Mary had always wanted a pet dog. Whenever she saw her friend’s pet dogs, she would always ask her mother if she could adopt one. Unfortunately, the answer was always a “no” because her mother did not think that she was ready to own a pet. However, when the day finally did come, it changed her life forever…

Mary took a deep breath. The fresh cool air filled her lungs. She was rejuvenated as the tall trees swayed to the gentle breeze. Mary was playing “catching” with her friends early in the morning. It was also her birthday, and Mary was dying to know what her present was. “Is the present going to be a watch? Or a toy?” Mary showered herself in an avalanche of possibilities. She had no idea what was waiting for her at home.

Mary hummed her favourite tune as she went into the lift. When Mary was outside her door, she giggled and squealed in delight. “Mum, I am home!” Her mother immediately opened the door to let her in.

“What is my present?”

“You will find out later,” Mum replied. Suddenly, Mary heard a barking sound coming from her room. She turned her head and saw two pricked ears popping out of the door with its tongue out.

Upon seeing this, Mary smiled gleefully as she punched her fist in the air in jubilation. Mary skipped merrily into her room and found a dog! It was covered in black spots and wagging its tail. Gently picking the dog up, Mary hugged it tightly. She whispered, “Now, I have a friend to talk to in the house. I have no siblings and I was very lonely until you came! Hmm…I shall name you Max!” Max started barking louder when he heard his new name.

Upon seeing Mary’s delight, Mum agreed to building a doghouse for Max. Once she came back with the wood, they got to work, spending three whole hours on it. By the time they were putting the finishing touches to the doghouse, it was nightfall. When Max saw the doghouse, its tail started wagging uncontrollably. Max quickly settled into it and within minutes, he fell asleep.

“Coo, coo!” The sound of a rooster’s squawk woke Mary up the next morning. Mary tottered to the doghouse to meet Max but he was nowhere to be found! Shivering, Mary’s heart galloped like an untamed horse. She started searching for Max under the sofa, under her bed, in the cupboard, but he was nowhere to be found! Soon enough, Mary had enlisted her friend’s help in the search party. They asked everyone in the neighbourhood if they had seen a dog with black spots and sharp ears. Fortunately, instead of asking hundreds of people, the friends only needed to ask eighteen people. The eighteenth person said that he always slept late and this time, he saw a dog running into a nearby abandoned house. He warned that the house had been abandoned for decades but it used to house a couple who loved dogs. It is said that they used to put bear traps at the entrance so no bear could eat their pet dogs.

The friends thanked the man endlessly and ran to the old house. There, the lawn was overgrown with thorny weeds and long grasses. The window was blackened with soot. As the friends tiptoed into the house, the door mysteriously creaked open. Somewhere upstairs, water was dripping from a leaking tap. The dripping sound echoed throughout the house. Cobwebs, big and small, hung precariously from an old chandelier, behind the cabinet and under the table.

Mary and her friend were shivering with fear. It was obvious that their teeth were chattering. They tiptoed into the rooms on the first floor and started looking for Max. Unfortunately, there was still no sign of Max. As Mary walked up the stairs, she thought that she may never find Max and was worried about how he was doing. With goosebumps all over her skin, her eyes swept all over every dark corner and crevice.

After they reached the second storey, they split up. Mary went to the corridor while her friend went to the kitchen. After what seemed like an eternity, they heard a barking sound. They bolted to the toilet where the bark was coming from and saw Max in the toilet bowl! Instinctively, Mary carried him out from the toilet bowl and hugged the drenched Max so tightly that no number of words could describe the joy that she and Max experienced at that moment.

From then on, Mary promised to take better care of Max. As the saying goes, “Money can only buy you a fine dog, but only love and care can make his tail.” After this incident, Mary realised that it is not easy to take care of pets. She was thankful for this wake-up call and the significant change in her attitude and mindset. Now, Max sleeps beside Mary on the same bed. The doghouse? Well, it sits on Mary’s study table as a reminder of what had happened. Whenever she sees it in the morning, she smiles slightly, thinking of that life- changing incident.