I said goodbye to my old dog yesterday. We walked at least twice a day together for almost four years, until she couldn’t anymore. Native Americans use the phrase “walking on” when someone dies and I like to think that’s what she’s doing. The piece below is based on a prompt from my Friday writing group.
Arms pumping, iTunes pounding in my ears, I’m on my daily run through the neighborhood. Past the foreclosed house, past the homes that line Locust Street, where last week a flock of wild turkeys stopped traffic. I turn right onto Bellwood, trying to get a decent workout with New Year’s Eve champagne sloshing in my stomach, when a black dog stares at me from someone’s lawn. I wonder if the owners know it’s loose, but I don’t stop. I have my route to finish.
I turn a corner and the dog evaporates from my mind. Ten minutes later I’m rounding the cul de sac on Wildflower Way, my final stretch. I move to cross the street and trip over something. The black dog. It must have been on my heels for blocks. Creepy.
I feel along the grimy pink collar. No tags. I walk back to Bellwood and try every house on the street, but no takers. I don’t have the energy to continue knocking on doors.
She’s a lab or shepherd, maybe terrier mix, about forty pounds. White muzzle, half-moon scar on her side, an arrow-shaped one near it. Another on her leg. She whimpers and scratches at her right ear. I lift it to take a look and gag at the stench. I drop the ear to hide the infected mess inside.
I call the SPCA, but everything is closed on New Year’s Day, even the vet. Animal rescue says an old, sick dog won’t be kept more than forty-eight hours. I take her picture and post a found dog notice on craigslist and the newspaper and plaster the neighborhood with posters.
We go to the vet the next day. They name her Lucky. She also has abscessed teeth so we’re there a long time. The vet can’t believe a dog in that much pain could be so sweet-tempered. We head home with three kinds of meds.
No one claims her. Not that I would give her back to anyone who could let an animal suffer like that. She doesn’t bark. She doesn’t pay attention to other dogs except small white fluffy ones. She is infinitely patient with children. People pet her but she shows no interest.
We don’t know each other’s history. I don’t know how she got her scars and she doesn’t know how I got mine.
It’s New Year’s Day a year later and I’m running through the neighborhood with Lucky at my heels. She follows me, whether I sit at my desk, or walk to the kitchen or go to bed. She’s interested in my every move and grins when she sees me even after a short separation. Everyone says she is lucky to have found me, but they have it backward.