Allegiance – The everlasting bond

It was a stormy night when Peter, the second officer of a ship, caught sight of him. A miracle it was indeed. All wet, Cooper was shivering between the pile of wooden crates in the dockyard. The officer grabbed Cooper by the neck and rushed towards the port, to shelter them from the tormenting calamity. Once in, he shook the water off and sat by the fireplace. Cosy and carpeted, the cabin was casually done. Several photo frames adorned the wall beside the bed. Trophies and distinct mementoes were neatly placed on the wooden shelf. A sudden glow lighted the room, making it warm.  He felt alive.  

Peter looked at him and winked. “I got some soup in stock. Let’s gulp some and curl up.” To him, the man was an angel in disguise, the saviour of an abandoned soul. Exposed to that rain, he would have died that night, when his master threw him out of the house mercilessly. His fault – he used the new quilt in the attic. They usually dumped old and used items there. It was chilly, so he rolled in. The mistress was hysteric and threatened Cooper with dire consequences if he ever goes back. The master witnessed the chaos in silence.  If only Cooper could speak.

Peter gestured him to take a seat and took one of his own. The smell of the soup tickled his papillae. As he gobbled the yummy gumbo, Cooper realised he had been starving. “So, you are Cooper,” said Peter, pointing at the collar. He nodded affirming. Post supper, the trundle bed was readied for him, but he chose to take the carpet. It was better than the bare floor of the attic. He grabbed the quilt, Peter tossed at him and curled up to a peaceful sleep.

The aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafted all over the house. It pierced through the layers of the quilt and woke Cooper up.  He felt haggard from the preceding day’s events. Peter walked in, holding a large coffee mug. With a cheerful grin, he said, “Morning, buddy. Had a good sleep, did ya?” Cooper dragged himself out and blankly stared with drowsy eyes. 

“Got some freshly baked bread from the neighbour. Left them on the kitchen table. Have them once you feel better. I’ll be out for work, but you get some good rest, pal.” Peter deduced that Cooper needed time to recover.  He felt awkward and wanted to decline humbly, but refrained. Though Cooper did not want to be a burden and take advantage of the Samaritan act, he decided not to fuss. It was evident from his battered self. Off went Peter, the sailor man. Cooper buried himself in and dozed off. It was not until late afternoon, that he felt his stomach twitch. Hunger it was, but he felt sluggish. It was as if his muscles rusted in a day.  Slowly, he stepped out, got on the kitchen table, took a bun, had water from the bowl, and sat on the chair, chewing slothfully.  

Cooper was thankful about the way Peter treated him. He sighed, remembering his master. He loved them both. After all, they were his guardians. Through the years, they sheltered and cared for him. They had an artistically set garden in the house, whose flowers and orchids, ferns and exquisite variety of gymnosperms often bagged appreciation from friends and visitors. Memories of the in-house pool fetched a smile. It reminded him of Kitty. “Oh, Kitty! I miss you much,” he whispered. She was his best buddy, his only confederate. He thought of the fun-filled summer days when they went for a picnic by the sea. While the master relaxed with his lady, Cooper and kitty went on long walks, climbed the lighthouse to watch the sunset and hopped around woofing and purring lines from their favourite song…“It’s the way you smile at me. It’s the way you make me laugh. It’s the way you always find the words to say…

So thank you, thank you, thank you for being you. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being you.”

Cooper stood by the window gazing at the reddish hue of the evening sky expecting the fleet’s return. He remembered the photos on the wall and moved to take a closer look. He spotted Peter in all. The rest seemed to be friends and family.  The sound of the door unlocking distracted his thoughts. He jumped down and ran to welcome Peter.

‘Thud!’ ‘Bam!’ ‘Thwack!’ ‘Grrr!’  Some hullaballoo and then, an earsplitting shriek.  A horrid encounter indeed. 

The stranger and Cooper scared the wit out of each.  

“Oh, fishhooks! Who the hell are you, and how did you get in here?” the guy questioned in a stern voice.     

Ignoring the incomer, he kept staring at the door, wondering whatever happened of Peter. 

The stranger walked in, placed his duffle bag on the couch and threw himself down onto the bed. 

“He’s certainly not a crook. Perhaps, an associate or someone dear, whom Peter handed the key and forgot to mention about me.” Cooper thought sceptically.  

His mind felt like an interlaced level junction, where several synchronous thoughts flashed at a blazing speed.

“Where is Peter? What happened to him? Is he alright? Did he go on a sudden voyage? Maybe it’s the engine…or the propeller that malfunctioned. There’s no storm, so the sea must be calm. Is it something about his crew? Or…or..or…God forbid, this guy harmed him on his way back home.  Nay! From the clothes and bag, he seemed to have travelled from a distant land. Then what kept him away? Now what?” 

The snoring was intolerable. The stranger seemed reluctant, so he decided to take charge. Cooper whined peevishly hoping to wake the visitor who was in deep slumber. It was almost midnight when the guy finally woke and walked straight to the toilet. Cooper kept a close eye on him. The guy went to the kitchen and poured in some coffee, unlike a visitor. 

“He is accustomed to the house. Who can this be?” Cooper was desperate to know. 

While the stranger busied himself with phone calls, he leapt to take a look at the photos, hoping to spot this lad in one. The scrutiny led him to a clue.

“Ah! This guy is Peter’s son, and the lady with them must be the mistress.” Cooper relaxed, yet, something disturbed him. The guy seemed edgy and spoke hastily on the phone.  When the call ended, he looked straight at Cooper. A bright smile flickered on his face. 

“Dad’s fine. The doctor said, there’s nothing to worry. He’s recovering. Thank God.” Junior Peter expressed with joy. He then walked up to Cooper. “I’m Ron. Peter is my father.  Who are you? When did you move in, brother?”

Peter fell ill and got hospitalised so they sent for Ron. It all made sense. He assembled his thoughts and tilted his neck for Ron to get a look at his collar.

“Ah, so you are Cooper. Nice to meet you, Cooper. Dad’s absence must have worried you. Well, he’s better now.  It was a minor heart attack. We wonder of the cause since dad was conscientious about his health.” Suddenly Ron hugged him tightly. The rays from the morning sun enchanted their soul and entrapped them in an inexplicable relationship.  An inexpressible euphoria crouched in.

The days that followed strengthened the bond between the three. Cooper helped Ron to take care of Peter. Be it long walks in the park, or to get groceries, he was there to lend a helping hand whenever needed. His duddy and bruh treated him like family. At no point did they make him feel left out.  He felt contented, except that he missed his master and Kitty. Several times, he thought of visiting them but feared.  Once he almost fell and broke his leg, trying to climb the tree by the boundary wall. It was Kitty’s birthday, and he wanted to wish her. He even got a Scratch Toy and an old Catnip Fortune Cookie for her but had to return with no luck.

Soon, Ron left for his university with the assurance that Cooper will take care of their father. Peter resumed work but with the condition to keep Cooper along. Each day, he would wake up early and take duddy for a walk, made sure to remind Peter of his medicines and kept a tap on his diet.  They say, “Love always wants you to grow and become a better version of you.” Cooper wanted to be the best version. In years, he found a meaning to his existence. He promised himself to grow with the love of his new family. 

Peter was in the best of his health under Cooper’s meticulous attention.  Together, they lived many spring and autumn. Ron visited them during his vacations. Those were the best times when all three went on short voyages and had barbecue evenings with Ron playing the guitar. They sang and danced, drank and made merry. Lazy mornings and delicious meals thrilled their life.  Love befriends each soul for at least once in their lifetime. It then lingers to enlighten, to ease, to kindle. No gender, no colour, no distinct feature affects its discretion. As the great Shakespeare said, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind.” So did Peter and Ron. They accepted Cooper and embraced his disparity, defying every odd.

For Cooper, it was his journey towards regeneration. He underwent obedience training to polish his manners. With each passing day, his interaction skills improved. Agility training was his favourite as it helped him to be active, productive and calm. His family’s love and affection gave him the zeal to better with time. They were proud of him. A handsome Rottweiler he was, after all.  A year later, on his way back from the market, Cooper caught sight of Kitty, sitting all alone under a tree. She looked pale and skinny. Even after years, his heart skipped a beat. He hesitated but finally stepped forth. The summer’s breeze bewitched the tryst. It felt like un millénaire since they last met, une decennia since they last spoke and un siècle since they saw of each other.  

Shortly after Cooper left, the mistress refused to house Kitty. Since then, she has been wandering around, living on scraps, looking for him. Glad they were to have found each. He took her along and on the way, briefed the whole story. Peter welcomed her with delight, “With a lady in the house, things will surely get better.” She helped Cooper manage the household chores while he concentrated on the outdoors. Within a few months, with their duddy’s consent, Kitty and Cooper were married off. It was a private party in the garden, decorated with red roses and orchids. Ron and a few from the neighbourhood attended the ceremony. At the closing, everyone joined in to sing…”Nothing but love will start, to mend the place inside your heart…”

As days passed, it was decided that Kitty will be sent for training. Though she refused at the start, after a few explanations, she agreed. Cooper promised to visit her every weekend. All was going well, when one evening, out of the blue, Peter complained of numbness in his left hand. Cooper did not take any chance. 

“Time to put my learning to work,” he thought and instantly paged the doctor. Concurrently, Ron’s pager beeped. Duddy was rushed to the hospital and admitted in the ICU. Worry grasped the brothers, making them nervous. Cooper visited the church every day and prayed for Peter’s recovery. He refused to eat or drink, never left the hospital premise, and each time Ron spoke to the doctor, he rushed to hear the updates.  It took one week for Peter to come out of that confined room.  With a cheerful smile, he said, “Don’t worry boys, I won’t leave you’ll so soon.” He then looked at Cooper, winked, and asked, “So, how’s Kitty? Bet you kept the poor girl waiting this week.” And it was time for a trio-hug. Two days passed, and they took Peter home. Ron took leave from his college. Cooper became more vigilant. Together they nursed Peter and toiled hard to keep him going. Seeing their father lying weak on the bed, with tubes and masks, saddened them immensely.  

“Dad, wake up. Please, dad, don’t do this. Not now, not so soon.” Cooper sprang up, hearing the sobs. It was Ron. He was trying to wake duddy up, but there was no movement. In utter disbelief, Cooper jumped on the bed and nudged Peter, hoping for some response. Negative. He whined and pushed hard. Still nothing. Ron sat by the bed, crying profusely. “Dad, we need you. Cooper and Kitty needs you, I need you. You can’t leave us this way. You are yet to play with your grandchildren. Please, dad. come back.” As the clouds greyed to mourn, a tormenting silence crept in. An unanticipated incident befell.  Kitty was called back from the training. With a heavy heart, the three stood in silence, blankly staring at their father. Each fought a battle within. 

Cooper lifted his head to sneak a glance at the altar. His duddy looked as handsome as ever in the photo with that beautiful garland. He sighed and curled up on the carpet. A quiver of pain ran down his spine. Tears oozed out in abundance. The pain was intense. If only, he could cry out loud. He grieved silently. Ron came with a bowl of Beef & Brown Rice flavoured Nutrish, placed it without a word, hugged him tight and left. Food…he was in no mood to eat. His bruh’s unstable beats and moist eyes saddened him. Now, they are orphans, with no one to look up to. His duddy didn’t have to go so early, and definitely not when they were asleep. They missed to bid him, farewell. It was unfair; but then, life isn’t fair anyway.

Cooper steadied his mind with the belief, that one day, they will meet again, at a new horizon, under a colossal umbrella. Until then, Que será, será.
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