This story is by Helen Potter and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
KoKo’s Falling in Love Tale
One Sunday in 2014 when I was eight years of age, Mum and I walked to the Subiaco Markets as usual about 8 am. The markets are the centre of Subiaco’s social life, with stalls open Friday until Sunday. There’s always a busy and exciting atmosphere here as over 20,000 people visit to buy fresh fruit and to socialise. Many come via the train which is healthy for the environment. We do not like car pollution in our suburb.
Mum and I stroll the kilometre from our home, along the curving pathways of Kitchener Park, enjoying the crunch and crackle of the crispy yellow, red and orange leaves. I know from this sound that it’s autumn, my favourite time of the year, here in Western Australia. The air feels crisp and fresh with none of the drying heat that is summer. When I look up I see the tree branches are bare, most of the leaves having fallen. White fluffy clouds scatter across the blue panorama above me.
My paws slip in muddy patches of damp decaying leaves. As I squash them they release the moist and fertile smell of the earth beneath. “Oh, KoKo, you look like a black-footed Potoroo!” Mum cries out when I return to her side. (A Potoroo is a rabbit sized type of kangaroo that has sooty black paws). I’m in my element with all my senses engaging.
There is no hint during our thirty-minute promenade that our Sunday routine will vary from usual. Nor do we receive any atmospheric flashes to warn us that a remarkable event is about to occur. My life will shortly change forever.
On arrival at the markets, my human Mum and I head to the Pappadams stall, as we usually do when we have a craving for a tasty Turkish Pide and delicious Dahl. On other Sundays, if we need a sugar surge, we rush straight to the French Patisserie to buy a crunchy croissant.
Val, my friend who sells creamy milk and yoghurt, always lets me have a cup of milk while she minds me. My staying at Val’s stall leaves Mum free to select her veggies without me getting squashed by the many feet squeezing in the contained space in front of the stalls. Despite smacking my lips, I’m still wearing a white moustache on my furry lip. I bark politely “Mmmmm – more please Val?” This congenial human cannot resist my pleading deep, brown eyes. She gives in and pours me another cup of milk. I’m sitting now with a warm, contented tummy contemplating the routine of our lives.
Mum returns to collect me, takes my lead and we walk, between the crowds, towards the flower stall. I look up through the people and spy an unusual shape on the counter. It moves a little and I realise what it is.
There among the vases of yellow wattle and native orange banksia, is the most beautiful girl dog I’ve ever seen. She is tiny and cute, and a wee bit flirtatious.
With no warning, my chest feels tight; my heart beat goes into overdrive. These sensations are new to me. What’s happening? I wonder. Am I having a heart attack? Such a health tragedy is unlikely as I’m not in a high-risk category. Mum feeds me healthy food and only gives me small pieces of treats. We exercise daily, and of course, I don’t smoke or drink alcohol. My canine parents are still living energetic lives. What then is this pain stabbing me deep in my chest?
I let out a soft “Yip, Yip” bark to let Mum know something is wrong. She looks down at me through all the legs and can see I’m thin with concern, my ears folded back, and my eyes wide with fear. I’m anxious and trembling from my little black nose to my fluffy apricot tail.
For a moment, Mum panics, thinking I’m ill again. Our last trip to the animal doctor was for an emergency after I’d eaten a poisonous Blowfish at Cottesloe Beach. My life was close to fading for 24 hours and the treatment cost Mum lots of money. Her greatest fear though was not the expense, but the thought of losing me, her best mate.
At that time, a dose of medicine from the vet forced me to throw up the fish. The doctor then shoved black charcoal down my throat. Mum told me later that I looked utterly miserable when she saw me sitting on newspapers with black stuff all over my face, waiting for the medicine to work. If the situation was not so tragic she would have laughed. Luckily, I’m a resilient little dog and lived to tell you the tale.
But back now to a more cheerful event unfolding here at the markets.
Mum follows my eye-gaze upwards from human sock level to see what’s catching my attention. It doesn’t take her long to notice I’m staring at the flower stall. A smile creeps across her face, and she relaxes, as the problem becomes clear to her. “Don’t worry, Koko. Your heart is ok. I think you are feeling strange because ………… you are falling in love!”
We both continue to look at the tiny dog on the flower stall counter. I hang my head as blood flows from my heart to spread warmth across my face. If I was less furry, you might have seen me blush!
So, this is what love feels like, I think. What have I been missing all these years? If it’s true love is born in the most unusual places then this is it. At last, at the age of eight, I’ve met a female dog whom I may grow to love more than myself.
Mum is kind and lets me stay with my new love for a while. Bella and I keep staring at each other and panting softly together. Yipping quietly, we tell each other a little of our backgrounds. We reveal the usual aspects of our lives that humans also talk about when starting to get to know a new companion. We discuss our ages, where we live, how we spend our days and who the humans are who care for us.
Mum comes back to collect me carrying a bottle of Val’s creamy milk for our breakfasts the following week. Bella and I say our farewells with a little nose kiss, and Mum and I head off back home. This time we walk down Rokeby Road, the main street of Subiaco so we can greet all the humans and dogs we know. Weekends are very social in our suburb.
Of course, we stop at a café to have our coffee. We call mine a Puppicino, but in truth, it’s the milky froth off the top of Mum’s Cappuccino. I’m allowed five fingers of the bubbles “One, two, three four and “Last one””. People at the cafes laugh, they think I’m spoiled, and they’re right!
The following Sunday Mum I wake Mum from her deep sleep with a tap of my paw on her shoulder. I’m anxious to get to the markets. Through bleary eyes, Mum looks at the clock and says “KoKo it’s only 4 am. Please go back to sleep.”
I keep tapping on her shoulder, barking persistently “Woof, Woof, Mum …… let’s go to the markets, please. Let’s go to the markets NOW”. Mum convinces me to go back to sleep with a promise we will go when they open at 8 am.
As soon as we arrive at the markets, I drag Mum to the flower stall. My collar is almost choking me, Mum can’t keep up with my desperate pace. I’m filled with relief when I see Bella is here again, looking gorgeous. We curl our bodies together on the counter generating a warm glow in each of our hearts. Our pleasant companionship goes on in this manner every Sunday for a beautiful year.
Sometimes our human Mums take us for a walk along a few of the many laneways that bisect the Subiaco streets. We sniff Wee-Mails together and pass the time walking slowly while sharing the growing ease between us. We both look forward to our time together each weekend. Our hearts are bursting with love.
When the Station Street Markets closed in 2015, we did not get a chance to say farewell. It shattered my heart when Mum broke the news that I would never see my lovely Bella again. I know though that our happy memories will sustain Bella and me in harder times. We will not forget our joyful interactions.
It is best, I hear, to experience love and lose it, than to have never loved at all.
My wish is for you all to find love in the world somewhere, and to treasure the experience no matter how short or long it lasts.
Woofs from KoKo