass, each giggling in their own way, teaching each other new tricks, and simply having fun.
On her 10th birthday, Violet and her parents had arranged for a large house party with magic show booths all around the back yard. Violet was the most popular girl in school that day, and every single person in her grade came to her party. But while there were more children than was probably safe swarming each and every booth, not a single one of those extravagant shows or other party favors caught Violet’s attention. Flurry had somehow managed to find his way on to the high glass table in the kitchen, where the two-tier birthday cake had sat proudly, waiting for the children to come devour it.
It had been a gorgeous thing, really. A magnificent yellow cake with vanilla frosting and beautiful little pink and purple roses dotted all around both layers. In his scramble to dive right at the center of the cake, Flurry had knocked aside dishes and green soda pop bottles alike. Having eaten his fill, he was now hunched over on the top of that glass table, three feet off the floor, vomiting and gagging, the poor wretch. It was a wonder, really, that Violet managed not to step on any of the broken white and green shards in her mad dash for her beloved dog.
Her parents kept berating Flurry and attempted to scold him for eating the cake. But Violet, covered in sweat and tears, only lashed out at her parents and kept Flurry locked in her embrace. The poor creature was shivering and gagging, and Violet only kept up her tantrum, much to the shock and horror of her classmates. An hour or so passed in this manner, her parents literally trying to tear Flurry away from Violet’s surprisingly strong grasp, when Flurry’s convulsions stopped. He looked up straight into her eyes. His black ones met her brown ones, the latter of which immediately turned into half-moon curves as Violet broke out into a wide smile of relief. He would be all right.
Flurry grew bigger and prouder in stature. But Violet spoiled him so. He remained a baby for the next few years. Wherever she went, Flurry was sure to follow. At school, she became known as the “girl with the fur coat,” as her clothes were constantly covered in black and golden-brown fur, courtesy of her canine companion. Violet’s mother had given up long ago in getting the girl to lay off her constant hugging of “the dog.”
On her 12th birthday, Violet managed to talk the mean owner of the biggest restaurant downtown into letting Flurry in for her special night. Who could resist that little girl’s charms? Her earnest love for that dog came through so passionately in her eyes and trembling voice.
At age three, Flurry was going through a kind of puberty stage. He was acting strangely and rebelled against Violet’s parents, her friends, and especially against her new boyfriend. Who is this strange-smelling human that often visits our home? Why is he sitting in my spot next to Violet on OUR couch? Violet, for her part, thought this was highly amusing: normally sweet-tempered and amicable to all around him, Flurry was just so jealous right now! When he failed to nudge that weird-smelling human off the couch, Flurry always settled for Violet’s lap, just like when he was a three-month-old pup.
On her 13th birthday, Violet held no celebration. She planned on spending the whole day in her room sobbing her eyes out. Perhaps it was the unusual noisiness of her crying or the heavy atmosphere—or perhaps it was the fact that the level of sobbing and anguish was highly reminiscent of that time three years ago when she had taken him in her arms as he was painfully vomiting up all the cake—but Flurry did not come bounding into her room and barking to go for their daily walk. He could not lick her face, as it was pressed against the side of her bed, arms around her head as she continued to sob uncontrollably. Flurry simply crouched at her side, nudging her occasionally with his nose, and whined and cried along with Violet for the rest of the day and night. Most thankfully for Flurry, that weird-smelling human who had hung around his beloved Violet for the past year never showed up again.
Flurry knew many neat tricks, all thanks to Violet. She had taught him the basics, such as “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “roll over,” and “fetch.” But one trick she could never get him to learn was to “shake hands.” But Violet was convinced, and in fact “knew,” that Flurry was just deceiving her. Each time he licked her outstretched hand, she could only laugh and remark how smart a dog he was.
On her 16th birthday, Violet was nowhere to be seen. Flurry was in anguish. He was alone in the house, as Violet’s parents had not come home from work, but Violet had not come back from school either. His younger habit of gnawing at the wooden chair legs resurfaced temporarily. There had never been a day thus far, in all of his seven years, where Violet had left him alone for this long. Flurry whined, then pined, then howled at the top of his lungs. And it was in this state that Violet found her poor dog, when she came stumbling into the house with other stumbling friends. Flurry knocked her clean off her feet in his excitement to be welcomed by her embrace. He was wary for a moment, however, as there was a strong smell in the air that he had not smelt before.
But all was well anyway, since Violet was back. The crowd of young humans was loud and obnoxious that day, with some of the bunch actively attempting to kick or shove Flurry aside. He could not snap or bite back at them, even with his big stature, not with Violet around. But he didn’t even need to protect himself, as Violet in her weirdly clumsy condition still managed to fend off all of the human bullies.
At the end of that crazy night, the two were back in the same position as always: curled up on Violet’s rug in her room, the master with her legs crossed and her dog asleep in her lap. It was more difficult than ever for Violet to finish her homework that night.
Flurry was no longer the young and spritely pup he had been a couple years ago. He began to experience pains along his hind legs, and then infections in his ears and even a cataract once in his left eye. This last incident warranted another uncontrollable sob session from Violet, and by now, Flurry knew this reaction to be an indicator that Violet was in distress. Even throughout his sick days, he kept her constant company. And he found that looking up into her face calmed her down somewhat. What he didn’t know was that by doing so, by using those black button eyes to look upon his worrying owner’s face, he was truly telling Violet that “all would be well.”
On her 18th birthday, that fateful day, Violet again came stumbling into her house with friends. But this time, all of them held brown bags with objects clinking inside them. The sounds were vaguely familiar to Flurry. And these objects would forever be burned into his memory as the devices of hell from a vengeful and loathing master.
For the teenagers, soon to graduate from high school, had brought back green bottles of beer, courtesy of some college guys that were part of the group. For the first time ever, Flurry did not try to keep Violet company during this night. He was tired, and seeing these green bottles brought back distant memories of a time of uncontrollable gagging on his part and uncontrollable sobbing on the part of Violet…
…until he heard Violet calling for him. Flurry’s ears perked up and he eagerly shifted his tired bones and muscles to move to a standing position. He trotted over to Violet, who was at that moment leaning into the arms of some male-human. That same male-human pointed to Flurry, laughed, said something loudly and jeered. All the members of the group asked Flurry to perform tricks. He dutifully obeyed, tired bones and all. At one point, every single one of them asked him to “shake hands.” Flurry did not comply, nor did he lick their hands. This was reserved only for Violet. And when she asked him to “shake hands,” he gladly did what he always did in response to her. Only this time, she did not laugh nor did she praise him. Instead, what he received was a blow on the left eye with one of those green bottles.
Violet’s parents would tell her for the next couple days that “dogs are only wild creatures in the end, and would always turn on you with the first chance that they get.” Of course, none of these words came into Violet’s ears, as was the case for most of what her parents had to say about Flurry throughout the past nine years. In her mind, she could not erase that look of horror, how the light had gone out from Flurry’s black button eyes, in the moment that she struck him.
A shard had remained ever since in the dog’s left eye. His vision in that eye permanently damaged, Flurry spent the next couple of days actively avoiding any other living being. He was not interested in walks, nor was he interested in eating or playing with any of his toys. But worst of all, he would growl, snap, and attempt to lunge at Violet whenever she passed by his dark corner. The times the two had spent together, for the past nine years, in the living room, in the back yard, and her room, were seemingly gone to him. Wiped clean. Violet’s parents were worried for the safety of their daughter, and ultimately came to a decision.
Three weeks after her 18th birthday, Violet made the two-hour drive to the goat farm where her parents had sent her beloved Flurry (whom they had started calling “Fury” before they sent him away). She always watched from afar, never daring to even step out of her car. That lesson came hard and painfully, as she learned on the first day she set foot on the farm, came within hearing and smelling distance of her once-loving companion, and could not run away despite Flurry’s barred teeth and mad (but not in a good way) dash in her direction.
So she sat in her car that cold day, tears silently streaming down both cheeks, absent-mindedly rubbing the tears and bite marks in her right arm. Violet had filled up all of the trunk and back seats with luggage and boxes that she would take to the airport. Her college was too far away, much too far away for her to come visit every month, much less every week or even day. Violet silently pressed two fingers to her lips, whispered a goodbye, pressed those fingers against the fogged up window, and waited until sunset. The farmer and his wife called Flurry in after another day’s work of barking at the goats and rounding them up.
That beautiful black and brown face, with the black button right eye and stitched up left eye… that beautiful face turned around for the last time. Violet could only see his wagging tail disappearing swiftly into the distance, until she could see him no more.
On her 22nd birthday, just a few days before graduation, Violet hastily sped her car up that once familiar stone pathway lining the outskirts of the farm. She almost ran right into a tree, and did in fact scratch her car against some rocks along the way.
She tore into the barn house, where the farmer and his wife were waiting for her. Lying on a pile of soft blankets and pillows in front of their crouching forms was a dog… it was Flurry. And what a pathetic looking thing he was: cast on his rear left leg, scratched nose, spots and patches of missing fur all around his body. Age had finally caught up with the poor creature that had once been magnificent and beautiful.
His ears perked up slightly when Violet entered. But he did not lift his head, nor did he wag his tail. She crept over, frightened. But she was not frightened of him, or that he would suddenly, in his mad vengeance, attempt to rip her to pieces. No… she was afraid that he would die before she even got to welcome him in her embrace once more. But she couldn’t walk any faster. Seeing him for the first time in these past few years, in this form, broke her heart. She could not do more than simply shuffle slowly in his direction.
But as all journeys must eventually come to an end, so did her short trek up to the greatest sorrow, pain, anguish, and love of her life. Violet fell to her knees.
Flurry still had not acknowledged her presence. His head was still lying to the side, facing off into the distance, glancing at some unknown spot.
What was he thinking of? Was he scared? Had he eaten his dinner? Had he had any fun at all today…?
Not able to think of anything else to say, Violet simply reached out and stroked his once luscious and smooth fur. 13 years’ worth of love dancing in her heart, but all she could manage was,
And the dog raised his head to face her, his good eye both seeing but not truly seeing what was in front of him. She took his poor, weak form in her embrace once more. Then he laid his head down to finally rest.