My beloved dog is growing old, let me rephrase that, he is old already. Fourteen years of adoring companionship, I swear he loves me more than anyone else on the planet does. I do not say this with self pity, I have a life blessed in so many ways, love being the prime currency of blessing I experience. But Jasper loves me without holding back, without questioning, without doubt. Pure divine devotion. I pray that someday I become worthy of the love he gives me and perhaps learn enough from him to pass on a little bit of that beatific adoration.
He knows when I will be home and greats me at the door, each day with excitement and joy unbridled, as if he thought I would never come home again. True love. There is a joke I have heard that says something along the lines of – Want to see what true love is? Lock your husband and your dog in the trunk of your car for an hour and see which one is happy to see you when you let them out. I know, maybe not really a great joke, but there is a ring of truth there. Dogs love unconditionally. Not mostly unconditional with a few reservations, but the real deal- pure love, nothing held back for later.
On a recent walk with my dear old boy I experienced so much grief in seeing him moving slowly, breathing harder, he was tripping on his own feet. It seemed that he was much older than he was a month ago. The realization that he will not always be at my side hit hard. I adore this being, my companion. He has never been my pet. I hate the word and concept of owning a pet. We cannot own an animal any more than we can own a lover, it just doesn’t work. So I feel blessed to have Jasper as my companion and partner in adventure, but never as my pet.
I allowed the grief of the knowledge of his mortality to sweep over me, filling me with tenderness and with hot wet tears. I was half a mile away from my car, with no phone and no note pad, when the lines of a poem began in me. I held tight to one line as I walked back to my car, and then began to write. I know better, a poet should never be without a notebook! Sometimes a poem knocks on the door of my heart and will not hang around if I do not open the door immediately. This time it waited for me to be able to write, I am thankful and I share the words that came here. As a love song to my dear dog and a calling in for all who love deeply. May we all be so fortunate as to know true love, of the quality and wholeheartedness that Jasper has so eagerly blessed me with in his life with me. I will treasure our days that remain in life together.
Time changes everything she touches
and everything she touches changes.
Raven black fades now to silver
bright eyes have softened somehow-
not dull, but dimmer.
We walk the river trail as always we have done
sun hanging low behind the trees
crows busy with their evening duties.
Where once you pulled hard on the leash
and never let me go first
now I lead and you lope along behind
I call ” come on boy!”
when you stop to pee, sniff and breath
even though I know you can no longer hear me-
I speak to you as always I have done.
Who would have thought, five years ago
that I would long for our daily battle of the leash
your 80 pounds of muscle pulling me hard down the trail-
but I do.
Time changes everything she touches,
and everything she touches changes
I read somewhere long ago
that loving and losing a dog
prepares us for harder deaths to come – and I believe this.
Someday, our walks will cease
or I will go alone…
Your leash will hang empty on the hook
your bed abandoned, no longer needed.
I have loved and lost three dogs so far,
if life is good, perhaps I’ll love ten more once you are gone…
But you- oh you- my darling one
my wild child
my black Jasper
dog of my heart.
You are so tired now that we are home
you lie on the linoleum- belly cooling
as your breathing slows.
I feed you broth from a bowl
and so eagerly you drink and drink
tail wags so, and your eyes meet mine.
I know, and you know, so well
time changes everything and everything she touches changes.
But for now- I sit down on the dusty floor
and bury my face-
in the soft blackness of your neck.
It feels like home.