An Open Letter to Who Stole Neji

You barely got away. If I, or anyone else, had come back just an hour earlier you would have never gotten the chance to take Neji. Now that you have what you wanted though, there’s not much I can do. I know you don’t care that Neji had a family. I bet by now you’ve cut off his handmade collar and threw out his tag. I honestly don’t expect you to have even given it a second thought, why would you? You have an amazing dog now, vaccinated and trained at such a young age. Energetic and sweet, he’ll always be there for you at every time of the day because he is the kind of dog that is loyal to those who care.

What you stole wasn’t just a dog. He was my son, I raised him from a pup, I took him to the vet every other week, and we had adventures every day on our walks. He knew Quinchuqui, Peguche and Otavalo like the back of his paw. Every day after school as I walked down the street towards my house he would wait in front of the door until I was in his eye view. His ears would then prop up and he would run towards me with joy knowing it was time for us to walk around a bit. Do you even know his favorite spot? It’s behind the neighbors house. He has friends there, he spent hours there every day playing and enjoying the time he had in a big open space. He chased chickens, played with other pups and layed in long grass. Oh yeah, that’s his favorite past time. Any patch of grass he sees he NEEDS to lay on. Every walk we have is him doing somersaults on every patch there was, he loves grass.

Neji was the beacon of light in my life. Every morning and every night we would have breakfast together on the dot at 9AM and 7PM with lunch at 1PM. I don’t think you can ever contemplate the love I had for him. The first day I took him in, he cried all night. From 9PM to 7AM. He made messes in my room, urine and poop all over the place with the occasional vomit. He was sick with parasites and malnutrition, having sleepless nights where unless he was being held he could not sleep. It took 2 months for him to be able to rest at peace. Every night I would hold him until he slept. Any noise would trigger an awakening, and with that another night full of his crying. Every morning, another mess of his excrements all over the floor. Saying he was a handful was an understatement. Without my family, he would not survived anywhere else. We gave him a second chance in a life he was slowly losing.

Every vet visit was crucial for him to get better. He got rid of his parasites, he got his vitamins and he got his shots. Oh, how he hated shots. Just last week when we took him he knew what was going to happen and refused to enter the building. He was extremely smart once he got better. He weighed 8 pounds at 2 months. At 3, he weighed 10 pounds. 3 weeks later, he weighed 18 pounds. We beat the parasites and malnutrition, he was finally getting accustomed to a lifestyle of healthiness. It took so much crying on his part, but he made it through. Every shot would fill him with such pain he would lay on the floor howling his heart out. It hurt my heart to see him in that pain, but it had to be done for him to get better.

You could see the change so evident in his coat, attitude and energy. Every day he would  run around the kitchen finally feeling better. He always started his day with a yawn and a stretch, never a different routine. When you sit, he would raise up his paws and want to lay on your lap. He was a spoiled dog, every time he would be carried he’d catch up on the lifetime of sleep he missed out on while he was sick. He would move and adjust himself just enough to find a perfect position then stick his head under your arm and let out one deep breath before he goes to sleep. He was also a little biter, always nipping at your toes, or biting something just to see if it reacts. It took weeks to get him out of that habit, but he learned.

Neji hates leashes in so many ways. He ripped through his first, and gnawed endlessly at the rope that was used after. He is not the kind that can be left inside, he needs the stimulation and the freedom that only being outside can give him. He needs constant walks, he prefers walking right by your side only to run ahead if there's grass he can roll around in. He does not respond to his name though. He’s trained to understand “come here” through “tsk tsk”. Saying his name will only get a blank stare as well, so it’s usually “tsk tsk Neji”. He loves taking his time as well, he is never in a rush to go anywhere. Ecuatime was the most relatable thing to his personality as he would always stop and literally smell the roses, or really anything that gathers his attention.

Now I understand the harsh reality of this. I am most likely never going to see Neji again in my life. Every plan I had with him is now lost in the wake of you stealing him from my life. I was going to bring him back home to the states. I was going to take him to Lake Chabot, The Marina, Golden Gate Park, and so many more places I knew he would love. I now have an empty spot for all of that now. When I said he was my son, I meant it in every way possible. I raised him from a young sick pup, to an amazing gorgeous healthy happy dog. He was my first real test of responsibility. I took him everywhere, he graduated from my backpack, to the leash, to free roaming beside me. I slept with him, bathed him, cleaned after him and loved him with everything in my heart. I would pass up invitations, and plans because he had appointments and needed food and needed so much more. He taught me so much more than how responsible I was. He taught me how much more responsible I needed to be as I grew older. He taught me that happiness is never materialistic. I could only afford such few toys for him, but that didn’t matter to him. All he wanted was to be by my side and be loved.

I hope you come to understand one day this feeling you left me in. I can’t sleep because I have nightmares where I cannot see him. I tear up on the bus ride seeing the paths we walked just 2 days earlier. I know things come and go within life and there is no changing it, but this is different. You ripped the most important thing of my life out of my heart. I have never once felt this alone and distraught, I can’t even put into words to emphasize what I feel. It could be sadness, anger, or maybe something completely different. You robbed me of a genuine smile that I had to come home every day. I now have to walk past the house where he once slept. Where we had our walks, where he made a mess that I had to help clean, and finally where he became a part of my family. The worst part is that I can’t even be angry because I have no face to put this anger to other than myself.

I hope and pray every night that Neji is going to be okay in your arms now. He barely turned 4 months, but he acts like an adult already which makes it easier for you to care for him. I’ve come to terms with the fact that he is gone now, so I only make a few requests for the happiness that Neji deserves. Neji is a sensitive dog, he needs to be shown affection throughout the day. He needs at least 20 minutes of sleep within your arms within the first weeks of being in a new place so he can have at least some form of comfort. Please take him to the vet regularly, he has almost all his shots but he needs a few more including his rabies. Neji is extremely docile and curious, please take him on a walk every day for at least 30 minutes so he gets to know his surroundings. Please wait up for him and be patient with how slow he may be catching up, and give him time to get accustomed to all the new commands you might give him. Neji is extremely playful, he does not pick fights or is aggressive in any way. And finally, please just love him as much as you would a baby or child. He is only 4 months, he needs time before you can use him for anything other than a companion. He is an amazing dog and hopefully, you can take care of him better than I ever could.

I will always carry Neji within my mind every day of my time here in Ecuador. All I will ever ask for is that you treat him right. I hope one day I will see him again, but until that day comes I will wait here at my doorstep where so many memories were made.