One we knew for seven years. He and Zoe ran together, swam together, vacationed together, and would have chased sheep together if his people and I had been ranchers in a parallel life. The other was Zoe's patient and courageous guide into the world of the three-leggeds. All I can do now is sit and hold these two loving pups in my heart, sifting through memories of tails thumping, eyes gleaming, wet noses, butt sniffing and snorts. I can still feel the comforting weight of one of those sweet dogs on my feet. This fellow taught me the meaning of play. Fun-loving and prankish in his youth, always affectionate and stout-hearted, his voice-over in the animation would be read by Albert Finney. I can still feel the gravitas of the other one as he lifted his big head to meet Zoe and me and invited us into his world for this spring season of new life and change, endings and beginnings, telling us not to take ourselves and this situation we are surprised to find ourselves in too seriously, telling us not to be afraid. When I think of him, I will remember how he chased sunbeams on his walks and looked for cool patches of moss to roll in. A soulful Tom Hanks would do his voice-over. Both these dogs taught those who loved them a little something about happiness, about feeling the earth beneath our paws and feet.
I sit outside for an hour with Zoe, inviting the essence of these two dogs we have both loved to join us here in the green grass of June. All we can do to honor their lives and their passing is to share some minutes here loving the life that beats in us still.
Earlier this hour I brought my lunch out to the big flat rock in the river. The dog sat beside me in the tall grass and begged for bites of it. She looked happy and puppyish, working it with her big brown eyes, and in my eyes she was every age she’s ever been: the scared eight-pound pup I brought home from the pound, who put the “dog” in the word “dogged” as in “dogged my footsteps” when we went on our first walks across the river. The punk-ass year-older and terrible two-year-old who once ran from my side into the road to chase a kid with skates up the hill, causing the woman beside me to say, “Thank goodness; I thought she was perfect, and what a lot of pressure that would be for you!" The three-year-old maturing dog who was part of a pack of four dogs that circled the table in our friends’ wedding banquet in a mad frenzy, causing us to suspend all toasts so that we could pay homage to that moment that not one of us who was present will ever forget. And she is still the dog who for several years has run on a certain beach in North Carolina dodging jellyfish, the dog who has seen much of the Northeast and Midwest, Georgian Bay in Ontario, and perhaps more of Ottawa—a certain animal hospital—than she would have liked. She is still the six-year-old voyager who traveled all through France and a bit of Sardinia and Spain and was shown to tables in fine restaurants where she was given a water bowl before her people got their drinks. But above all she is a North Country dog, a dog of river trails and pine forests, snow and rain.
One of the dogs I mourn this week was present for many of these Zoe incarnations. It is inevitable that this would be so because his person, a beautiful and wise woman, and I are very close friends. The other dog came along late in the game, along with his amazing people--generous, patient, and kind, my role models and guides through Zoe's cancer--reminding me that one of the blessings dogs bring us is that they make us meet human beings we would have no reason to know otherwise. This has been true for Zoe all along, even now. I have met some of you, gentle readers, because of this dog, in person, or through the blog, and I am so grateful to have made your acquaintance.