The following is the very first short, very short, story I ever wrote. Sometimes in the 80’s, I think. I was going to spruce it up, remove the corniness, but then it would no longer be the first story.
It was written for someone, and the story is just a vehicle to get to the end message. Enjoy, or not, here it is.
Few things ever bothered Casey nowadays. Once in a while a pesky squirrel would venture close enough to stir some memories of youthful chases. But the relentless war against sleep was being lost more and more often. One day there would be no more greeting of the cool morning air, the soft focusing of surroundings in the advancing morning light, the recognition of various morning noises as the house woke from its daily sleep.
There had been a time when Casey would go from room to room, making sure to visit each of the family in turn. Then off to the kitchen, hoping for breakfast scraps, but ready to eat the food placed in her dish. Food. Once a powerful driving force and a veritable source of joy. Now something that was somewhat necessary but often caused pain, with trips outside becoming utter chores. Often phantom urges would call upon the feeble body and attempts were made to satisfy them. No use. Casey’s owners were understanding most of the time, but occasionally irritation would flare up, and harsh words would be directed to her. Casey did not really understand the content but, out of a sixth sense acquired through 10 years with the same people, knew they were not pleased with her.
This worsened when loss of bowel movement started to occur inside the house. It pained Casey since it went very much against all the training ingrained in her. As far as dogs could convey shame, Casey projected great sorrow and shame at every incident.
And lately, something had changed. Once in a while Casey would notice various members of the family look at her with soft, moist eyes. Often this was accompanied with quick hugs and a few strokes of the massive head. Casey understood when she was the object of the conversation in the house, and while she could not understand the arguments, she felt a tension in the household. Often these conversations came after visits to the veterinarian. Casey understood the word “vet”. Once a thing of fear, it now signified temporary relief from various discomforts. Sometimes there would be arguments at the “vet” and conversations about Casey (she recognized her own name) went on after every visit to the “vet”.
These visits were more and more frequent but Casey did not mind. Not even when she was measured and a cast was taken of her shape. Yet, they were strange times. The kids, now married with children of their own, would visit and take time to walk her around the neighborhood. Walks were always painful, but there was something satisfying about making it all around the block and seeing the old running grounds.
One day, the whole family was present when Casey woke up from the morning nap. Some were crying, most were serious. The old man called Casey over. One of the kids ran out of the room. Gentle hands picked Casey up and wrapped her up in her old army blanket. A familiar, comforting smell in the blanket. Casey dozed while they rode to the “vet”. Strange hands woke her. Not harsh, but different. And this was not the regular “vet”. A half-hearted growl rose from Casey’s throat, but it quickly died down as the old man appeared near and spoke her name softly. The room was all white. Casey was on a table next to much equipment. She could only move its eyes as all else was strapped to the table. She felt a small puncture on her neck, and a few moments later figures started to fade. Casey was really tired and welcomed the sleep. Much of the pain was also gone.
She woke instantly. From full sleep to full awake. Something was wrong. She could not feel her body as she once had. Yet she could move. An odd feeling was there. Something like the time her paw got stuck in a small jar. She could move the paw, but not “feel” the contact to the ground. She cautiously moved a few steps. Whirling sounds followed her. She stopped. NO PAIN! The door was open. The yard awash with early sunlight. Suddenly, Casey did not care about “feeling” the ground or the little noises when she moved. SHE COULD RUN AND JUMP! Like a time gone by, Casey raced out, asserting its territorial boundaries to the squirrels that had been so bold of late. She ran and ran, all around the house. It felt good.
“Well, it looks as if the mechanical body might work out after all.” Said Dr. Ogilve, “I was a little worried about the servo noises. I thought it might confuse her.”
“You did a good job Doctor.” Said Mr. Williams, “I am glad we took the chance on this new technology. It helps the Hospital with its research, and it kept Casey from being put to sleep.”
“And you have your dog back. No reason why it should not live another 10 years.”
“It’s a mixed blessing, you know. Casey will never be able to ‘feel’ our hands, and nothing will ever replace her warmth during the chilly nights next to the fire. We argued much about what it meant. Were we just punishing Casey to a living hell? Or were we truly giving her a gift? In the end, it was my niece that convinced me. She said ‘Nothing can ever take away memories. We and her will draw strength from them, and face each new hurdle as it crosses our path. Trust and love are what lets us face the unknown with the ones who share our love.’ “.