The night before you died
The owls stood above you, in the maple tree
Outside our bedroom window
Screeching, for hours
From their perches. You in your glistening soft white body
Dreamt deeply, your back legs knocked
And your nose twitched.
The night before you died,
I stayed up late sewing
Three ripped shirts, ripped for years, me mending,
Past midnight, as you, with pleasure,
Cooed in your dreams, innocent,
While the owls hooted.
One day when you were just a pup
And we were lying together
On the floor, paw in hand,
You told me,
Clear as the moon in a star-filled sky,
You were going to live to be sixteen.
I tried to convince many people,
Most thought me mad, and I,
Once again mistaking ego for wisdom.
Before our 13 years with you,
Who would have known the Alaskan Malamute’s
“I”, “me” was big as Paul Bunyan?
Your vets said you had a will of iron,
You were such an inspiration,
The dog who got the antibiotic to Nome, 500 miles through
Impassible wilderness, you, were such an inspiration to me, not to succumb,
Not to give up against the odds,
You were the dog who never stopped pulling, pushing,
In the end, dragging yourself around,
One legged. You would
Have kept on until you finally dropped
Dead in your tracks
This was how you wanted to die
How I wanted you to die, desperately wanted.
And you did keep on,
Until the day
I finally understood my decade of dreaming
You were locked inside a car in the sweltering summertime heat,
With no open windows,
And I was miles away, unable,
To reach you,
To save you.
The damned angel of death came for us, beloved pup,
In a series of mishaps, miscalculations,
And a needle-happy veterinarian. My entire fault.
But we were so tired, so so tired, so
Even though I sometimes think I just might have as well shot you with my shotgun
As country folk have always done,
I can forgive myself,
Knowing a ventilator was going too far,
My beautiful old white dog.
Eyes like my father’s,
You convinced us both
You were never going to die.
What am I supposed to feel?
Betrayed by this ego of ours,
Now that your beautiful whiteness,
Fur thick as a sapling,
Eyes deep as a million millennia.
Locked together, our souls were, in embrace, as you died,
I had to watch you go, go away, away, to where I will never know.
Without I will forever be.
How am I supposed to go on?
My wolf-pawed dog,
Now that you are laying lifeless in the ground,
In the field, behind?
I am Without.
My first dog.
You lived three months short of fifteen but still,
Without you is beyond
Anything we imagined, you and I,
Both flailing, failing, fragile but
It didn’t matter one iota
Because we were side by side, together in our
Infirmities. Aging as the falcon flies, woman and her dog.
© Susan Lynn Gesmer. Dog Death: Without. 2011