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To Take My Place
The young couple are in love. Their hearts are bursting with it. If they were songbirds, they would sing all day long, and if they were the sun and moon, they’d throw the world into eternal eclipse just to be together.
Then there’s Ralph. The girl’s dear companion, a 14 year old Golden Retriever. His muzzle is pure white with age, and his bones creak when he moves. The girl is distressed, and because they’re so in love, so is the boy. She stays up with her old dog, cradling his white muzzle in her palms, and sighing with the tears that threaten to spill from her eyes.
But then one day, one glorious day, the boy brings home a gift. A gift with big round paws, all wrapped up in grey and white fur. His name is Luca, and he’s a Siberian Husky. Beautifully purebred and wonderfully intelligent, even at the shiny new age of two months.
The puppy is set on the floor, where he stumbles to Ralph, all filled up with the wonder of new life, new experiences. Ralph has been through fourteen years of new experiences, right through the girl’s first heartbreak, her first car, and her marriage. So now all he does is stare at the bumbling fat puppy, and release a huge sigh as memories of being a stupid puppy fill his mind.
The boy and the girl take off, probably to new wonders and adventures, and leave Luca there with Ralph’s supervision. Luca watches them go, his wagging tail getting slower and slower as he realizes they’re going. When they finally disappear from his sight, he lets out a long howl. Ralph growls, and the fat puppy drops down to all fours and trots over to him.
“Hello, old dog. I see you’ve probably been around for quite awhile…I wonder. What’s your name?” Ralph raises his muzzle, and says in the gruff voice of an old man, “My name is Ralph. I’ve been around long before your mother was even a thought, pup.” Luca’s brow furrows. “Why did they take me from my mother then? These humans? If they already have a faithful companion? Is that not the job of a dog? To be a faithful companion?”
Ralph then gets up, and walks to the screen door, where he lays on his favorite rug. This rug is covered in long golden hairs, and frayed at the ends, from countless nights of him resting his old bones on it. “Listen, pup. I’m going to tell you something, and I hope you don’t get upset by it.”
“I’m old. I’ve been around for years. But I can feel it in my body. My once strong muscles are weak, my bones crack, and even my sense of smell is slowly leaving me. Every day, I get weaker, and I can tell that my time is coming, to run with my mother and brothers and sisters wherever they may be.”
“That’s why they have chosen you. To take my place. As their protector, as one who will love them unconditionally, no matter what they have done. The girl especially. She’s the one who will truly dote on you. Give them love and affection, they will give nothing but the same in return. Just remember, though you’re still wet behind the ears, you can offer them more than you can imagine.”
Luca cuddled into the old dog’s belly fur. “So…when is it going to be, Ralph?” Ralph closed his eyes. “Any day, now pup. Any day now.”
Seven years later, Luca lay on the living room floor, his eyes closed. The boy and the girl, now the woman and the man, come in with their two sons and a fat wriggling chocolate Labrador puppy. They promptly name him Nigel, and run off to fill his brand new food dishes.
The puppy runs to the old dog in the corner, and nudges him softly with his nose. “Wake up, old guy. Wake up!” Luca opens his eyes, and rises. “My name is Luca…and I’ve got something to tell you.”
“You see, you are here to take my place…”