“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” (William Shakespeare)
They say a Dog is a Dog is a Dog; I'm not sure I agree. Our Nate was one Dog who left his mark, both figuratively and literally, wherever he went. He left us, and this life, yesterday morning, on his own, final journey.
I walk a ways with him, as he goes...just a short way, only until I know he is on his true path...
And I envision the following:
Nate passes over the Bridge, into the welcoming arms of Katrina and her Dog, Gussy and Heidi's Dog, Roscoe. I see Nate waver, at the entrance to the Bridge, his nose in the Air. He looks back...but the extraordinary essences and Katrina's light, happy voice propel him forward, hesitantly at first...Where is the pain? he thinks in wonderment...and then...he starts a slow lope.
The Bridge is long, rising in the middle. There is a small, burbling River, sparkling and winking, in the warm Sunlight, rushing along beneath it.
Many hesitate when they reach the top of the rise on the Bridge. Thoughts of the life just completed race through the mind, sadness and loneliness can take hold. And there is no going back, once the rise is reached.
But Katrina, her menagerie behind her, kneels down, her arms wide, her hands out, fingers fluttering, saying...Come on, Natey, it's all okay, Buddy...
Nate hears his nickname, and as his face breaks into his trademark wide grin, the last of his wariness disappears. He runs...his own speeding-bullet racing run...over the top of the Bridge, bowling Katrina over in his enthusiasm and joy. He greets Gussie, re-membering him from Before...
Roscoe marches over; his strong personality matches Nate's and the two greet each other, dancing around and around, marking their spots. Time enough...so much time!...to accept each other more fully.
Katrina leads the welcoming committee to The Field, where other beloved Pets discover their bodies, their limbs, after a long period of painful constriction. Nate races, circling the Field, his sleek, black body a thing of beauty and grace...
A fanciful vision, you might say. But it comforts me.
I met Nate at the same time I met Graham. He was very young at the time, only a year old. I had two dogs then; Gussy and Lucky. Gussy, a very large Lab/Newfoundland cross, was twelve years old and Lucky only a few months.
Gussy, as old and sick as he was, wasted no time in putting Nate in his place when he visited. It was his right, he felt, to keep these two pups on the straight and narrow.
But Gussy had very little time left on this Earth, as it developed. Lucky transferred his allegiance onto Nate...after the death of Gussy, Nate took on what he considered his role...the protection of Lucky.
Throughout his life, Nate never forgot his role, to the detriment of any other Dog who attempted to make friends with Lucky. Especially little white Dogs.
A neighbour had a friend who owned a small, white Dog. This Dog frightened Lucky constantly, when he was still a Puppy. And small, white Dogs, in Lucky's brain, became a huge threat.
It is comical that Lucky is so fearful of these very small animals; but Nate, in his protective mode, was not funny. Through the whole duration of his life we were not able to change his mindset.
Both Dogs are big, with Lucky even bigger than Nate. Fortunately, we soon clicked onto Nate's decision to take out all small white Dogs and made sure he was never in the same vicinity. We averted what could have been a disaster.
In my mind Nate's sleek, black coat with white touches at his toes and chest, made him look as if he continually wore a tuxedo.
And he was a gentleman...he would pause before entering, looking up, meeting my eyes, to be invited indoors. He would give his special look, over his shoulder, to say thank you when he was given food or water.
Oh, but the two of them were terrors when they were young! There was no stopping them! To one who was accustomed to only one very aged Dog, admittedly large, but arthritic-ally slow...I remained in shock at the amount of hair, dirt and dust Lucky and Nate brought into the house.
And, as they grew older, so did my relationship with Graham and Scott. We all grew into our respective roles, just as Lucky and Nate did.
Lucky had his Girl, in my granddaughter Brianna, and Nate had his Boy, in my stepson Scott. They each respected the others right to be in their own Person's presence.
Lucky is neurotic; Brianna did a tremendous job in training him. To this day, if Brianna's name is mentioned, Lucky automatically sits.
Even though Brianna was busy with Lucky when she stayed with us, Nate had a special spot in her heart. He would allow her to cuddle and relax with him, whereas Lucky squirmed, alert all the while.
Brianna has always maintained that Nate gave the very best kisses. He had a way of gently extending his tongue and, in the slightest, softest way possible, would touch the recipient's cheek...
So many lovely memories pass through my mind...Nate sneaking into Scott's room and onto the bed, as soon as the lights were off and Lucky was safely ensconced in his own bed. Nate, deciding it was his right, as a Puppy, to chase the Cows in the next field, bringing the police to our home with a warning. Nate, throwing his muddy,slobbery ball onto someone's dressy, white lap, and then chasing his favourite toy, long and hard, over and over...
Nate was bigger than Lucky when they met, but it was not long before Lucky became much taller than Nate. His legs were long...he looked, and still does, like a Deer when he ran.
Nate, when young, looked like a black, shiny torpedo, as he raced around a Field or the Garden. He would use his whole weight, as he body-checked Lucky, who weighed far less than Nate. And so, Lucky knew, early in his life, that he would have to be faster than Nate.
It was truly a thing of beauty to watch these two young and very healthy Dogs do their racing dance, faster and faster, circling the backyard.
As Nate grew older and more arthritic, he would incite Lucky, with very, short mincing steps, into racing...up and down the deck and around the property on the other side...and then he would look at me, with a wide grin, as if to say...see, I can still get him going...
We missed him dreadfully this morning, as Lucky and I went for our usual walk. Nate was our big, black, grounding force...it felt as if his energy kept us safe.
We stared at each other, Lucky and I, neither having the heart to walk anywhere, when Lucky's ears perked, suddenly. He looked up, and around, stood up, wagging his tail.
We both felt Nate's strong energy. My eyes followed Lucky's and I knew Nate was racing through all the places on our property he had not had the ability to access when he was alive.
I could...almost...see him.
We will find our way, Lucky and Graham and I, just as Nate has found his. There will be a force missing, as we go through the rhythm of our daily lives.
Nate has left us with good memories, strong recollections. I will miss running my hands over his sleek body, I will miss his body leaning against mine, as he begged for Reiki. I will miss his soft, gentle kisses, given in thanks.
I will miss him.
Sleep tight and good night, our dear sweet Natey...
Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives." (John Galsworthy)