The dog up and died; he up and died —
After 20 years he still grieves.
I have always choked up a little bit when we get to that line in “Mr. Bojangles,” and I knew that after three-quarters of a lifetime, I had experienced the love of a dog as deep as that about Jerry Jeff Walker wrote.
I was a basket case again for a little while the other day. I took a walk along the way Willow and I used to walk, and I broke down sitting on the bench we often shared in her field. I would sit down on the north end of the bench and drape my arm over the back, she would climb onto the south end, and we would watch the world go by for a while.
Will there come a time when I can walk that way without welling up? Ask me again in 20 years.
I am grateful to have learned to be conscious of the great pleasures as they are happening, thankful for remembering, “Savor this moment. You will never pass this way again,” because I have 12 years of memories of a puppy turned dog turned cherished companion.
They are moments to be held in gratitude and sweet memory, moments that are painful at first when we reach the point when they are gone forever, but the memories comfort and counteract the sorrow. We love, and the memory of love drives back the darkness.
It’s only a week, I tell myself, and I’m still adjusting to life with only one canine friend, just as Red is, just as Dejah is adjusting to being an “only child.” The occasional wave of grief is as overpowering as the occasional wave of love for that sweet beast used to be; she made me smile right down to the bone.
And you know what, those smiles have lingered in my bones and wrapped themselves around me these past few days. As much as it hurts, I am so glad to have had a dozen years together with that dawg. The sadness isn’t half as deep as the happiness was, and I know in the end that the happy will continue longer than the ache.