Sam

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On this day of grand affairs and

the peaceful transition of power,

I watched the coverage of those stately procedures

and listened to that inauguration poem

well stated, so perfectly crafted

until the dogs could take no more of my

loitering indoors; those dogs, they know what’s important

all bitching and moaning

at the meadow gate, they

called me away

from regal ruffles and flourishes

played through the flat screen, I conceded

I needed three dimensions

and descended into my work,

the morning routine

of walking in my world, free and

right and just

as I could make it

with twenty something members

of a rag-tag pack,

this one from here, that one from there,

one of them, for the last three days and nights, an old Labrador

named Sam.

He is fifteen years now

though I have known him

for just five or so. He

comes to the dog lodge just once or twice a year.

That’s his image there

above these inadequate words

looking ready and robust, years ago

captured on a morning walk, just like today.

I have watched Sam, and many others, decline

into the noble age of

rickety stick legs and a

whitened mug

a thinning frame

and a raspy bellow

at doors that could not be opened fast enough

so the warmth of his old hollowed bed,

the one with his name in frayed and faded

stitching on the side,

could encircle him in dreams of

home or races or chases

with retrievers or spaniels or

those troublesome terriers.

Today, I knew, could see and feel,

as it was confirmed,

that Sam was near the end.

His human, standing in my driveway,

his throat cracked with dread

he said,

“I’m sure we’re weeks away…”.

There was no need to finish that sentence.

I offered a muted smile of understanding

for I have outlived many, and

I will, God willing, survive all

I have cared for.

A few seconds passed until

I was able to say with a faltering voice

but a pure heart

how good a boy old Sam

has been, still is, and always will be.

We shared that ache as men should,

hard as whiskey neat and

I thanked him for being

the sort that loves his dog enough to give him

a good life,

though what I meant,

just couldn’t say it for

fear of going too far was

thanks

for loving Sam

enough to know

when the day would arrive

for that peaceful transition.

Before he helped Sam into the truck,

I leaned over one last time

and looked into that old dog’s eyes,

whispered another word of thanks

for service to his country, for his

love of a family, deep as instinct, truer than the

humankind could ever be, and for

leading the way

into the dark. No pomp and circumstance.

Good boy Sam.

Good boy.

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