Tuesdays were “fish night.” John bowled. You and I ate seafood for dinner. Your last fish night was amberjack. Wasn’t it tasty? We didn’t know that it was your last.
I learned that it is okay to walk through mud puddles. I learned to watch bugs. I learned to feel the wind against my skin.
Why were you barking outside one day as a youngster? You were barking at the shattered glass-topped patio table. Your toy was perched tabletop. When you retrieved it, the table tipped over. The patio looked just like a basketball floor when Shaq grabbed the rim.
I remember the time we were walking in the snow and hit covered ice. Both of us landed on the sidewalk. I was on my butt and your legs seemed to collapse underneath you. You looked at me in apology as if you should have foreseen the icy patch.
You loved Beech Creek and played there with your puppy friends, Dakota and Sally. Each of you would hold the other under the water playfully. You made a water slide in the creek, running then sliding in the mud. And you outlived both your puppy playmates.
One day while playing untethered with Sally, you entered an opened back door and frightened house cats and a visiting grandmother. I know; you only nudged the woman wanting attention. She was the one running outside and crying in fear of the big black dog.
My alarm clock is gone. I awoke an hour earlier this morning. Daylight savings time never fooled you. You would not conform to the clock change for weeks.
You were my second favorite walking companion. Our last walk was outside the vet’s office, as you explored Pizza Perfect before heading to the grassy patch for a last pee before going to the vet. The next time I walk to the Harpeth River, your spirit will go with me. I will feel you in the breeze and will see you in the flowing water.
Why did you always decide that you needed to go outside, after I sat down with my feet propped up and my latest favorite book opened?
You barked excitedly when you heard the shout of “he’s gone” during football season, when a running back made a break for the end zone. Likewise, the word “football” spoken with a certain tone meant let’s go run in the backyard and chase a yellow football. You would have never made it as a running back or wide receiver. You would have been an offensive guard. You were just too chunky and too slow.
I still smell you in the house. I hear you outside or in another room. When I roll back the office chair, I still look for your tail that you dangerously kept near the rollers. You nose marks are on the windows in the house and car. Your fur covers my car seats, my clothes, the insides of my shoes, the countertops.
In your later years, you would closet yourself in the hall bathroom during thunder storms. It was frightening for us to enter the house and not see you welcoming us at the head of the stairs. Then we would hear your toenails scratching the floor behind a closed bathroom door. The last time you did this you hid in the master closet. I panicked as I searched for you.
I would plant flowers; you would walk on top of them. You are still in the backyard “fertilizing” (or killing) the grass. Remember when you shredded a blanket. There were pieces all over the backyard. At first, I did not realize that you were “recycling” blanket pieces.
What human words did you know? Ney-Ney hungry? Go walk. Ride Mommy’s (or Daddy’s) car. Sit. Stay (only when you wanted to). Come. Goodie? Gibbon? NeyNey Santa. Pee-pee go bed. Poo-poo outside? Crate time or outside? You chose crate time long after the crate had been retired to the basement. You would lie in your spot in the bonus room.
I remember when you hid in your crate when I was looking for you to give you a bath. You shrunk to the size of a min-pin. You recognized the dreaded blue bucket that doused you with water and suds.
I remember your cries of joy when we neared Edwin Warner Park or Grandma’s house. I hoped Grandma met you when you fell asleep for the journey to the Great Beyond, the Rainbow Bridge, the Cosmos, God and Heaven.