A Dog I Can Never Forget

A Dog I Can Never Forget

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From February 1953 to the fall of 1959, my family owned a dog named Blackie. He was big and sturdy, had long black fur, and looked like a ferocious lion, so people dared not come near when he was sitting in front of our house. It was said that other dogs feared him as well. Although he looked fierce, he was friendly to all of our guests, and always wagged his tail at them. You simply could not judge Blackie from his appearance.

Actually, Blackie was a very kind dog. He never fought with other dogs, nor did he ever bite human beings or bully small animals. Our whole family loved him very much, and treated him as one of our family members. After he passed away, my father was very sad and said, "Blackie was so clever and lovable, and could walk many steps while standing on his hind legs."

During the time that Blackie was with us, I once punished him when he was a puppy for crawling into the stove. But he never made that mistake again, and was one of my best friends. He knew very well the way I took to get home, and sometimes when I returned after nine in the evening, he would run as far as four or five kilometers to meet me. Once he came and suddenly jumped on me, terrifying me because I had not noticed his approach. Then he stood up straight, held me with his paws and kissed me repeatedly. I gave him some nice food and told him not to meet me like that again, and he never did so afterwards. Instead, he would let me know that he was there to meet me by running up in a circle. Each time I went out, he would walk with me for up to fifteen kilometers, and refused to return when I ordered him to do so. Then I would give him something to eat and enthusiastically try to persuade him to leave, after which he would return unwillingly, looking back at me again and again. I worried for his safety because there was so much traffic on the road.

It was a pity that Blackie lived in hard times and had many miserable experiences. In the spring of 1959, Mainland China suffered a severe famine, which produced an acute food shortage. Many families starved, and having one meal would leave them with no food for the next. Blackie, who had by then had lived many years at our home, showed a fine character during this period and knew that it was not the right time to ask to be pampered. Unlike his previous self, he would leave untouched the leftovers placed before him unless he was told to eat them. When the family sat around our small, low table for meals, he would stand by quietly, watching us eat. Though his mouth watered, he still did not rush up to the table for food. Other dogs might have quickly gobbled up any food that fell to the ground, but that was simply not Blackie's style. He was so understanding that it tore at my parents' hearts! No matter how hungry he was, he never just ate anything he should not have eaten. He was thus very honest and loyal to his poverty-stricken masters.

Seeing Blackie becoming thin and his ferocity weakening each day, my parents ached for him. They sent him to another family that was better-off than ours, so that he would not have to suffer with us. But lovable Blackie missed us and refused to eat or drink anything there. Before long he came back on his own. Blackie was thus the living example of the Chinese saying, "A dog never discards his poor master," and he lived through many hard times with us.

In order to free the family from poverty and the threat of death, my father left our hometown Jiaodong to try to make a living in the faraway Northwest. When he left the house with a large bag on his shoulder, Blackie knew that it would be a long journey for father. Sadly, he followed close behind as father left our home, and father tried to send him back, but he insisted on continuing. This was the only time that he disobeyed us.

Father then left the village premises with Blackie, who followed him all the way to the bus station where there were buses going to other counties. Father did not want to see Blackie overcome by sorrow and told him to return; he even shouted at him, but Blackie simply would not leave. When father got onto his bus, he thought that Blackie would no longer be able to follow him, for he was already very weak. It was more than thirty kilometers from our town to the county and the road was paved with sandstone. However, completely beyond father's expectations, when he got off the bus with his luggage, there was Blackie! Father could not hold back his tears. That was how loyal Blackie was! When father stretched out his hand and Blackie put a paw into it, he found that Blackie's paws were bleeding from having chased the bus so far!

While waiting for the train he was scheduled to take, father told Blackie to watch his luggage as he went into a nearby store to buy a couple of baked buns. When father fed the buns to Blackie, he noticed that Blackie had become really old and had only a few teeth left. Father then sliced the buns and tearfully hand fed Blackie, who was so sad that he cried, too. After my father's train arrived, Blackie could not follow any farther, and sadly returned home.

The famine then became worse, and meanwhile, father had a hard time taking care of our family. But Blackie held on to us nonetheless. Then, one day in the fall of 1959, Blackie starved to death near a hole by our front door. Upon hearing the news of Blackie's death, father came home immediately and buried Blackie under an ailanthus altissima (commonly known as 'the Tree of Heaven'), and we wished that Blackie would be forever elevated to Heaven together with the tree! At that time, poverty and famine had taken many lives, and Blackie's death would only have been a trivial matter in most people's minds. But Blackie was the best member of our poor family. He loyally guarded us and left everyone with unforgettable memories. We cherished his noble qualities, especially when the famine was at its worst, for he never demanded food!

All this happened when I was young, and it has given me great insights into the nature of life. As human beings, who are supposed to be members of a noble species, we are no better than dogs if we fail to understand the need to practice loyalty and love. As Master says, each of God's creations has its own value, and Blackie's value was beyond words. As I recall this story, I can again see how sad my parents were at Blackie's death. They still miss Blackie, knowing how much they owe him. My parents often remind us through Blackie's story: No matter how hard life is, we have to stand firmly and live faithfully. That is the lesson we learned from Blackie.