He was so attune to me. I’d be watching TV, glance over at him, and he was watching me. It might sound creepy, but it wasn’t.
It was as if he understood I held the keys to his happiness and he devoted himself to doing what I wanted, a canine synchronicity that made life better for us both. Dogs aren’t predisposed to language—grammar flummoxes them. But they try hard, from their context, and he learned words I never tried to teach: standing at the door to the back deck one day and mentioning “squirrel” to my wife brought him barreling the length of the house, out the door, across the deck and down the steps in full carnivore—the hunter aroused, sprinting to the fence at the back of the yard, growling at those pesky varmints as they fled up the poplars, chattering.
Asking the missus one night if she was ready to go upstairs, he rose, walked over to the staircase and turned to look at me: I’m ready. Are you?
His absence is still loud.
* * * * *
We humans are hierarchical, and our days can be filled with irritations. The workplace has its contrary egos, its exasperations and dysfunctions. You wait politely for a car to pull out of a parking spot and some jerk swoops in. The computer programs that worked splendidly for years are whimsically altered to the indecipherable or nonfunctional. The cable bills go higher and higher while providing more coarse programming seemingly designed to make the band Devo prophetic.
But at home I shared life with a creature devoted to me in a way no other self-respecting human could or should be, we had the primate-canid synchronicity that owed more to his skills and perceptions than it did to my ordinary efforts to make him happy.
The spaces where he lived are empty. No longer the sound of his nails on the floorboards as he struggled to rise, or simply pulled himself across the floor. No long the lapping at the water bowl. When I walk around the house, no longer that sweet German Shepherd face watching me.
He got all his favorite treats the last day. He hadn’t been out to his favorite walk for a while, but I took him out early that last morning. I carried him into the RV park out at Alameda Point, and he limped around for a bit, then lay in the pine needles and grass one last time, and I took my last picture of him there.
Usually when I drive, I’m trying to beat the traffic, to catch the lights. When I put him in the car that last time, unsuspecting, the windows half-open so he could enjoy the ride, I hoped every light would turn red. So we would be delayed a little longer.
I hope you are running free somewhere now, buddy, and if we should be so lucky as to meet again, may we walk long and joyously together, with lots of good sniffs, and may you be as fleet as you were when you were young.