I was twelve when we got our first real pet. I had always been fond of dogs and cats but had never been allowed to keep them in the house and my mother would forbid me from playing with them on the road for fear of them biting me or causing infections. However, when I was in class 7th, on my birthday, my friends got me a little puppy. He was tiny, only big enough to cover both of my small hands and a beautiful jet black fur covered him. My mother did not approve of this surprise but he was so adorable that she did not have the heart to turn him away. I remember him looking at us with large brown eyes, scared and hopeful and I knew then, we would take care of each other. I named him Led, after Led Zeppelin. Yeah, I was in a classic rock phase then.

So Led became a part of our family and life became completely different. In the morning, he woke me up by licking my face. In the afternoon, he would go crazy with happiness when I came home from school. At night, he’d sleep in my bed, near my feet, his warm fur and soft body putting me to sleep. Every evening I played with him. Even when I had a fight with my friends, Led was the one I held on to, his soft and comforting presence, making me feel okay for a while.

However, we did not raise Led like any other pet dog. We did not want to limit his movement to the house or make him scared of other dogs, unable to interact with his own kind. So we had always given him freedom to come and go in the house as he pleased. Sometimes he would disappear for hours and we’d see him playing with the other dogs. However, he always came back home for food and we’d hear his paws scratching at the door at the exact moment my mother made the evening tea for herself for that was the time she gave him his food.

But things were not to stay the same way forever. Like every morning, Led woke me up lovingly and I went to school. When I came back in the afternoon, he wasn’t there to greet me. This wasn’t unusual as it was winter and he would often go off somewhere to lie in the grass and soak up the warm sunshine. But evening came and he still did not come. My mother, for the first time in a year, drank her evening tea without Led sitting near her ankles. When night came, we went around the entire colony shouting his name. There was no response.

For a week, I roamed the entire area, until my voice grew hoarse screaming his name and I would break down in tears each night, his name escaping my mouth only in a whisper. Led had left us. And we had no idea why, or where. We just hoped he was alive.

Two months passed and my father got a promotion. We could now afford a better house and decided to shift to a new colony. It was not very far away from where we lived then but I was reluctant to move. Not only would I be leaving my friends, I would have to give up my last remaining bits of hope of Led finding his way back to us. But I was just a kid and Led was just a pet who had come to love us for a small while. So we did move.

I did not make any new friends in the new house. I lost all contact with my old friends. But life, as always, still went on, in monotony. Another winter came. The winds grew bitterly cold, the sky became gray and we snuggled in our beds. There were some sunny days, here and there. It was on one such sunny afternoon, that I found happiness again.

My mother and I were standing on the balcony, letting the warm sunshine wash over us. She was examining the plants in the balcony, checking for any new flowers, picking out yellowing leaves. I was gazing at the park opposite our house, completely empty. I spotted a black figure in the grass. Hope immediately blossomed in my chest. Was it Led? But this dog was so much bigger than mine. And I had grown excited at way too many black dogs in the past, only to be disappointed. I went inside. A few moments later, my mother called me again. She was as unsure as I was, but something in her made her feel like it was Led.

We both ran to the park and then approached hesitantly. He gazed at us, unafraid. There was no doubt about it. It was my Led. I sank down on the soft grass. He walked into my arms as I cried into his fur. I don’t know, for how long we sat there, the two of us.

We never found out where he had gone for an entire year, or how he had survived. We could never figure out how he had found us or how fate had worked that we had seen him that day. We just knew that little Led had grown up somehow, into someone wiser and stronger. And that he was back to us. To stay, forever.

As told to us by Tanmay Arya

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