I’ve been saying goodbye to my friends – or rather, they come over to sniff goodbye to me when we encounter one another on the sidewalk. Some are suitably nonchalant about it all. Others, like Big Frank, take their time and commiserate.
Frank is out of his cast now. He will recover from his encounter with the car and I wish him well. He knows by my scent that I will not be leaving my calling card in the grass much longer.
And I’m afraid, little friend, that I haven’t had a chance to say a proper goodbye to you – or even to leave my scent on the grass by the tennis court where we used to meet. But I leave my goodbye notes on all the lawns between Cameron and Belmont, and if you pass by there before the next heavy rains, you’ll know that I’ve been there.
For awhile, it looked as though I was not going to have much time to say goodbye to anyone. This was several weeks ago. Alpha picked me up in his arms and carried me to the van. We drove to the pup kennel on Hopewell – a destination that was too far for my failing strength that morning.
The Pup came out from the building and sat with me awhile. He was crying, and I really didn’t have the strength to tell him that everything was going to be all right.
And then, everything was all right. Alpha began pushing new little pills down my throat before dinner time. Something he called a “flannel Barbie doll.” And even though I hate the sensation of pills being pushed past my tongue as any dog, two things began to happen. One, I knew that I would be fed immediately thereafter.
Two, I started to feel better. In fact, for awhile, Alpha and I began to explore the park again.
Now, I refuse to become one of those old dogs who spends most of her time griping about health and comparing prescriptions when there are so many other interesting things to discuss. One thing I would advise all dogs: there are so many different corners of this neighbourhood yet to explore.
This is the 13th summer that I’ve explored this neighbourhood. I have been finding there are still corners of it that I had not visited before. Alpha gives me much more latitude to wander off into unknown alleyways, and I cast him an appreciative glance. But more often, he keeps our walks very short so that I don’t court one of those awful spells again. Sometimes the flannel Barbie dolls aren’t enough to keep them away.
But mostly, I love to explore my most familiar haunts in the park, on the little rise just on the other side of Riverdale Avenue. Most humanoids don’t go there. Many have not seen the stone remains of a foundation where people and animals used to live, before there was a park between the street and the river.
But I know the spot well. I know there was once laughter and tears on this spot – families and packs growing up, and eventually moving away. And when I leave my own mark on these stone remnants, I think of the packs of humanoids and pets that grew up there, maybe grew old there, but inevitably moved away.
And I think of my friends who have gone on before me. Abbey and Zep. Boomer and Jasper. Brodie and Windsor. All the dogs who once played in these fields, and the ones who will follow us after. These are the dogs.
Assez vu. The vision has been seen in each of its variations.
Assez eu. Smells of the parks, in the evening and in the sun and always.
Assez connu. Life halts. O scents. O visions.
Departure in the sounds beyond the midnight traffic on the other side of that river,