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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.
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
“It is all something of a chess game -all the pieces have to be in the right place for the game to be won.”
Somehow reminding me of Broken English by Marianne Faithful. What are you fighting for?
No I don’t think Susan is correct. This is part of the problem All this rhetoric of the ‘fight against global warming’ ‘the war on climate change’.
It is not a game, a battle, a fight or a war. People do not go into a pet shop and ask for a book on the battle of owning a puppy, or the fight in keeping goldfish, or go to Halfords and ask for something on making war on your Renault.
No we ask for caring or looking after a puppy or goldfish, or care and maintenance of a car. Anyone who using fight, battle or war in reference to climate change or running a planet, or thinks it’s a game with sides, does not understand the problem. So by default, apart from some random stab in the dark, cannot come up with answers or solutions to managing a planet on a journey to the future.
We have one planet and a long journey ahead of us if we decide to embark for the rest of the way. What we don’t want is some attempt on how to look after this planet on that journey based on some trading floor madness mentality that last year crashed something as simple as an economic system.
We can only hope nothing is achieved or agreed in Copenhagen. (It is better to have no decisions rather than a bad or wrong ones.) Then after the craziness has subsided, perhaps then we can do the job properly.
Tuesday 15th December update
A fine example
“Courage is the ability to control your fear and courage is contagious.”
As my Beardie Collie Ruskin followed me as a puppy on a window cleaning round he had to learn fast. At 14 weeks after his vaccinations he joined me. It proved impossible to have him on a lead and carrying a ladder, bucket, crate to stand on etc. So he used to trot in front, when we came to a junction etc he would look back to be given the new direction. Stop, straight on, left or right.
One of our treats was stopping at the bakers and sharing an egg custard together.
After a couple of years I passed my test and we got a car. He would sit on the front seat and when he saw another dog sometimes he would bark. As he knew all the direction commands this would develop into a game while travelling. If I saw a dog first I would shout “Doggie on the left or doggie on the right”. When he spotted it he would bark back to confirm. Or bark first if he spotted a dog before me.
A Morrisons supermarket opened. On my first visit one evening, large egg custards were on sale for 10p before they went out of date. When we got home I gave him one. He wouldn’t eat it as it was a whole one. Once I told him it was all his, he was very happy. He always knew at the end of a days work when I said supermarket, we were going to get egg custards.
A few years later I got a job as a shopfitter travelling all over the country in a large transit van. We were changing the central gondolas for Safeway supermarkets. As the newest foreman I was given the short straw. I was given all the distance work. Cheshire to Norfolk, Cheshire to Inverness, Cheshire to Newcastle, Cardiff or Hull.
I was also given an 18 year old apprentice who couldn’t drive, couldn’t read a map, didn’t know the job and didn’t have his own tools. All the other vans had two drivers, so share the distance work. Apart from me.
All I would be given was an instruction Safeway Gateshead, Safeway Swaffam or Safeway Cardiff etc. No directions.
Even without someone who could read a map getting to the town or city was no problem. The 18 year old would just sleep the entire journey. As we were a team Ruskin always came too. With 3,4 or 500 miles to drive he would sometimes fall asleep as well. As I pulled off the motorway or trunk road and slowed down he would wake up, knowing we were near our destination.
Looking round he would sniff the air vents getting used to the new air. Opening the windows and turning on the blower slightly. “Supermarket”. Sniffing the air when I came to a round about I would ask him sraight on left or right. He would tell me by barking and looking. He could smell the bakery.
Never once was he was wrong. The store manager many times was surprised we found the place without directions.
All I did was buy an egg custard for my Bearded Collie sat nav. Eh before sat navs were invented.