The one time (besides this) that I thought I might have lost you: we were hiking through the Fells and there were deer. I don’t think you’d ever seen deer before and I (stupidly) wanted to see what you would do. So I pointed them out to you. I’ve never seen such rapt attention, intense focus and then you ran at them and in an instant you were gone.
I called for a full 10 minutes, staring at the spot where I saw you last, willing you back to me. Finally you came back, bounding through the woods. You couldn’t stop panting, even after you’d emptied your water bottle. I was angry to be honest (mostly at myself) and then I felt bad at how obviously tired you were, so I carried you out on my shoulders. You, of course, had the time of your life, grinning at everything. A passing biker asked if you were “my dog” and I said you were and he said you’d been “like a mile away.”
You’d never been further from my side.
After that encounter I used to watch you when we went on hikes. I began to understand some of the fundamental reasons that people started living with dogs… I could read the forest better watching your ears swivel, pointing things out to me before you even noticed them (once deer, even, which I did NOT tell you about).
Mari since you’ve been gone I am acutely aware of the weather, the passing of the days. I notice exactly how dark it gets, how cold it is. I notice how quiet and how loud things are. My senses are sharper. I worry about hawks, and coyotes, and rotten ice and bad food.
This is a gift of sorts, I guess, to be aware of our moments. People strive their whole lives to live in a moment. It’s beautiful, and excruciatingly painful.
We spend so much time trying to be somewhere else. I spend so much time wishing you were here, trying to make that happen, trying to figure out how things work.
Tonight it’s pouring rain. It’s been pouring for hours. I can’t help but think how much you hate the rain, hate showers. I can’t help but imagine you out there making little miserable grunts of protest, wondering why nobody will let you inside.
Mari I don’t even know anymore if you’re out there. I want you to be more than I’ve wanted anything in my life. I want to know that all of this work amounts to something. I want to believe I matter. I want to believe you matter, that we have somehow convinced the universe you are important enough. I want to believe, like I did when I was a kid, that life is sometimes fair and right and rewards us for hard work. I would say these things if I believed them, but tonight all I can say is that I’m so very sorry… I’m sorry we didn’t hold on tighter. I’m sorry I didn’t come home from work earlier that day. I’m sorry we didn’t do whatever that thing is that needs doing to bring you home.
I’m just sorry.