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Chris Malcomb, Berkeley
A Valentine for Misha
I was on my way out to lunch one Valentine's Day when I suddenly saw my childhood dog. She was medium-sized, shaggy, white, and furry. Her head was pointed, terrier-style. A few strands of hair hung over her face. Dougal! I leapt off the bus to say hello.
Not Dougal, after all. Her name was Misha. When she placed her paws on my waist, I asked, "Will you be my Valentine?" She licked my cheek and offered her paw to shake. I wish I had memorized her number because I have since fallen in love.
I was five when Dougal first offered her paw to shake, and we shook paws the whole time I was growing up. I liked gazing into her adoring brown eyes. I liked it when she licked my cheek. We lay on my blue-green shag rug while I scratched her tummy. I whispered my secrets to her, and she listened with care. My love for Dougal was the strongest kind I've ever felt. I asked her to marry me, and, of course, she said yes. Misha reminds me so much of Dougal. I can't stop thinking about her.
I know! I'll place a "Missed Matches" ad in the Express so I can find Misha again. That's how Dougal had come into my family — after my parents answered an ad in the paper. My mother still has a clipping of the ad saved in a special box on her dresser. I hope my new ad brings Misha back to me.
Misha from Castro Valley
Outside Grace Baking on Solano,
Valentine's Day, 12:30 p.m.
You licked my face when I asked you to be my Valentine. Water and dog biscuits? Box 3915.
And here's how my voicemail message sounds: "Hi Misha, I love you. I keep looking for you outside of Grace Baking, but I haven't seen you there. I really want to see you again because you're my Valentine, and I adore you. Hope you call me soon."
Today I saw people I had been thinking of in a distant way; and two shaggy, white, furry dogs. Dougal twins! I ran across the street to say hello. Why can't I run into Misha? My heart is aflutter!
Misha answered my ad. She's living in Albany now. Just think — we could be reunited tomorrow. The next day I leapt off the bus once more, for a grand reunion!
Eva Schlesinger, Berkeley
A Pet Story
She was a tabby, skin and bones, with large green eyes. Not a cat I'd want to touch or have sit on my lap. Nor did I want a cat. I was busy studying for my master's and working part-time. But the cat kept appearing on my doorstep. Finally, I relented. I named her Tania.
Even the times when I returned home very late and rushed to fill Tania's empty food bowl, she would not rush to eat. She'd jump on the coffee table by the sofa, wait for me to sit down, and then face me, as if to say: "Welcome home. How was your day?" Only after I talked to her would she have her meal.
One day I found Tania tearing up papers in a corner of the pantry. She was no longer scrawny. Her sides bulged. "Aha! Kittens on the way!" I lined a shallow carton with soft, clean rags and placed it in the spot she had chosen.
Time passed. I was at home studying. Tania jumped on my lap and meowed into my face. I was surprised. She never demanded attention. I put her down on the floor. She jumped back onto my lap and meowed with an urgency I couldn't ignore. I got up and followed her into the pantry. She stepped inside the shallow carton and as soon as I knelt beside her she started delivering her kittens.
A year went by. I noticed that Tania was hardly eating. She wasn't jumping on the coffee table to ask about my day, nor was she sleeping in her usual place, a fluffy area rug by my bed. Day and night she stayed sitting in the shower stall. I took her to the vet. "Nothing wrong," he said, "She's pregnant. Not eating? Some stomach bug, I guess. Nothing to worry about." Back home, Tania resumed her place inside the shower stall.
Two nights later, she dragged herself into my bedroom and lay down on her usual spot on the fluffy rug. I sighed with relief. Tania must be feeling better; by morning there might be a new litter of kittens. In the morning there were no kittens, but Tania was still there, by my bed. I called her name. She didn't move. My stomach tightened as I watched and saw there was no movement at all. The cat wasn't breathing. She was dead.
An autopsy revealed the fetuses were oversized, too large for her to deliver. I will never forget Tania, the cat who always welcomed me home, who wanted me at her side while she delivered her first litter of kittens; and at her side again, a year later, when she must have sensed that she had only a few hours left to live.
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