Last Times at the River

Incessant rain fell from the black parasol which hung to the horizon. Only an outstretched arm’s thumb width of last vestiges of July sun peered beneath-respectfully keeping its distance.

Summer was over.

The rain had the sustained sharp sound normally only heard on a film sound track. Exaggerated and enhanced. The river in torrent set behind but merging in the soundscape. Their symphony isolating us in our solitude. No past no future, just the passing moment.

 “Do you want us to look after his body?” Said the vet.

“No No.” Half in panic, half in shock, half in planning our perfect closure, half in protecting my friend.

The imitation sheep skin blanket he lay on was wrapped as a shroud as he was carried on the first part of our final journey.

Now it was a blanket again as he lay on top of the funeral pyre.

 Not for him – a prince, a warrior, a friend- to be bounced half way across Scotland in a plastic bag, in the back of a van by strangers.

In life I had looked after the puppy since he followed me down a backstreet and sat on the palm of my hand for inspection, while waving a tiny paw defiantly at my face.

 In death it was only me who could guide him on his way. During the 17 years in between we took turns to look after each other.

A two handed play, but only one monologue began. To thank him, for choosing to live his one life with me. To ask for forgiveness and apologise for times when I have may have let him down, done things wrong or fallen below what he deserved. I always tried to make him happy; he reciprocated by being the perfect friend and dog.

I told him all the names of the dogs he had known in his life, who had moved on and would be waiting for him.

Rain continued without respite. A curtain of water fell from my forehead taking away tears before they existed as separate entities, consuming them in the greater one. Down my body to the ground and the puddles and rivulets. Then down the bank into the River Ericht, then into the Isla, then to the Tay and on to the oceans of the Earth to begin the cycle again.

The sun had turned his back and quietly closed the door. Darkness called time by its presence. Cocooning us closer, whilst gently ushering us to a life’s conclusion.

His body was cold and wet. Silver beads stuck to his fur. No longer with the energy of life, shrugging off what the elements would bestow on us with indifference.

Time to go. A final kiss, a final final of the final things we had done together in the close down of our experience of this thing called life.

“Wait for me and once again we will walk together, don’t forget me.”

 “Don’t be afraid only I can do this.”

The bottom layer of paper was lit.

 The paper triggered the kindling. The kindling triggered the sticks, the sticks the logs and charcoal.

A chain reaction each stage drawing more air into the open tiered structure. A fast ferocious up draught. In less than a minute a column of energy rose defying the dark and rain.

Returning his spirit to God.

Fire consumed. Intense, unstoppable and completely.

Had I stumbled and hit my head? Passed out, feinted or collapsed? The fire was out and Ruskin gone.

A silence louder then the rain. A silence overpowering the rage of the river. A silence coming from all around. For more than a third of my life there had been a continual buzz, a hum, an unrelenting shooshing. A sound a puppy had quietly brought that slowly and smoothly grew. A sound I never heard until it was gone. The sound of life.

Alone with just the memories of more than a 1000 adventures and stories.

When does the preparation for the separation from your best friend begin? From the first second of the sound of a puppy’s yap? Or was it from first second when the first wolf came to the first camp fire 140,000 years before? Co-evolution and co-dependence.

True till death works both ways. To strive to do your best. Dogs just want to be happy. Just enjoy your shared life together. So when the end comes there are no regrets.

 No regrets.

Just live so there will be no regrets. In a world where humans engage in conflict, war, hate and indifference. That two different species can co-exist in complete happiness with each other makes the human strife all the more bizarre.

For all those who have lost a best friend not of our species

By Roger Thomas



  1. #1 by Gordon Pye on May 9, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    Good to see you posting again Roger, was beginning to think that you were ill or something and your quality posts are sadly missed on the Newsnight Blog.

    • #2 by celticlion on May 10, 2010 - 11:36 am

      Thank you Gordon. Will email you.

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