Warning: Mushy homage to a dead dog, written in hopes that it'll sugar and lemon to the bitter tea of missing her. But because y'all have been so very kind both here and in letters to my website, this'll be all I say about her here.
To my good friends who are seeing me through the surprisingly big pain of her passing, I hope I can return any of your peace, acceptance and patience. I owe you guys. Big time.
Waves of You
For my old Georgia Dog
The places where you were each morning are and aren't
Between the bed and the bedroom door, just one arm's length for our first pat of the day.
I never knew how you didn't have to go outside right away in the morning like the other dogs, heaving that first piss as if a week had passed instead of just a night.
Somehow you could wait for me.
You'd watch, side-eye style, as if whatever I was making in the kitchen concerned you but, after all these years you never asked for much that wasn't me.
I finally realized that the time I spent on the floor beside you picking the flowers of your endlessly growing undercoat were not for you, but me.
You taught me that roundabout zen of one single surrendered moment at a time thing.
You were tricky - in the way of a mystic.
You feared thunder.
That's why I thought LA would be good for you.
But a couple of times a year, we'd have it just the same and your trembling was almost as unbearable for me as for you.
Even the drugs they said would help were less than if I just stayed beside you, stroking your soft head, promising it would be all right.
Our survival kit:
a loud fan, violin music and my voice rode out the flickering lights of scariness.
I think the first two were for me.
You came with a tall tale:
They said you fell ten feet from a funnel cloud, madly stumbling away from it towards the first person to get you in out of that rain.
This from the folks at the little Dixie diner where we met.
They kept you locked in a shed at night, feeding you scraps during the day, still not claimed for weeks until that night I came by and you just found me first, girl.
Everyone laughed as you sat at my feet, right there in the parking lot as we were leaving.
My friends smiled because I'd just been trying to explain that I had so many animals by accident not by choice.
And there you were.
You were almost sitting on my feet, ready for the joke so I rolled my eyes and said, "Fine. Go wait by the car."
And damned if you didn't walk the fifty yards to do just that.
Unless you watched me drive up, I'll still never know how you knew my car in that full lot.
I asked them if I could take you with me.
"Daddy won't let me have no more dogs and nobody knows who she belongs to", was as much of an answer as I'd get.
And even though I wasn't going to keep you, no way, I was calling you Early in my head anyway, and just then, the fry cook said, as I loaded you into my car, "Aw, she's just a good old mama dawg."
I grimaced, knowing that was your name.
Fancy, meaningful monikers be damned.
You were going to be Mama Dog.
The first of many mysteries with us was that I knew you were sick; sick enough to take to the all night vet instead of waiting until morning.
And you were. Very sick. Loaded with a bad throat infection.
And I brought you and all your new medicine back to the house where all kinds of animals awaited our return.
They all loved you right away and that was fine with you - everything was fine with you - as long as I was close by.
You let the kittens chase you and the little dogs boss you and you just smiled up at the horses, perhaps more like them than I could tell. Then.
In the coming days, I put up signs with your beautiful photo on it, convinced someone had to be missing you something fierce.
And then one afternoon I was away during a sudden storm - that's when I still left you in the fenced yard when I was gone - I saw the depth of your fear upon my return, your abject fear:
Although I'd sprayed the back door to keep the other pups from scratching it up, you scratched right next to it while that blasted lightning chased you.
I still can't fathom such terror:
You clawed through wood, insulation, wiring and halfway through the sheetrock before I got home to see your bloody paws and hurt nose.
You did that 'I'm sorry' dance dogs will do when they've been hollered at before.
It never occurred to me to fuss at you.
My heart was too busy breaking.
The next week I had to leave town and when I got home, the guy looking after the place told me you'd run away the day after I left, escaped under the fence.
But within a half hour, just as a lump was rising in my throat for reasons I didn't understand, you came running across the wide field, grinning that dog smile you'd be famous for. You never went away again.
And you were there for my fall.
We drove some miles, didn't we, girl?
Three thousand miles with a litter box, through rain and miles and miles until finally we got to the thunder-less land I promised you..
But we didn't know about another kind of fear then, never dreamed it'd visit us, but it did.
And when things got really grim, I would see your eyes looking back at me, through me, really, letting me know you were there for the duration.
I'm so sorry you had to see all that.
And then that time I thought it was ok to stay in a dangerous place so that I would not lose you all, without another place to go, that time his angry hands pressed my face into a wall at the edge of what seemed like sudden death, I saw you watching back, seeming to say, "But if you're gone, then what?"
Fair question. Good enough for us to go..
And we left with the help of angels we couldn't see and one we knew by name.
Even so, you made all landings softer. Every one.
You only wanted those slow walks, the only kind your bad hips could bear, and you only wanted me.
I'm not sure anyone ever only wanted me before.
That's not saying I haven't been loved or even preferred.
But nothing came close to the plain old happy you were just being next to me.
That kitten got big but stayed pesky.
The little frisky dogs slowed down and then all died off.
And your own walk got so slow that I actually thought that if I just kept you at 16 rpm, your years would stretch out into some kind of forever.
But because life isn't that way and because I owe you more, so much more, and because you let me know it was time, I walked as far as I could to the edge of that Bridge with you.
And the missing.
Is just beginning...
And because of every noble aspect that you are, I will abide with the best of what you brought to us.
Now, when it thunders, I'll hope that where you are, His holy healing hands are what comforts you.
People lose love in the physical sense every day: It is the nature of our life here in skin.
And I'll see your eyes in every last pet of the day, every time I fill the big water bowl, every time I get the leashes ready for a walk. And in a hundred ways and places you'd be, I'll remember.
I'm not going to say I'll never get a big old dog again.. You lasted years past what they said you would. I'm glad I'm a slow learner. And more so that you were slow at leaving.
I didn't save your ashes.
Or get your paw print.
I'll see your smile in a hundred photographs and frame just one.
Happy trails, old girl.
I'll see you across that bridge one day.
Until then, I'll try to remember everything you taught me about how constant love can be.