"One day you're running in the dark, you're full of the joy of it. You're an invisible diamond thunderbolt. The man beside you is the same. He's going to howl into the night soon, to let anyone know you're rolling through. When you were a pup it shocked you, but now you know what it means. You smile. You look over your shoulder at him and speed up. A rib slides under muscle and catches a thread on the inside of your skin. You barely feel it. You'll be tired tomorrow"
I brought you home. Someone else was driving the car you threw up in, but I was the one who lay on the path with you, looking at the open doorway, trying to match my eyes to yours. I murmured to you, agreed with you. Why would any body want to walk through that bright open mouth? That was the first day you ever went across a threshold on your own four feet. We lay there until you stood up and walked towards it. When you stood up I led you in. I knew what kind of one you were, the kind who needed to walk over a doorway yourself, it'd save a lot of problems later. Funny little animal you were. Too wise for a young one, I was always on my toes, you watched everything.
That night and every night for months I slept above you, I didn't hold you in hands like a baby, I held you in my eyes. I put you to sleep by pretending I was tired with my eyes. I was a big long animal who didn't smell like your mother, but I was with you. You had 2 months, I had 220. I let you teethe on my hands, and when the time came I bit you so you knew the limits of decency. I ate first, and if you wanted a scrap from my meat, you learned to wait and at the right time look me in the eye and take it carefully from me. You were a joiner, a fast learner. I would leave steaming plates of chicken on a low table and walk out of the room to test you, and you began to follow me out, showing me that you knew how the game was played. If you had been a human boy, one day when you were old enough, I would have wanted to say to you, "You are precious, you have a place, you're good. We need you to be good". As it was, I never had to say it.
I taught you to run fast by running fast. I taught you to turn into the wind and smell things I couldn't smell. We tracked, foxes, cats, rats, in the snow, in the mud. In your first years, I watched you run other dogs ragged, I defended you, trained you, watched you, showed you things. I saw your big hooked eye-teeth flash for the first time. Our favourite thing to do was run. I ran with you all over the places that I'd thought of as my own but that we made into our range. Trotting, claiming land. Claiming miles by putting our noses and feet and our eyes and ears all over them like kids rubbing their hands all over a cake. If you were alive you'd remember your first thunderstorm, your first lightning. We stopped under a bridge to catch our breath. You looked at me like you wanted to spend the night there out of the rain and everything else, but I think you knew we were going back out into the storm. We ran hard from the bridge that night, I saw you find your long stretched out cheetah-stride for the first time, the first time you ran as fast as you could (that was the first time you tried to beat me to the house and I knew I couldn't let you).
When you were small, you were scared of puddles and groups of three, so I walked you through both and got wet feet and strange looks. We checked our garden together every night we were both at home. In your second year I realised that you walked beside me, but you guarded our parents. There was so much that I didn't think about until you were gone, I just did it, we were it. I didn't know I could speak to you with my eyes until no one could hear them.
Here's a funny thing, you were beautiful. You were just softer than a wolf when you were grown. People used to ask me your name and I would say "Dog". I knew you wouldn't want them to call you. You loved anyone who was introduced to you, ignored strangers and protected your family. I've got so many stories of us. Your first walk, to my dad's place, and you amazed me by chewing your bone between his feet like you knew him straightaway. The first time you met Andy and you saw him vault over our fence, something you had only seen me do, so you loved him. When you scared me and ran away to fight a fox and came back with its spit all over your long coat, not a mark on you, and dancing wild happy eyes. Older, powerful, pulling me on a bike like a sled dog down roads and people would stop and stare and smile - "Mush! Mush Mush!"
When you were dying I took you North. On the first day we were in the sea all day, paddling and swimming in Loch Ewe. You loved to swim. On the second day we rested. On the third day we did 12 miles and you picked up some ticks. I had to get them off you. I remember back at the cottage that night, having to dig into your forehead with a needle and hating every moment of it. I include that because that was a time when I know you weren't happy with me. We spent the next day in the cabin together, and it took you about 18 hours to forgive me. I fed you salmon and scallops and drank until we both got over it. Your eyes are before me now. The Koreans have a great word for the connection from the eyes. They call it "noonchi". I feel like there's a space in my brain that for years handled my side of our noonchi. You're 4 years in the ground this December, and I still feel it waiting to light up like a nerve where a tooth has been pulled. I miss nodding up and away to send you to check, nodding in and down to bring you to my side, turning our heads together to check over each other.
The night before you died was the only night in your life that you slept through on my bed. The next day I took you to the vet, who opened you up, showed me the cancers like bloody rotten crab apples, and told me there were plenty more where they had come from. The last thing you had seen was my eyes next to yours. The last thing you heard was, "You're a good boy". I know you were tired and in pain, but I hope the last thing you felt was easy, like the old song "Cocky".... "It's nearly over now, and now I'm easy". You were just beginning to show grey on your chin just under your lip. You dying young was the worst thing that could have happened, so it goes.
The old man impressed me in how he let you go when I told him that you were off in the morning, our mum didn't want you to go.
I took the sheet off the bed, wrapped you in it and dug a good hole for you at the back, in the mossy part. That was my favourite as a little boy, where I would feed the squirrels. It's still my favourite. I got down six feet, put you in, your fur was so soft I waited to check if it was really true, but you were stiff and cold, and lighter without your blood, so I knew. You still smelled the same. I had found some big roof tiles off a skip to box you in and keep you. I filled in the hole. The marker is a section of tree limb that reaches out to the sky and is slowly weathering down as jasmine and rose weave over it. After you were buried I couldn't sleep through the night for weeks until I found a way to accept that you were gone. That's a story I won't tell here.
This isn't what I sat down to write, but I had to get this out first.