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
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
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
“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
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.