We watched “Frozen” with friends, stayed up half the night, and set the alarm for 8 a.m., but I woke up at 4:30 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I tapped my husband on the shoulder.
Me: You awake?
Me: I am awake.
Manny: Do you wanna build a snowman?
An hour later, I had a cup of strong french press coffee brewing, and we were packing granola bars and water for a hike up Mount LamLam to watch the sun rise.
We staggered up the mountain–erm, 1,300 foot hill–with our flashlights in semidarkness, trying (and failing) not to slip on the dewy, grassy, overgrown trails. More than once, Manny grunted and jumped a few feet backwards to avoid the two- and three- inch banana spiders, almost sending me on a rapid trip back down the mountainside.
We missed the sunrise by a few minutes, but the early-morning sun was still turning the hilltops gold when we reached the peak. It turns out that sunrises at Mount LamLam are just as beautiful as sunsets on the mountain. It was clear enough to see all the way to the northernmost point of the island, Ritidian Point, and all the way south to Cocos Lagoon.
I stood up near the crosses at the summit and scanned the horizon, no doubt thinking very poetic, philosophical thoughts, when Manny grinned and pointed behind me.
“Steff, turn around.” And there was the dog that we didn’t yet know would be adopting us as his very own.
Manny immediately went to pet him. “We shall call him Frank!” he said jokingly, as he went to scratch the puppy behind the ears. A few minutes later, I was sitting on the ground beside Frank, feeding him our breakfast.
Gah. There went the heartstrings. He sat with his leg at a noticeably odd angle. His eyes were clear and bright but sad. He looked so malnourished that it seemed another day or two without food would do him in.
Me: We have to keep him.
Me: He’ll die out here.
Me: Come on, he looks healthy enough except for… almost starved and his leg…
Frank ate the granola bars gently, one bite at at time, and nuzzled my hand. Suddenly, adopting Frank seemed like the most rational, appropriate option on the table.
Manny made some very well-reasoned points against keeping the dog. We had already discussed the possibility and decided against it. It would cramp our style, we had decided. We wanted to be able to pick up and travel without worrying about finding someone to care for him. It’d cost a fortune to fly an animal out when we leave in a year or two. Not now. Maybe when we had kids, we’d get a dog so they could grow up with one…
…Frank followed us down the hill. It seemed incredibly improbable that he could keep up with us on those steep trails, dragging his broken leg behind him, but every time I paused and looked behind me, he was a couple of feet behind my heels, wagging his tail lethargically, and looking at me with those sad, soulful eyes.
Manny: Are you mad at me?
Manny: But you seem upset.
Manny: Give me a hug.
Frank followed us to the trailhead, crossed the highway with us to the car, and wandered listlessly around the parking area when we got inside to leave. Manny didn’t drive away. His feelings were being manipulated, too. He watched Frank in silence while I mentally pleaded with him to drive away before I stared at Frank so long that I started bawling.
He didn’t drive away fast enough. Soon, against my best intentions, there were big fat tears rolling down my cheeks along with beads of sweat.
Manny: Do you want to keep him?
Me: Yes. *sniff* But you can’t blame me for guilting you into it, because I’m really not trying to guilt you into it, I’m not upset at you, I just… look at him. And I cried some more.
Manny: Are you going to take care of him?
Manny: Go and get him.
So, now the pet count is as follows:
- 1 extremely antisocial parakeet
- 1 malnourished, lethargic dog named Frank who will soon have a very expensive surgery to repair his shattered leg
- 1 unknown creature living in the ductwork (more on that later)