october night (willow)

the gumboot gumshoe has become a dog-blogger, but this too shall pass. i have a texas a&m quail on the farm now (just one) and it’s time to batten down the hatches for winter, with associated fencing and running-of-electrical-cords and i will get to all that, but today is about willow, who, YES, is still somehow with us. but just for today. and about grief. and about october, which is a grand time for grief.

as i’ve said in previous entries, willow has been an old dog for a long time, a lot longer time than her age (13) would necessarily warrant. she wasn’t even 10 when she started to opt to stay home from walks and it had been years at that point since she disappeared down to mud pond for a secret swim. for the last year, she has had good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks, long stretches of comfort and sanity and shorter stretches of deaf, crapping battiness. every time i think it’s time to call the vet and make that terminal appointment, she bounces back, goes for a little walk, manages to get outside to do all her bodily functions every day for days until the next time.

last weekend was a bad one, so i called the vet monday morning and organized willow’s last day. i arranged the cremation. i planned all the ways to spoil an old, deaf, crapping, batty dog until the end. and, really, she’s had a good week. good enough that if i was a person of stronger constitution and less bleeding heart, i would probably have called the vet and postponed for a while, but there’s only so many times you can resolve yourself to your dog’s last day.

that’s today.

as i write this, willow is still with us. later on, i’ll leave work early, i’ll carry her to the jeep, i’ll drive to the vet, and i’ll come home alone. tonight will be impossible, tomorrow difficult, and the next week or two melancholy. i won’t want to talk about willow or grief then. it’s hard to talk about her now, with the scythe hanging over her, but it must come now or come never.

october is about little deaths: the end of bounty, the end of warmth, the end of the promise and hope of spring and summer before the long, long dark days of winter. we start looking for comfort: hot drinks, warm woolens, flannel and fire and light and something, anything to keep us from the cold. each leaf that falls, each goose that flies, each bloom of frost is a knell. it is practice for life in that it is practice for our own terminal nature. we wake, we bloom, we grow, we thrive, we wither, we die. the closer we get to our own ends, the more we look for comforts: achievements, accomplishments, concrete proof that we were here, that we had meaningful lives, that we didn’t waste what time we had.

most dogs don’t do this. they do everything with relish, everything with abandon. they sleep with joy, they eat with joy, they find nasty things to roll in and do that with joy, too. they don’t wrestle with the cursed manuscript of the next great american novel. they don’t struggle with a job to pay their mortgage. they don’t have moments of ennui. they’re dogs. they just do dog.

last night, willow came to me for a pettins. she got so excited over the ear scratching that she lost her balance and went ass over teakettle and continued to smile. feeble, odorous, and generally not in charge of her own physicality anymore, she was still living with joy, whistling through an october night and not fearing the end.

good night, my girl.

old willow