We lived in a small attap house in rural
Malacca at that time. The youngest of four sons,
I was born just after my father passed away. My
mother became the sole breadwinner of the
family. The Tans were our most immediate
neighbors. Though they too lived in an attap
house, they were not as poor as we. They reared
chickens and ducks. Best of all, they had a dog.
The dog would appear at our doorstep every now
and then hoping that at least one of us would
let it in. However, my mother was very
particular about animals in the house. One
afternoon, her heart softened when she saw our
pleading eyes and she finally relented.
From then on, the dog would play and be around
us more often than with the Tans. We were always
afraid that the latter would be offended, but
when they moved to another village, they
conveniently left their dog behind. It became
one of us.
Being small-built and scrawny for our
age, my brothers and I were constantly bullied
by neighborhood boys bigger-sized than us. With
Stefan around, however, the boys kept a clear
distance. Its menacing growl and sharp fangs
would send them fleeing.
In our village was a government-sanctioned
dogcatcher called Ricky. He would scout the area
in his van for dogs without collars and shoot
them instead of taking them to the pound. He
would further proceed beyond the call of duty by
cutting the dog's tail and selling it in the
black market for a few cents. We could not
afford a collar for Stefan and we knew his fate
lay in Ricky's hands.
One day, when I was at home with my mother,
we heard a loud 'bang'. Soon, our fears were
confirmed. I rushed to my window and saw
Stefan lying on the road. Any dog would have
collapsed and died instantly. Amazingly, Stefan
picked himself up and limped painfully to our
doorstep. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I stood
there in disbelief. I recalled when Stefan first
appeared at our doorstep, at the very spot where
it now took its final breath.