And so, a year has gone by since the loss of my dear, faithful canine companion Chuy, after fifteen years, six months and 22 days. I can’t help myself from remembering the date.
His grave has been dressed with pine boughs since his passing, and at this occasion I added a couple of sprigs of Chinaberry from our trail. Nary a day has passed that I haven’t thought of him. Each day I come home and repeat the chant I greeted him with, and shake his tags, which hang from the shifter in my car. “What’s this? A puppy? For me? He’s so pretty! Can we keep him?”. His tags have a distinctive ring. It’s like hearing the voice of a departed loved one on a home movie or recording.
I spent the entire day of the twenty-second of July thinking of him. I worked around the yard (in which he is interred), often looking to the grave site, or sometimes to the woods, the sky, the ether, as I would speak to him. I made a point of recounting the days and moments I could remember.
The day was good for the Cottonwood trees, as they are in full production making their little catkins explode into a constant shower of puffy seed dander.
As I watched the tiny seeds wafting about on their feathery parachutes, I was suddenly struck with the thought that these could represent the many days Chuy and I spent together.
There’s the day we went for a great walk in the woods with my grandson Max. Down to the creek, breaking the thin ice with rocks.
There’s the day he went with me to the barber shop, and sat contentedly for a half hour before noticing the mounted black bear head sticking out of the wall. At first a shock and a growl. Then, sensing the thing couldn’t move, staring at it until we left, trying to look behind the wall.
There’s the day we were at Ryan’s, and despite all my pleading he insisted on going across the road to the horse farm. As I chased after him, the look over his shoulder said “Yeah, I need to do this, old man.”
Many of these days would find us sitting on the side porch. I’d sit, and he would come along and sit down right beside me, like a child. We would sit and watch the world, the sky, the birds, the summer storms. I would place an arm around him, as I would any dear friend. We were happy and content.
A breeze picked up, and the heavens filled with these little floating angel wings. Days and days and days for me to recall. Smiles, laughter. Yes, an occasional tear, but more of the joyful kind than the sad soul kind.
Filling the air were enough days to make a Thousand Seasons through which we lived, walked and loved. I spent quite a bit of time thinking of that. Sitting in the cabana, where he would have laid beside me. Mowing the lawn, during which he would follow me around wherever I mowed (guarding me from the mower, I guess).
By the end of the day, the lawn was strewn with glorious memories of beautiful days shared only by we two. The Cottonwood dander piled deep in places, like snowdrifts.
As the sun drew closer to the horizon, I recalled the ways we would “put the day to bed”. We’d watch, and I’d narrate. “Long shadows. She’s pulling the shade. And the big red ball says good-bye.” after which I’d call out the date.
“We wrung the heck out of that day, didn’t we?” I’d say to him as we headed for the door, the quiet sleeping countless hours, the dreams of days to follow.
I sat three days’ vigil for him when he died. It seemed fitting. And so I sat at sunset on the twenty-second of July 2017, as I did at sunset July twenty-second 2016. As I suspect I will for many more July twenty-seconds for some years to come.
And each year I will revel in The Thousand Seasons I spent with the finest friend I have ever known. And I’ll let the Cottonwood gather on his grave.
And I shall continue to say aloud, “Good night, angel puppy.”