We had to go. I had to bring my farewells to an end, my time was up. In less that 72 hours I would be thousands of miles away, we’d be thousand miles apart. This farewell was final, we wont be seeing each other for a very, very long time. On second thoughts, I wouldn’t see a lot things for a very long time. My house, my school mates, the friendly faces that lived on the other-side of our fences, all of it would take a step back from the next few chapters of my life.
My father spoke of this move before, apart from the hypothetical reality that lived in the conversation between me and my three brothers, it was only an idea. This idea had finally become a reality, my family was moving over to the United Kingdom, to the fruitful planes of sunny England. It was all exciting for us, of course it was. We would be stepping into a glorious new world. Our spirits had acquired some vigour in the days leading up to the move. Each one of us, excited, fidgety, running away with this sweeping anticipation. We’d play as we normally did, running around the large yard, exercising our active imaginations. There was tree climbing, play fighting and the mandatory wrestle with our family pet to entertain us. A boisterous bundle of loyalty that dog was, dancing amongst our excitement. He had a knack for seizing any chance to partake in our merriment. “Jungle will love it there!” I thought to myself one day. I froze and examined the thought, letting reality wash over the statement “Jungle .. love it … there?”. Never has a more solemn realization hurtled down onto my joy, it shattered my ecstasy. I knew Jungle wouldn’t love it there, because jungle wasn’t going there.
At the age of six my family relocated. We moved from Zambians capital, Lusaka, to a town called Kitwe. We moved into a spacious house, with a very roomy yard, plenty of lawn space and a variety of trees accenting it, mango, guava, avocado, oranges, lemon … heaven. Its hard to forget the backdrop to so many of my childhood memories.
This is where we were introduced, Me and Jungle met for the very first time at that house. Jungle, a peculiar name I know, named as a pup before we met him, we embraced it. The charismatic canine won us over with his vivacious thirst for adventure, the glare of optimism in his eyes and the bounce in his step. As soon as he touched down he was off, wasting no time in exploring. He scurried around the yard, marking his territory, fighting against the fencing’s edges, hoping to manufacture a new exit, generally growing intimate with his new digs.
I was a boy, he was a pup. He was filled with affection and excitement, the contagious cheer was instinctively reciprocated. In Zambia, our dogs slept outside. This made every morning a heartfelt reunion. Waking up to this excited beast, starry eyed with his tail high, wagging wildly. The weekends were the best, we welcomed his hugs of excitement, even encouraged the Ecstasy. School days were a formal affair, we had to pacify these morning greetings, exercising caution and reining in the thoughts of play. his excitement had a way of ruining our school uniforms, stray fur and paw prints were a sure way to guarantee a scolding.
Every moment spent apart was brought to an end with a heart melting reception. I still feel his wet nose dotting my hands, his wagging tail beating against my legs as he circled me in a frenzy. The 10 second walk to the door was extended by jovial ceremony. I welcomed the paw prints and those mischievous stray strands of fur that lingered long after each embrace has ended. He had his own way of looking, with his eyes, he would trace me up and down almost to say “long time no see, look how much you’ve grown”, a reception akin to family you haven’t seen in years. Regardless of how the day went, good or bad, I was always guaranteed one thing, one thing to augment merriment or sweep any sadness from the frame. Whether it be running under the beating afternoon suns gaze or simply sat on the veranda, evading the rains stampede, he filled each moment with loyalty, comfort and companionship.
Since meeting him, I cannot remember a milestone in my life in which he was truant. The passing of my grandfather was a particularly emotional event for me, even then, I remember the role he played in piecing me back together. He was my best friend, we grew up together. I saw him mature from a pup to the dog I last remember, and he saw me grow too, from losing my baby teeth to learning to read.
Now imagine the scene of our final farewell, imagine looking your best friend in the eye, knowing you will never see him again, knowing he has no idea that, this is it. Imagine knowing that those goodbyes that appeased even the blues days were resigned to living solely as memories. As that kennel door shut close a chapter of my life, those dark eyes of his peered at me protest. His solemn whimpers, and the chatter of his paws as he paced frantically cannot, will not, be forgotten.
His memory will never fade. I know I will never call his name and see that stampede of love rushing at me again, I know I will never feel the warmth of him, when the air is cold, or when the smile on my face has frosted and tapered down. The whimpers and paws scratching at the door, calling me out, to teach me how to appreciate another day will now only reverberate in memory. He taught selfless love, loyalty and seizing happiness in everyday.
I lost Jungle in the Summer of 2003. I refuse to ask where he is now. That, my heart cannot bare, I will revel in blissful ignorance. My best friend is alive in my memories. It would take a thousand lifetimes to stifle that light. I’m in England now, Jungle loves it.