I lost a companion of twelve years today, on May Day, with the air heavy with perfume and every tree looking like a wedding cake.
A dozen years and hundreds of roadtrips, camping trips, hikes and adventures. Though he was a heeler, a herding dog by nature, Sam slept in my bed and shared a pillow with me from the day we met. He curled beside my on motel beds and in desert tents. He spent many a long day on many a dusty highway in the passenger seat of my car, breathing in the scent of the open road.
I'd like to press the rewind button. I'd like to re-set the clock. Grief is a terrible thing, and there is no erasing a companion like this from the heart. It is a cruel twist of nature that we love our dogs so much, and that we outlive them by so many years. I don't want his ashes, or a headstone, but I need to remember him like this...by all those happy days on the road, in our element.
So this is how I chose to pay tribute to the most beloved of companions. These are the images that I hope passed through his head as he passed. I hope he saw all this, smelled the red dust of the high deserts that we loved so much.
I hope he remembered cactus flowers the scent of pine and cedar, of creosote bushes after a rain.
I hope he remembers the hot sand that slides silky underfoot, and the changing scenery, dawn to dusk, as we traveled together.
I hope he remembered the trickle of fresh water through the dry land, and the patterns it makes.
All the wonders of nature, in which we spent so many of our happiest days together.
I hope this is what he saw, and what he sees now. I hope he is here in all these things, in the fresh water and the breezes heavy with perfume, in the great blousing branches of the flowering trees, and the dusty winds off the desert.
I hope he's there in the wind that brushes my face, and in those endless shoals of clouds scudding across a spring sky.
This is for you, Sam, beloved, for all you gave me.
Sam found me - or I found Sam - when I was on my own. He had only been in the pound for two hours when I walked in on a whim, wondering if I needed a dog. He was terribly sad, a dog who desperately needed a companion, and I was able to make him happy.
That was all I wanted - to give him the happiest of lives for all the years that he lived.
I think, I hope, that I did that - and I know that he gave me just as much and more in return. I think he taught me that I was capable of love, and out of that before too long came a husband, another dog, a child, and now a cat. A family. What greater gift can an animal give a human being?
That's my husband with Max, his dog, who passed two years before Sam. I hope they are together now.
What I Know For Sure
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