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Under Watchful Eyes

Michael M. Pacheco | Lakshmy Mathur

At first, I thought my wife, Malia, might be crazy. Talking to a grave that contained the remains of our dead cocker spaniel wasn’t that odd, but she wasn’t just talking to Samantha’s grave. She seemed to think the dog was actually listening.

“Hi Sammy! I miss you, Honey,” she’d say with all the joy she expressed to Sammy while she was still alive. It had been a year since the vet put Sammy to sleep forever, but judging from Malia’s exuberance, one would think the little cocker was right in front of her, alive.

Yet, I must confess, I spoke to Sammy’s grave as well, but my conversations were intentionally one-sided, though every now and then, I would joke with the deceased pooch, asking her to guard the house.

Malia and I are retired now so, when we lost Sammy, her absence left a tremendous void in our lives. For an entire year we kept checking for her when we’d accidentally drop a piece of food on the kitchen floor, but there was no Sammy to come snatch it up. I frequently looked for her in our house days after we buried her, forgetting momentarily that she was gone. The first time I vacuumed the living room after her departure, I almost wanted to stop and leave her little blond hairs right where they were. It was the only tangible thing left.

It was Cinco de Mayo when our daughter brought our granddaughter, Olivia, to play in our large back yard while the grown-ups visited and barbequed steaks. My son brought his wife and their two young boys as well. The day was bright, almost too hot to barbeque, but definitely too hot to cook indoors.

Olivia and I threw the Frisbee back and forth for a while and then I lowered the basketball hoop where the boys were playing so Olivia could shoot the ball too. The physical activity was making me sweat, so I wasn’t terribly disappointed when Malia asked me to accompany her to the grocery store for a few items everyone forgot to bring.

“Grandpa?” asked Olivia. “We’re gonna play some more when you get back right?”

“Sure we are. Me and Grandma gonna be right back.”

Malia took my son aside and spoke to him in a hushed tone. “The neighbor’s dog is a scary pit-bull, so don’t let the boys get behind the covered walkway.” She glanced at the eight-foot solid fence surrounding the swimming pool. “They say he’s just a pup, but you know what they say about pit-bulls.”

My son grinned and nodded. “Got it. No playing behind the covered walkway. Hey, would you rather stay here and have me go with Dad? I don’t mind running errands. I’m a married man now, remember?”

“Ha ha. You’re so funny,” said Malia, waving him off. “I’m fine. We’ll be right back.”

It only took us twenty minutes to drive to a convenience store and return home. As we pulled into the driveway, Malia and I noticed everyone outside calling for Olivia.

“What’s going on?” Malia asked my daughter.

“It’s Olivia!” she said with terror in her eyes. “We can’t find her! The boys looked behind the rhodies and the arborvitaes. We all checked the house and the garage and tool shed.”

“Dear Lord,” said Malia.

Then, I heard the pit-bull barking. “She’s behind the covered walkway!”

My son flew right past me, knowing exactly where to go. Out of sight, but still on our property, was a stretch of brush-covered alley. When I rounded the corner, my son was lifting a weeping Olivia into his arms. The pit-bull continued to bark behind a protective chain link fence, but it was still menacing.

When my son brought Olivia back to the safe side of the fence, she ran to Malia’s waiting arms.

“It’s okay, Olivia. It’s okay,” said Malia. “That dog won’t hurt you. You’re safe now. No need to be afraid.”

“I’m not afraid for me, Grandma.”

Everyone stood in a circle around the little girl

“Not afraid? Then why were you crying?” asked Malia.

Olivia pointed to a space near Samantha’s grave. “I was afraid for the little dog with big ears that was protecting me. That mean dog coulda hurt her bad, but she kept barking at him, till you guys showed up.”

I still think some of the things Malia does are crazy, but talking to our dead dog? I’m not so sure anymore.

About Michael M. Pacheco

Michael M. Pacheco is a former attorney turned author, born in Mexico and raised in the Pacific Northwest of the US. He's got two novels published, along with numerous short stories in various journals.

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