Monday, December 20, 2004

i still find pieces of your presence here

My parents have gone off to a Christmas party and I'm alone in the house, or at least that's what I have to keep saying to myself.

If I listen hard enough, I can still hear Chipper's tags clicking together. I can picture his head snapping up as I walk around the corner into the kitchen, hopeful for food. When he was younger, we'd chase each other around the dining room table until we were both exhausted. When he was old, and blind, he'd bark at nothing in particular, but never hear you coming if you bent down to pet him.

I miss burying my fingers into the warmth of his fur, I miss having someone who loved me so unconditionally. I miss his smile and his devotion. I miss the puppy I taught to ride a skateboard and the dog that would co-opt as much of my small bed as his lordship could. I miss the glint in his eyes when you'd drop a piece of food. I miss watching him destroy a cardboard box like his life depended on it.

It was sad to see heredity and old age take its toll on his hips and his heart, but that's the truth of purebred dogs. I wish he could have lived with more dignity as he aged, but senility is too strong a disease for even the best of us.

I wish I could have said goodbye, or at least made sure he knew that I loved him, that I hadn't deserted him forever. I think he started to go downhill when I went to college, and each time I came home things were worse. To have him hold on for so long is more than I could have asked for.

Is it the cruelty of nature or human foible that we make friends with pets that can only share a fraction of our lifetime, and to whom we'll have to say goodbye to before we know it? I can't see the fairness in it, for either side.

But I still remember the puppy I cradled on my lap when we took him home from the breeder, asleep, and I named him even before we were halfway home. I was nine. I'm twenty-three now. Sometimes the passage of time is more than I can bear.

I miss you, baby.