For the past few years, the last thing I’ve done each and every evening has been to pick him up from his bed in the living area, carry him down the back deck’s steps into the yard for one last wobbly constitutional, and then return him gently to his kennel in my office for the night. Only then have I been ready for sleep.
It’s the most mundane things that you miss.
In time, such things become threads in the fabric of your life. The staying subconsciously tuned to any small noise that might suggest that he’s caught in a corner or under a chair. The listening for his small raspy breaths to try to keep track of which of the many pet beds, scattered about the house, that he's settled into. The responding to any whimper that might suggest the need for a trip to the yard. The juggling of meals and medications and subcutaneous fluids that have kept him comfortable and with us. A geriatric terrier takes some attention.
And yes, there were "good" years. Many. The stories I could tell. But the last have also been good in their own way, our lives woven more tightly through a dependency and a dedication and a tenderness that is hard to comprehend, much less describe. Man and dog intertwined by needs at their barest. But the threads have been pulled and our cloth has unraveled. Things here just don't fit quite the same.
Now there’s no reason to keep the door to the basement stairs closed, lest he tumble down them. No reason to excuse ourselves from the party every three hours to run back to the house for a moment of relief. No reason to take each first step with care in the likely event that he’s settled underfoot, just to be close to us.
For the past few years, the first thing I’ve done each and every morning has been to ask “Is Sammy awake yet?”
It will take some time before the answer settles in.
Godspeed, little Wilderness Dog,
Scourge of squirrels, chaser of deer, defiler of tall weeds.
Go run with the big dogs once again.