Yesterday my faithful companion and I were out for his twice-daily walk, and by “walk” I mean amble. Wander. Meander. Pete is fourteen years old now, and the boy who used to tear around the lakes for hours on end, never tiring, with me half-jogging to keep up, and who would then come home to do hot laps with the neighbor dogs in our adjoining back yard, now sways from side to side and every now and then stumbles over sidewalk heaves and steps. He breathes heavily and coughs often (heart failure), his joints are stiff (arthritis), he doesn’t notice the squirrels he used to leap after (eyes/hearing). This has happened gradually, so that I’ve had time to get used to it. Or so I thought.
But when flipping through photos the other day, I found this one and it nearly brought me to my knees. I remember when I took it. It was the first snow of the year that night, probably ten years ago, and he stood there at the end of the leash waiting impatiently for me to take the photo so that he could get back to what he wanted, which was to go, go, go through new snow, down the unshoveled sidewalk.
Petey-boy, I hope you’re still around for this year’s first snow. Are you our good boy? Are you? Are you the best, best dog?
* * *
– Mary Oliver
All day I have been pining for the past.
That’s when the big dog, Luke, breathed at my side.
Then she dashed away then she returned
in and out of the swales, in and out of the creeks,
her dark eyes snapping.
Then she broke, slowly,
in the rising arc of a fever.
And now she’s nothing
except for mornings when I take a handful of words
and throw them into the air
so that she dashes up again out of the darkness,
this is the world.