I still step out the back door and head for the chicken house, expecting her to follow me. I still walk across the back yard, expecting her to match me step for step. Someone kicked a soccer ball across the yard today, and I waited for her to chase it. But she’s not here anymore.
It has been said, time and time again, that a dog is man’s best friend, and perhaps, in a mysterious meeting of mere animal to eternal soul, that is true. There is a understanding that dogs have with their human companions, inexplicable and, yet, understood by both sides. In the hustle and bustle of daily routine, it is inexpressibly peaceful and wonderful to find a creature who’s greatest joy is to sit and stare at nothing, make no remarks about anything, and simply rest in your companionship. They expect nothing, and happily give everything.
She and I had many conversations over the years, Most notably the times when I was broken and confused. She never said anything, never tried to fix it. She was just herself, and that is all I could ask for. I came to depend on her, to take for her granted, and to assume that she would always be there. She and I had a binding, verbal agreement – that she would go with me when I got married. That she would live out the remainder of her life enjoying the solitude of being an only dog. She gave me her all, down to the last moment.
She had her brushes with death before, but I had always whispered, “you can’t leave me, yet,” and she always rallied. Perhaps I came to assume that I could merely will her existence indefinitely. After all, I wasn’t married yet – we had an agreement. And perhaps that was why she didn’t quit when she could have. Even deaf, mostly blind, unable to walk, and unable to eat, she would sleep outside our back door. Faithful to the end. The selfish tendencies of cats are perhaps most noticeable when they slip away in their latter years. They many times save us the trouble of medical bills and difficult decisions, but all my cats have so far deprived me of the chance to say goodbye, around the lump in my throat, and to have closure. Dogs are quite different.
But age is a terrible master, who always wins out. Even against the most steadfast of faithful hearts. And the day came when I knew I couldn’t ask her to hold out any longer. Her eyes seemed to be begging for the end. She wanted to know she was done, that she had obeyed and would be rewarded. I knelt down and whispered, barely speaking through the tears. “Good girl. I’ll miss you so much.” And I let her go. My sweet dad took her and brought her back, burying her before I could see her. My last memory would be her standing and looking at me, nothing else would mar that.
Life went on, but I still tear up sometimes. When I expect to see her and I don’t. Some parts of me feel like I failed my part of the agreement, part of me knows Kate loved me no matter where we were. All I know for sure is, God gave us gift when he made dogs. And getting to have a faithful, loving dog is an amazing experience.