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Astronaut Dog

The Calm After the Call

By Arsal AsalPublished 4 months ago 7 min read

All mornings started the same. I’d open my eyes very annoyed at the sound of our old rusty coffee grinder. Of course my partner always forgot to close the door behind him. I would then toss and turn around as I’d ignored the sunlight coming through the half open blinds. My side of the sheets always popped out during the night because I was a broke graduate student, way too stubborn to admit that I wrongfully ordered a full size sheet to our second hand queen size bed and of course I wasn’t going to pay for another one. I would then continue on to pretend I was comfortable as I had to convince myself that I can go back to sleep before my alarm went on, but obviously I would hold my breath and obsessively look at my phone, almost dare I say- begging it to scream that horribly loud sound so that I can finally lower my chest. And when the air finally came out it would feel as if I just got out of a very nauseating roller coaster ride. I guess anxiety can do that to you.

Finally with the sound of my alarm I would sit up. And right there and then, I’d see Princess looking at me with her deep blue eyes. She’d wait for me to call her on the bed. She was very patiently impatient. You’d also have to have a very specific tone that needed to be perfectly measured in range of excitement. Your voice had to sound excited but not too desperately excited. It always reminded me of hosts that would ask how a crowd is doing and if the response is not loud enough, they will try to get the crowd more excited so they’d be louder the second or third time the host asks them how they’re doing. Our morning bed routine was something along those lines. Some mornings I’d get it in one try, other mornings it would take me a couple rounds, but eventually even if I don’t get it, she’d still jump on to the bed. Once on the bed she’d roll around asking for a belly rub and she’d be very pushy. After a minute or so she would suddenly get up and that meant she was now ready for her walk. She’d wiggle her as my tense body would soften up and that’ll usually be the time that I’d finally notice the bedroom was full with the fresh smell of coffee all this time.

It was on one of those typical mornings that I got a phone call from my mom. She was back home and home was about 7,000 miles away. I wasn’t actually planning on calling my mom that day because Princess recently had a surgery and she was wearing a cone which she absolutely hated and she would get stuck in places. But instead of letting it go to voicemail, I decided to pick up her call as this call wasn’t unusual, but her voice, her voice was as it was shaky and cold.

I immediately thought something happened to my dad, afraid I asked. She said no. It was a relief but she was silent. She said “we lost your grandma”. “How could this be?” I asked, I talked to her two days ago. She was at home, sure her memory was a little foggy and she used a cane, but then again she was old, most old people were flaky when it came to memory and used a cane. Did she trip and fall, was she asleep when it happened? No. This couldn’t be true because she was jolly and I already lost my uncle two months ago. This is not a movie, it’s the year 2019, everything has advanced from technology to medicine, people just don’t die randomly like this- I thought and said and cried and screamed, in no particular order. I sat down on the only piece of grass I found on the side of the sidewalk next to a busy road that led to the highway. Though honestly I didn’t care to find grass, it just happened to be there. Princess sat down next to me as my mom assured me that my grandma loved me very much, though It wasn't the reassurance I was looking for. I was angry. I got angrier when she told me that they didn’t want me to stress about flying over so they had the funeral earlier that day, while I was asleep.

So that was it, this morning before my call with my mother I had a grandma and now I no longer did. It took me a while to realize that my mom had lost her mom as well, so I stopped the thoughts. The rest of the call I reassured her that grandma loved her and we’d be okay. We finally hung up.

For a minute which felt like a month, I sat still on the ground. Princess sat with me, patiently. I finally gathered the will power to get up and so I did, very slowly. Princess waited for me the whole time. Normally Siberian Huskies pull a lot, it’s their evolutionary instinct as they were used and breed mainly as sled dogs. Princess was no different and she’d always pull whenever she had the chance no matter how much training we gave her. During our walk back, it’s irresponsible but I admit, I was barely holding on to her leash. And though she had all the freedom in the world, she chose to be gentle and walked slowly next to me. We made it back home. I didn’t want to go inside but I also didn’t have the strength to continue to stand or walk. Princess waited by the entrance, she looked at me and gently pulled me away from the door as if she sensed a bit more fresh air would be good for me.

We walked for about an hour more before we finally came back home. On the way back a small kid saw Princess and shouted “astronaut dog” referring to Princess's cone. I had several anxiety attacks followed by crying that day but Princess never left my side. She only drank water after she saw I drank my first sip that evening. I ate a little that night just to make sure Princess ate because I noticed she didn’t eat until I did.

For the rest of the day I think I was just floating around as I questioned my choices and my life.I was trying to decide on how to say goodbye to my grandma. Later that night, I found myself talking to her in my mind and just when I said my farewell to her Princess gently laid down her head on my lap. Her eyes were wide open but she didn’t look at me, almost as if she didn’t want to make it awkward. I laughed first and then cried. We stayed like that until I passed out. When my partner woke me up to take me to bed, Princess followed. Very sleepy, with her barely opened eyes, she waited for me to climb on to bed. When I finally crawled under the comforter I felt her staring at me. I winked at her and she winked back but we both knew I wasn’t ready yet. I moved a little to open some space and she jumped on to the bed, not making me go through the usual excitement game we played. Half her body on mine like a heavy blanket she laid down. A beat and I finally closed my eyes to get some rest.

That night I dreamt of my grandparents. The next morning I woke up to the Princess waiting for me to start our routine as always. I’m happy to say that I still wake up every day to this beautiful gentle soul and while some mornings do feel heavier than others, the excitement in my voice has gotten much better as I try to be better for her each day. Sometimes on our walks we see other dogs with cones and I suddenly smile thinking of the brilliant kid that called Princess an astronaut dog as I daydream of an alternate version of us in another dimension just cruising through space and taking morning walks on the rings of Jupiter.


About the Creator

Arsal Asal

Emerging screenwriter and director, dog lover, immigrant in the US. Loves creative writing, terrified of birds.

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