文圖 Story & Picture ─ 許維恕 Jenny Hsu
小莉在地球上的最後一年身體情況很不好，走路很困難，也常常尿失禁。她好像知道自己很臭，所以每看到我們回來，雖然很想來迎接我們，但頭總是低低的，好像很不好意思自己身上的尿騷味。拜託，我才不管！我還是照樣地抱她親她。在最後的幾個月裡，她連抬個頭都很吃力，我在她耳邊說：「小莉，沒關係，你累了就去吧！我會沒事的。」 老媽也跟她說我們在後山準備了一個special place要讓她長眠，從那個地方，她可以顧到院子，也可以看到房子，而且又不會有人去打擾她⋯⋯
How is life in heaven? Since you have been gone, many things have happened. I graduated from college and even managed to finish graduate school. Currently, I work for a newspaper. Life has its ups and downs, but I am doing all right. So please don’t worry about me. Although you have been away for almost two decades, you are still often on my mind. At times of important decisions, I always ask myself, if I do this, would Grandpa be proud of me?
In the last few months, I have missed you more than ever and it is because my friends and I have decided to hold a photo exhibit to highlight the issue of Taiwan’s stray animals. We hope through this project, more people can learn to appreciate the value of animals. In fact, each time I think of dogs, your face comes to mind. Memories of all those summers spent in the countryside come flooding back. I remember watching you getting up at the crack of dawn, with the straw hat on your head, a shovel on your back, and rain boots on your feet, you would go survey the rice paddies while taking your two dogs — Ollie and Mally. Ollie was the young black one who always charged ahead of you while mangy Mally, although so old and fragile, stayed closely by your side. When you came home for lunch, the dogs took a break too. You often reminded Grandma to feed the dogs even though she always remembered. When you and your big round belly dozed off on the wicker chair, those two dog slept at your feet. You were never affectionate with them, let alone putting them in outfits or making them a bed out of blankets, but I could tell you respected them. They were your buddies, your partners, and your highly esteemed pals for life.
I remember the phone call from Little Auntie shortly after we moved to the U.S. when she broke the news of Mally’s passing. I was only fourth grade but I cried so hard. I mourned for Mally but most of all, I was heartbroken for you. Who was going to accompany you to the rice paddies? When you go the neighbors for your evening tea and chats, who would walk you home?
Since you’ve been away, Mom and Dad have had several dogs throughout the years. All of them were either adopted or rescued. One of them was a dog that Mom got from a nearby factor owner. Mom named the dog Hsiao Li, but I always liked calling her Lily.
Grandpa, I am not kidding you when I say Lily was the world’s great dogs! She was so obedient and so thoughtful.
Whenever Mom went hiking, Lily would be right next to her. She always stayed in the yard when Dad mowed the lawn. Lily never got upset with your great grandson (my nephew) pulled and tugged on her. She spent her 16 years as the protector of the community. Whenever I called home from the U.S., my last question was always about the dogs. It made me smile the entire day just to hear Mom say the dogs were doing just fine.
During Lily’s last year on earth, her health deteriorated fast. She had a hard time walking and even lost control of her bladder. I think she knew that she a bit stinky because each time we came home, although she was really eager to greet us, she kept her head bowed as if she was embarrassed about her stench. Of course I didn’t care about how she smelled. I still showered her with hugs and kisses. In the last few months of her life, she barely had the strength to hold her head up. I would softly whisper to her, “it’s alright Lily. If you are too tired, then it’s ok to leave. I will be fine.” Mom also reassured her that we have prepared a special place for her long slumber. From that spot, Lily can see the main house while keeping an eye on the garden. It is also a place where she won’t be bothered.
Hey Grandpa, you know, I have feeling you and Lily will get along really well. If you don’t mind, can I trouble her to take care of you until we meet again? Before Lily left, I gave her my word that I will do everything I can do help more animals. In fact, she is the inspiration for this exhibit. So Grandpa, please promise me that on the day of the opening, you will bring Lily to check out the exhibit. I will save a place on the couch for you two.
Love you always,