My dear one is gone. Yesterday was a fine day for him, his last, but none of us knew that. Tonight, no one will turn around three times before sinking down on his middle-eastern rug and sheepskins beside my bed, with a contented sigh, waiting for me to say, "You are the best wolf in the world; you are the best dog who ever lived; I love you so-o much…." No-one to cuddle with, to entrain with, to appreciate. No thick black fur to work my fingers into, no velvet ears to pull ever so gently, no silver paws to kiss and admire. No deep, furry white-blazed chest to massage. no tummy to rub, no noggin to tease with with the "knock on wood" knuckle rub. No rustle of paws as my companion joyously runs through Dreamland; no whimpers and whines as visions of complaisant rabbits entertain his sleep. If fire trucks or ambulances sail by our house tonight, no sharp ears will twitch until a baritone howl emerges from an uplifted muzzle to fill the room, the house, the garden.
This morning began with a crash in the stairwell, seconds after his nails had scraped the fir floor of our bedroom with the familiar noises of his rising. He needs to go out right away, I’ll bet. I thought I’d better get out of the bathroom as quickly as possible to open the back door for him. Then the horrible crash: he’d fallen down the stairs as the heart attack hit him. He lay on the landing, panting, all 140 pounds of him, right in front of the compassionate figure of Kwan Yin..
My daughter came running from the library, where she sleeps. What’s happening?
Remember, you know everything, I thought. At some level, you know. "He’s dying," I said. The words tore my mouth.
"I think so, too," she said.
We held him and kissed him until the end. It was twenty to nine.
The day was long and hard. Eventually I will appreciate the beautiful parts, perhaps, but today’s physical and emotional effort left me numb. It took two strong men to bring our dear one’s body downstairs from the landing and lay him on his huge cushion in the living room. A friend and my daughter dug the grave, an arduous task since the back forty of our property is all tree roots and rocks. My daughter put out the news on the web, and the phone began to ring and the email list grew like Jack’s beanstalk–he was so well loved throughout the community. We planned a funeral and sent out that notice. Ten hours after his death, he took his last trip, in a wheelbarrow, and was laid to earth with his favorite squeaky toy and some food and valuables for the journey, all wrapped up with him in soft cotton sheets. Lilacs around his head. And then dirt, more dirt, and rocks to keep out bears, raccoons, or cougars. We toasted him, told stories about him, and read him poetry. I set a vase of flowers near his head, and we planned to plant a tree to shade his grave.
When the people had all gone, I went back to the grave. I’m no believer in spirits, heavens, or second chances at life. There is no consolation for death. Yet I thought, There should be another, longer grave. For me. If it weren’t illegal. There’d be comfort in the prospect of going to earth beside a beloved being.
Is it normal to think such thoughts? Or am I refusing to acknowledge what I know in my depth? It’s hard to tell, and today, I don’t care what I know.
My love is gone, and I am lost.