by Susheela Menon
Bo tottered around and fell on the seashore near her home. She stood up, dusted her skirt and walked again, her long, straight hair fluttering against jet black eyes. The wind was strong but that isn’t why she fell.
She fell because of her dog, a little black Schnauzer called Goro. She walked with Goro every evening but stumbled all the time because of Goro’s leash, which knotted itself around her legs when she walked. It wasn’t that Bo held the leash too close. It was because Goro refused to walk with her and ran behind her every two seconds. Driven by anxiety, the dog criss-crossed along the road regardless of Bo’s predicament. Bo loved Goro but wanted him to enjoy his walks like all the other dogs on the streets of her sunny country. She looked at Goro’s kind face. He struggled to tell her many things.
Goro wasn’t timid. Abandoned by a man whom he loved dearly, Goro had found himself alone near a crowded train station one evening. His human had leashed him, walked with him to a garden and set him free. Goro had bolted towards the park and turned around to find his human gone. Goro had waited a long time but the man never came back. He was held captive in a small cage and transported to an animal shelter by strangers who checked his temperature and fed him. They were good to him but Goro missed his home and cried all night. He wondered if he had been a bad boy by leaving his human’s side.
And that’s why when Bo adopted him, he decided never to disappoint her. Goro didn’t care about the leash. He didn’t care about passers-by laughing at his attempts to be by Bo’s side. He didn’t want to lose Bo. He circled her legs and sometimes ran between them to assure her of his presence. He didn’t look at the pavement at all. He looked at Bo’s legs and nothing else. He wasn’t happy being outside. He just wanted to go home and rest on the marble floor. He didn’t want to go back to being a dog without a human. It was miserable to be like that.
“Goro, run with me, boy!” Bo would say, but Goro scampered around her as she scurried to jump out of his way. She fell on the road sometimes but nothing could lessen her fondness for the dog she embraced many months ago when Danny left her for another woman.
She had tried her best to bring Danny back. She struggled to change the way she looked, dressed, talked and loved so he would notice her again. How could he fall in love with someone else? She hoped the affair was just a passing fancy and ignored it for a while. She didn’t talk about it at all. It would go away if she didn’t make a fuss about it, thought Bo. However, it didn’t. Its shadow grew darker and heavier until it threatened her sanity. She questioned him one night and he walked out the next morning. Bo kept retracing her life all day to see if she could spot anything at all that might have alerted her. She didn’t. She waited for him to come and see her, but Danny didn’t come back.
Goro could never replace Danny but he managed to distract her enough to be able to live. His eyes mirrored the anguish she endured; she knew the little dog suffered as much as she did. She loved him like a child and Goro returned her love in full measure. She allowed him to sleep on her bed and taught him tricks that kept him agile. “Up, Goro!” she said, and the dog jumped up to grab the jerky that dangled from Bo’s fingers. She played with his dog food, throwing his kibbles high so Goro could catch them in his mouth. She hid his bone but Goro sniffed it out in no time. “Smart boy, Goro!” she said, as Goro wagged his tail and lifted his brows. She gave him a little of her chicken rice or noodle soup sometimes and watched as he ate, licking his bearded snout. Bo marvelled at the dog’s instinct as he padded over to where she sat every night, his moist nose nuzzling against her tear-stained cheeks. She smiled at Goro, who looked almost human as his eyes studied hers for answers. Bo couldn’t give him any.
He was a clever dog but Bo was surprised when he resisted the pull of his leash one evening as she tried to take him out. He refused to move and whined until she set him free. She carried him down the next day and was amused at his confused gait. She laughed and called him lazy but as days passed, she wondered why he didn’t like to be outside. She took him to a dog park but instead of zipping about like other dogs, he stood near her, his eyes scanning her face. He sat near the door every evening with his leash near him, following Bo’s every move. She took him to the shops, to the butcher’s, to beaches and parks. Strangers walked past, staring at this odd dance where Goro circled Bo, who tried not to trip over his leash.
Bo once tried running with him but gave up the idea soon. She tried to cycle but Goro got too close to the wheel. She practiced walking backwards for a while and laughed as Goro ran towards her, perplexed and panting hard. She linked his edginess to his past and wondered what she could do to gain his trust. She had to help Goro. She took him out with another dog, whose owner asked her out. Bo didn’t hesitate to accept his interest and on the night that she gave herself to him, she realised that her relationship with Danny was truly over.
She filed for divorce and ended her relationship legally. She distanced herself from her strife as she tried to help Goro overcome his distress. A strange feeling of liberation overwhelmed her as she walked out of the courtroom, her eyes determined and dry. She started walking dogs for a fee and sometimes bathed and fed the animals she walked. It wasn’t easy to walk Goro along with the other dogs but she persisted. As her confidence grew, so did her willingness to seek love again. Danny soon became a distant memory; she hoped he was well but didn’t want him back.
And then one night, as Bo walked with her dogs, she noticed Goro striding along with them, his neck held high and his badge shining in the moonlight. He didn’t try to run through her legs or skip back to be behind her. His leash didn’t wind itself around her body. He was by her side, a little ahead even. Goro panted as he walked, his eyes bold and brown. He looked happy to be part of the pack. He glanced around him, his ears pricked and his nose picking up smells; he strode knowing she was with him, now and forever. Bo called out to him and he turned once to look at her. “Good boy, Goro!” she said, as Goro looked ahead and sauntered on with the rest of the pack.