The hands of the girl moved as if she were a puppet. Her dog sat in front of her, panting, his large, meaty tongue dangling from his mouth. Ready to go. Can I? Can I? he seemed to say, his eyes radiating eagerness.
“Buddy, Buddy!” the girl cried. Her happy, high voice drifted away in the large hall where the onlooking crowd was dead silent, transfixed by the scene.
The dog remained in his spot.
“Buddy, Buddy!” the girl cried again.
The dog sat tight.
Then the father who was holding the girl whispered something in her ear. At first, she didn’t seem to understand, but then her eyes became bigger, and she said: “Go, Buddy, go!”
And off he went her dear pet, the joy of her short, restricted life. She looked at him and cried, “Go, go!” Her weak limbs, moved by her father, waved at the frantic dog who jumped, crawled, disappeared in the plastic round tunnel, climbed a small bridge and zigzagged between a series of elastic poles, before finally reaching the finish where the little girl welcomed him with a cascade of happy cheers.
The crowd applauded, choked with emotion.
As her father carried her away, the girl kept looking at her pet. An assistant brought him along on the leash. The dog looked at the girl with eager eyes. Is she happy? Is she happy? he seemed to ask.
Yes, she was.
(c) Stef Smulders