A few years after my dad died and very soon after my childhood dog Abbie died, I stood in a bookstore and picked up Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard. I read the book’s epigraph from Heraclitus and burst out crying.
It ever was, and is, and shall be, ever-living Fire, in measures being kindled and in measures going out.
Another little measure went out on Monday, as we took our old, ailing dog to the vet for the last time. It’s such a strange reversal; you end his life after expending so much effort stoking the fire. It’s all up to you — food, water, medical care, grooming. We kept the fire going as long as we could, almost sixteen years.
But there came a slow, gradual decline. He lost his hearing and had trouble managing the stairs, and he went through some phases of wandering at night, seeming disoriented, and acting anxious about thunderstorms.
Then he became incontinent, and then things just got worse.
I can’t say anything special about him, except how much I loved him. He was the most ordinary dog. He barked at the mailman. He chased squirrels. He stuck his head out the window of the car. He greeted us at the door and licked our hands and sneaked food off the coffee table.
He did everything a dog is supposed to do, perfectly.