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Friday, August 24, 2007

Xueli

This morning, perhaps delirious from a short night of sleep, my mind was racing with a dozen out-of-the-blue thoughts. One of which held my mind's attention for a significant while.




This is Xueli - it means pretty as snow, although she's not all white. She was a puppy-dog when we took this picture. She came to us a little, happy, excited puppy - cutest little bundle of fur and big eyes I'd ever seen. I was 8 years old, and remember being both scared and delighted by the sight of her. My uncle had adopted her from a friend whose dog had a litter of pups, and she became the (extended) family dog, mostly my Granma took care of her (Granma did everything then) but we have all walked her, fed her, took her for walks, bathed her, and played catch with her.


She had lovely soft hair, especially so after a bath and after she had dried off in the sun. The black part of her was beautiful, raven black and shiny. The white part of her was clean, pure and pretty as snow. It was a lovely feeling just brushing her.


She was mostly a quiet dog that didn't bark the house down. She was timid - she was terrified of thunder, and would scramble frantically and squeeze herself under the coffee table (it had a gap only 3 inches high!) Even when she was fully grown, she somehow managed it. She never chased cats int eh neighbourhood and was nervous with the ankle-biter that lived in the home next to the elevator, and hated walking that way. the funniest thing about her was that she knew what 'zang zui' ('to shower' in Hokkien) meant and bolted at the sound of the word. Bath time, as you can deduce, was to play catch. She would race herself crazy around our apartment in and out of every room, before coming to a sudden halt, tongue hanging out and panting, by which everyone present would freeze in their step, any false move and off she goes again!

She ran away a couple times, slipping free from the leash. One particular time that she ran away and we couldn't find her, Granma found her the next morning curled outside on the doorstep. How she made it 11 floors up the apartment building, we don't know - did she ride up the elevator??? or climbed all 11 sets of stairs up to come back home?? how did she manage to find her way among the jungle of high rise buildings and thousands of staircases?? Although we know dogs track a path by smell, we certainly have not walked her up 11 flights of stairs - we always took the elevator and pressed the button for the 11th floor; so until now we are still baffled - did she learn to press the elevator button???? All we knew then was how relieved we were and could only think how she spent a night out cold and hungry.

Xueli used to sleep in the living room at night, sometimes on the old brown suede couch that we have since discarded, sometimes on the ol' pile of newspapers we kept for the karang guni man. Sometimes when I woke up at night, I would wonder if she was okay, and would look for her and watch her sleep in the dark, sometimes she lays so still that it worried me, until she blew a little puff of air through her nose. Sometimes she trembled in her sleep, and I would start piling blankets on her. Sometimes she whined and I would wonder what she was dreaming of.

I cried when Granma told me Xueli had died. At that time, Granma had moved into my aunt's landed property home and Xueli had gone with her. They came back to Telok Blangah on the weekends. One Saturday, Granma told me Xueli had died, of old age..she was 13 years old by then. I asked Granma what she did with Xueli's body, and she told me she had thrown it out with the garbage. Although I was upset, I knew Granma would not know any other way to do it. And I think although we all love and miss Xueli very dearly, no one would be sadder than Ah Ma, and no one would miss her more.


I felt the sadness of the loss then, but this morning, fourteen years after, I suddenly saw the moment that she passed on; in my mind, I saw her lie down on her side, tired and drawing a last shallow breath..her eyes slowly close and she becomes still.


***


I have repetitive dreams - the same dream that happens from time to time, and one of them is of Xueli. When I dream of her, I often wake up thinking that it was real. Several times, I distinctly remember waking up after dreaming of Xueli, and walked around the house looking for her, not realizing that she had been gone for years.

I don't know why it haunts me, or what haunts me - perhaps because I wasn't there with her when she was passing, perhaps I feel sad, or guilty. Or perhaps it is only natural when I miss a dear beloved one.



1 comment:

phenomenal.me said...

this is my first personal loss to death..it makes me think about a time I should encounter my next, and this feeling is inexplicably unbearable.