6:  Sudden return

My initial suspicion of Anne was totally resolved, and we had many chances to share coffee or tea together in my office. She never showed off her techniques. She only helped me when it was necessary. I heard from the persons in charge of breeding that she did not even take Sundays or holidays off, but would come to clean up. There were about seventy dogs on the rooftop and ten in my management area. Taking care of nearly one hundred dogs could easily take up a whole day but in addition to cleaning, if you include walking the dogs and their postoperative care, she worked everyday until nine o’clock. I sometimes slept over at the office to help during experiments, but when I woke up at eight o’clock the next morning, she would already be at work.

Soon, it was almost a year since I first met Anne. One day she, who was so very committed to her work, suddenly did not appear. I first thought she might be sick in bed, but she did not show up for a whole week. I asked a professor who knew her whereabouts well what had happened. He told me that she was ill and had been admitted to a hospital somewhere, but he did not know where to get in touch, so I could not even visit her. After a while, one Monday morning, the person in charge of breeding called me and said, “I forgot to tell you, but a friend of Anne’s came over on Sunday and left a box to give to you. She seemed to be in a hurry.” I rushed over to the breeding office and picked up the box from Anne. Inside were a pack of Hi-Lite cigarettes and a bottle of whiskey, together with a letter.

The letter was written in awkward “katakana” (a phonetic Japanese alphabet) saying, “Satoh-san, thank you. I am going back to England. Please take care of the dogs. Anne Ross.” For a second, I could not understand what it meant. I wondered why she had to go back to England. Maybe she had some urgent business or something. At that moment, I could not begin to imagine that she had to return because of a severe illness. I was initially optimistic that she would return to Japan but as I read her letter over, I started to think that perhaps I would never see her again. If she thought she would come back, she probably would not have written, “Please take care of the dogs.” I reread her letter many times, until the letters began to blur, and tears kept falling from my eyes. How did she feel when realized she had to go back? I can now easily imagine how she felt to have to leave the dogs behind but at that time, I was totally in a daze. Her physical and mental strength had probably been stretched to their limits.