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Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Dog Named Mercury: Missing and Mourning



Hey there, my Little Frenchman.

Of course I received the news this past summer that you had gone on a very long trip, perhaps to a farm, a farm with other doggies and bunnies, where it's always sunny and warm until it snows and you can chase the flakes and tunnel and play and never get tired or cold ... and that we'd never see you again.

I haven't spent time at your house since I got that word.

It's now December, four months later, and here I am.

As I packed up the car, I thought, I have to get there at such and such a time, because Mercury will be waiting for me.

I had to remind myself. No, no he won't be waiting for me. And I thought that that was it.

As I drove, I felt warmed, anticipating spending time with you. I slapped myself, as it were, reminded myself. And I really thought that that was it. But no.

I got to the house. I immediately opened the fridge to see what food Robin had left – some baby carrots. And I had this split second thought, "I can't eat those baby carrots. I must save them to give them to Merc for treats." And then ... realizing ... no. And thinking that that moment of realization will be it.

I then stood at the kitchen sink, where I used to prepare the insulin shots you needed in your senior years. When you were first diagnosed with diabetes, I had thought I wouldn't be able to babysit for you anymore because of my lifelong horror of hypodermic needles, a fear so bad I was once bitten by a stray dog and I did not get rabies shots.

Time changes us, though. Since your diagnosis I myself have been diagnosed with a chronic illness, and I myself have had to have so many needles stuck in me I feel like a porcupine. And I stuck so many needles in you it became routine. Always standing in that same spot, like a sentry. Right next to the sink.

Mark was very helpful. He said, "It's just like pinching someone's cheek. You grab a wad of the scruff of his neck, and jab the needle in that pocket of flesh."

After that, every time I stuck you, I imagined myself as a babushka grabbing a grandchild's cheek.

I still feel, when I go for a walk, that I can't tarry outside too long – Merc is waiting for me. Before I cook my own dinner, I feel I have to prepare yours.

The strangest thing. I keep hearing that metal jingle of the D ring on your dog collar hitting your dog tags. That little metallic tinkle a dog makes when he moves. I guess it's just an auditory hallucination.

So, though I learned of your long voyage last summer, and I thought I had stopped mourning and missing, I guess this is how mourning and missing work.

I am in the house we shared, the house I visited to babysit you, and every square foot of the house and the yard is embroidered with a memory, and they are all coming back now.

Someone said to me once – I think it was Bruno – it was the kind of thing he'd say – that the great tragedy of life is that love does not last.

Though he was older and smarter, I felt him to be so naive and so young.

Oh, no, I thought, but did not say. The great tragedy of life is that it *does.*

Love lasts at least until this moment, a December evening, four months after your passing. Love blasts into my brain every morsel of every memory I have of you. I go out at night to look at the moon and I see your oh-so proper little French form, all white, bouncing along the wooded path, as if you were strolling along in Montmartre, seeking out your favorite cafe, with me stalking behind you, making sure no bears or coyotes were afoot.

Why? Why, Mr Darwin, Mr Atheist, why does love last so long past its sell-by date, in a way that weakens us?

In the ways that this house is so reminding me of you, to the point where I hear you, I am realizing how tough it would be to walk into my sister's house right now. Her husband sold it right after she died. I am spared that experience. But I experience Antoinette at Skylands.

Ah, Mercury, my Little Frenchman. Je souhaite that you are living la vie en rose maintenant, and that we shall reunite someday.

One of my favorite quotes is from Ludwig Wittgenstein. "If lions could talk, we wouldn't understand them."

As much as I love dogs, and that is as much love as I've got, I do not understand them. and I want it to be that way. I love you, Mercury, for being beyond my ken.


When we meet in Heaven, I hope you are not anthropomorphized by the transition. I want you to take a long time to sniff at fire hydrants when I walk you, and annoy me by eating garbage off the floor when company comes, and occasionally pooping in the wrong place. That's all part of the package. I also want you to sit on the mat next to the door and wait for me when I go for a walk. I want your tail wagging me welcome to be the first thing I see when I get home.

1 comment:

  1. From Robin:

    I remember Mercury when... I catch something white out of the corner of my eye, when I open the cabinet where his grooming supplies were and remember how he would bolt for the hills, when I drop food on the floor and he isn't there to immediately scarf it down, when I see something small and dark on the floor and realize it isn't what I'm afraid it is, when we're out all day and get that pang that we need to go home for him, and mostly when we do get home and there's nobody to greet us. Many of these things slipped away the last few years, but they're still what I lovingly remember.

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