You know, when you own a dog, there are a lot of messes.
There’s dog hair on the carpet and around the edges of rooms without carpeting. There’s water on the floor by the dog dishes. There are smudges on the windows at snout level.
I dealt with those things for fifteen years.
In year 13 and year 14, there were other messes. Buddy couldn’t always hold his water over night. Some foods that he’d always enjoyed made him sick those last two years. Always, when he inconvenienced me with “accidents” he seemed so ashamed of himself. I don’t believe he understood the inconvenience aspect of this, but he knew there were some things he wasn’t supposed to do in the house and it obviously bothered him as much as a dog can be bothered by much of anything.
I felt overwhelmed sometimes by the troubles of my old dog. I worried about what was next for him…and would it hurt. Now he’s gone and I miss his old self laying at my feet when I’m alone in the house. I miss his perked-up ears and laser-focused eyes as he peered around a kitchen counter, watching me cook; I miss him catching every single drop, chunk, sliver, and slice of food that I accidentally or purposely dropped on the kitchen floor. I miss that protective, four-legged creature who knew the difference between a scream of fright or a shriek of delight when my kids were little and playing in the yard. He was a night watchman, patrolling the darkened house while my family slept peacefully in their beds.
He’d chase the kids around the house, hide behind chairs and leap out at them when they least expected it. He’d catch the snowballs they tossed at him and chase after their soccer balls. There was a lot of noise when he was here and the kids were young. They’d all roll around on the floor together, the kids tumbling and hollering, and the dog making the strangest sounds–fully recognizable to my mother’s ear as sounds of absolute and utterly delighted excitement—sounds the neighbors misconstrued as the ravening growls of a predatory beast. Kids and dogs. It’s loud. It’s wild. And if it annoys you to hear the scratching claws on the kitchen linoleum, the thumping up the stairs, the panting and the squealing, then I don’t know what to tell you, except that you’re missing out in ways I can’t explain.
I miss him, that dog. I miss coming in at night, opening the back door slowly and seeing his nose poking out ahead of that sweet face…no barking…he’d known it was me before I’d even pulled into the driveway. I miss him walking beside me on the road, both of us so quiet, casting warm glances at each other every now and again. He never tugged the lead; he’d turn and tap his snout against my thigh every few steps to check his bearings. I miss his warm head and sympathetic brown eyes and velvety ears, pressing against me insistently when he knew I was upset about something. He’d bump his face against me until I wiped my eyes and wrapped my arms around him. Somehow he knew what to do in the presence of tears.
The other morning, when the sun bathed the glass patio door in golden light, there were no nose smudges for me to Windex away. I miss that dog.
photo by Twindaughter