She lost her best friend. It happened yesterday.
He was a good boy. Fourteen years old. He was always beside her. When she ate supper. When she watched television. When she used the restroom. He even slept on the floor near her bed.
He was a Labrador, and then some. The biggest in his litter of twelve. His shoulders were wide, his neck was a column of muscle.
He wasn’t a playful dog, but he was happy. He was gentle. He liked children, chewing, lying in the sun, he loved tomatoes. He enjoyed walks, but only short ones. He seemed to go crazy over “Downton Abbey.”
He could eat more than any dog she’d ever seen. He was a garbage disposal with a tail.
When she worked nights in a commercial kitchen, he waited for her to get home. She’d arrive after work, he would be seated at the front door, squealing.
She would bring him things from work. The spoils of her occupation. Fish guts, lamb fat, chicken gristle, and sacred ground beef.
And he loved her for it.
But she owed it to him—and then some. He’d seen her through hard times. He knew her emotions like a roadmap. He knew when she was sad, happy, or angry before anyone else did.
When her father died, he crawled on a sofa and placed his hundred-pound body in her lap. It almost crushed her.
“I love you,” is what he was actually saying. Which is the only thing dogs know how to say—except: “Feed me right now or I’ll poop in the kitchen.”
He was with her when she lost her job. He was with her when she moved houses. He was with her when she passed a class, certifying her as a teacher. He was with her when her mother was ill.
Yesterday, she took him to the vet. She sat beside him for a few minutes before the doc came. His eyes were glassy, his back legs didn’t work. He was in pain.
Decisions were made. They hooked an IV to his leg. The fluid went into his veins. He fell asleep in her arms. His mouth slung open. His eyes became empty.
She didn’t cry. Not at first. It wasn’t until she was on her way home that it hit her. At a stoplight, she found herself in a sort of daze when she noticed black hair on the seat. Dog hair.
She had to pull over just to keep from wrecking the car.
Sometimes, I wonder if mankind is cursed. Because living hurts. Nothing lasts. Good things die too soon. Bad things last too long.
And just when you think things can’t get worse, the television proves you wrong.
Another day; another shooting. One group of people screams at a another. It’s hard to tell the difference between nice folks and the other kind. It’s difficult to know what to believe.
Some believe the world is turning into fertilizer, and they have every right to believe that. For all I know they might be right—I’m not smart enough to tell them they’re wrong.
But I don’t believe it. I won’t. I can’t.
Not as long as dandelions still cover highway ditches, and clover still peppers Tennessee mountainsides. Not as long as whippoorwills still flutter in treetops and make sounds I enjoy.
Not as long as the sun still comes up, and the moon still glows. Not as long as babies keep growing, and mothers keep loving.
These things, I believe, are proof of something. You might even call them miracles. I don’t know where they come from, but they come from somewhere. Everything comes from somewhere.
Maybe they come from above the clouds. Maybe from the other side of here. Maybe from a place of cherubs, rivers, and perfect prairies. Wherever this place is, it’s the same place dogs come from.
And I believe it’s where they return.