She is eleven and a half now–that’s 80 in dog years.
We walked a brisk five miles today,
Taking a route that covered most of an area we used to walk every single day.
Does she remember that this is the place where she found me,
And this is the trail where I carried her home,
Because she kept wanting to leap out of my arms and dash about?
Upon arriving back at my apartment complex that evening,
I ran into someone lovely and sweet and single,
Who was but a year younger than me.
It would turn out that her mother founded the hospice house where my mom would die a year later.
She had a little Boston terrier, and my pup was about his size at the time, though my pup would grow to be three times his size.
I thought that my prayers had finally been answered,
And my life partner had been discovered.
Then, of course, the crazy, psycho ex who’d moved out,
But also lived in the apartment complex
Would shave her head and keep coming back and leaving me and sleeping around and coming back and…
And, one of those evenings that the crazy ex was back sort of in my life,
There was the lovely sweet lady with the Boston terrier.
She saw me and the psycho ex with our shaved heads and kept walking briskly after a curt hello.
Some time later after the ex was gone for good,
I finally got the sweet Boston terrier lady to go on a hike with me.
That’s when she told me about the hospice, and by then is when my mom had just died.
That’s also when she told me that she was presently moving to Chicago.
She connected with me on Facebook,
And I watched her marry her crazy ex, who she’d mentioned a few times in passing.
He was a dot com millionaire who’d goofed off after the dot com bubble burst,
Having gotten enough cash out of the system in time before it collapsed to goof off for a few years.
She’d left him there in Chicago,
And came to Austin to be a high-powered advertising somebody at an Austin firm almost everyone knew.
But then, I suppose she decided that she couldn’t live without the fast Chicago life,
And the really, truly high-powered advertising firms,
And I watched her get engaged, married, and have a child who was like five years old by the time I met my wife.
So much for dreaming year after year walking up and down the Greenbelt,
Falling in love with people who were busy and high-powered and had connections with millionaires.
So much for thinking each morning when I set out with my little girl dog
That this day would be the day.
Of course there was the day of the bicycle accident,
The days of the psycho ex coming and going,
The days of working on a U.S. Senate campaign nobody has ever heard of,
The days of believing in community and the audacity of hope,
The days of waiting patiently, withering
Watching too much Burn Notice on Hulu and fantasizing about being a spy,
Hanging out with a nurse who constantly complained that all men ever wanted to do was sleep with her,
Only to have her complain months later that all she’d really wanted to do with me is sleep with me.
Almost becoming a Catholic,
Almost becoming a Baptist,
Becoming a Presbyterian and meeting my wife all at the same time.
Buying a condo that was a money pit,
And suddenly I was the worst sort of gentrifier no longer living and working the same community,
Cashing out and working for a software company,
Leaving for Waco and finding out just how much I can’t live among staunchly conservative people,
Coming back to Austin and struggling to finally see that God isn’t calling me to anything at all,
And I’m not cut out for much of anything,
And on this morning it wasn’t about looking for God or old ghosts, really.
It was simply about walking up and down a couple of trails,
Where nothing much had really changed.
The trail was walled on either side with ragweed from all the rains.
The people were sparse because the water in the creek had grown bracken and stagnant.
The dog was content,
Maybe all of this will stay much the same after all
In spite of me aging and dying
In spite of asshole presidents and governments coming and going.
The trail might see us up and down it yet again before she dies, my now-senior pup
I don’t think she remembers the first night I brough her back
Or the summers we spent on the trail almost every single day
She doesn’t remember the weird girlfriends and non-girlfriends who came and went.
She doesn’t remember my mom, who gave her little dog biscuits from an old sweater pocket for a year when we visited.
She doesn’t remember that her adoptive mom, my wife, visited us a few times in those old apartments before the sale of the condo went through.
She wouldn’t remember the Boston terrier dog, who is probably dead now.
She does remember, though, that there was a lengthy period of time when it was just me and her,
And I would feed her from my fork and plate,
And she would sleep at the foot of my bed.
And then she grew too arthritic to jump up on the bed.
And then our son came, and the old dog didn’t want a little brother after all.
And now she mostly lays around and growls and mopes
And gets feverish for table scraps and whines when we shut her up in the office,
And growls at the baby when he runs by,
And then she has to be shut up again,
And doesn’t ever seem to know the reason why.
So, it was, just for a few hours, a few hours that I had this entire year to walk up and down the old trail–just we two.
It was hardly like old times, and there is hardly a good reason to go back down that way much, anymore.
But it was something–something better than me spending the morning buried in a book or reading random news or watching TV or dozing.
It was a little gift from me to her, my old dog, my 11 and a half year old pup who stayed by my side through more than a fourth of my life,
And still persists, because that is the kind of spirit that sent her home with me so many years ago.
She is eleven and a half now–that’s 80 in dog years.