Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Play Ball

It was a little over eight years ago that we moved up here to the border, and a few months after we arrived, Sappho, our beautiful Lab/Shepherd./Chesapeake/God knows what/ mix of a dog who ruled me died of complications from epilepsy. I was out of town when she got sick and she died at the vets just after I got back.

When you work at home, all the time, the living things around you are really important. There’s no one down the hall to grab a coffee with or talk about the game to, no diner for lunch to sit in and watch girls out the window. But there was Sappho, a ball to throw with and a world to explore, some ears that always listened and a look that always said “What the hell are you talking about? Can I have something to eat?” So you walk and play and ruff the neck and hand out a treat and then get back to work, falling into the comfortable patterns that mark the day as sure as coffee.

I was a mess after she died. Telling my daughter, only seven then, who had never known a world without her, was gut wrenching, but it got worse; I never realized how important it was having another physical presence around, how the sound of footsteps and heavy breathing and the rattle of her rabies tag on the collar creates a little soundtrack that says you’re not by yourself.

I lasted about a week, found an ad, and then we piled in the car and drove into Quebec and came back with Sam, the goofy Golden Retriever puppy. Soon we created our own pattern, the daily walk and ball toss that for the last eight years kept me from living entirely in my head, and something I’ve written about several times before.

He died in the back of my truck yesterday on the way to the vet. I somehow knew he was going the previous day, made sure the girls said goodbye when they left for school, called the vet anyway, put his bed in the back of my truck and lifted him in. I was almost there when I looked in the rear view mirror, saw his head slump down and disappear and knew.

We already have a second dog, Scamper, a Shetland Sheepdog, so there are still sounds and patterns around and walks to take.

But there is still that certain silence.

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