It's 2:30 AM and I am lying awake, thinking of the words I will write later in the morning. I am looking out the window above my bed; the stars on this night are unusually clear and bright. I could use some of that clarity right now.
We lost two of our dogs yesterday. Annie, the brittany, died in the morning, and at 11 pm The Hermit gave me the news that Lady, our yellow Labrador, had just died. I'm not quite sure what they died of; Annie was 13 and Lady was 7.
I could not cry then. Sometimes my heart is like that; like a cabin on a cold winter morning when the fire is not yet lit, it takes a while to warm up and get my emotions flowing.
I am not exactly the "dog person" in the family. I have lived with dogs, inside and out, ever since I've known The Hermit. We have seen several dogs come and go, living out their dog-year lives. But that was his thing. He puts up with my cats, I put up with his dogs. Or I thought that was the way it worked.
Annie was really my oldest stepson's dog. The Hermit brought her home so they could go bird hunting together. But life changed, my stepson grew up and moved out on his own, we've moved around, and mostly Annie's been waiting there for the day when she will go out on a grouse trail once more. She was getting on in years, her limbs stiffened and slow, gray hair among the russet, but she still eagerly ran out when her kennel door was opened.
I hate Brittanys. They always act so excited, and they look like they are smiling all the time.
Lady, the yellow lab, was our family dog, our pet. We adopted her when she was 2 from a family that was moving and could not keep her. She went with us, living in several different places. When we had just been here two months, in the middle of winter, one morning I let her out and she disappeared. We followed her tracks to the road, where someone had stolen her. We all thought we would never see her again. We were gone for the day at a family gathering, but when we arrived home, who was there to greet us but Lady, tired and shivering with sore paws. She must have escaped and walked miles to come home; how she found her way back we can only guess.
I hate Labradors. They take all of the insults and indignities you give, and yet they look at you, waiting for that glimmer of goodness, however dim, that they know is in your heart. They are stupid to be so loyal.
I knew Lady had been acting sick over the weekend, but she's been sick before and come out fine. I should have comforted her more, held her and been there as she whimpered in pain. But I was too busy with the business of life, taking care of kids, worrying about if I was ever going to get it all done. I hardly noticed her yesterday; when I asked her to get out of the way so I could put dinner on the table, she moved slowly. I kept thinking, she'll get over this. I didn't know she was dying.
How stupid of me. All of us, as we live, are dying. We should live accordingly. Live in the moment. I hate dogs for reminding me of that.
We are left with one dog, Togo, the 9 month old Siberian husky. I hear him barking occasionally in the night, his chain striking his house as he chases after a cat. He is still a puppy, too frisky and strong to be a house dog yet. I need to take him for walks more often. He is the first dog I think of as "mine".
I hate huskies. No matter what the weather, they just keep running, pulling you along with them, wherever you need to go.
Another hour passes. A waning crescent moon rises in the east.
I hate dogs. They find their way even into hearts like mine, and just as you're beginning to know them, they die.
The stars have all blurred together into smudges of light as I close my eyes and rub my wet face in the pillow.