Wednesday, December 4, 2013
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"How I pity someone who has never loved a dog," I grieved aloud one evening to no one but the night -- the woods and earth beyond the walls, the water and air an everlasting emptiness into which she likely will already have been welcomed before these words, swiftly stenciled on newsprint, live for a day and let me whisper a soft goodbye.
Everything is electric during these last moments, the sunlight on the leaves seeming to turn the trees to glass; the air shuddering with heat off the asphalt; the hush of the evening rain; the incoming waves sighing to her, beckoning, while she sheds the weight of her afflictions with the buoyancy of her final swim in Casco Bay; the tiger lilies blooming into a brilliance and vitality that seem almost an offense, now that death has come to call.
I, chasing the tail of my own dread, make checklist after checklist of things to do before the dog settles down for the last time -- pick up stuffed toys, pile water bowls in the dishwasher, throw away the hated, seldom-used leash -- because I already know that too many remnants left behind will undo me when I come home alone.
That's it, you know: alone. It is not a state of being that I fear or prefer; nor is it punishment, nor fate. It is a simple fact of passing, the dark figure waiting in the wings.
Now there is just one more thing to do for her, and that will be done soon enough, will arrive without anguish, delivering relief from a fearful disease that neglect had implanted in her before she ever left her litter to become part of our pack. But in desolation as in mercy, there is only what subsides and that which remains -- one giving out, another going on.
She knows how I love her, she trusts that I will ease the stiff ache that age and illness have magnified to crippling pain. She sleeps each night, her head on my clogs, clinging to the bed frame, so that I cannot stir or rise without her waking. She is at peace in my protection; she can drop off without worry, drop out at any time.
Not so, perhaps, for me, but here in the dark, and after, there is little else to say, nothing more than her name.
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