I began to notice how much shorter the days were now. I was eating after sunset and the sunrise seemed to be waking me up just a little bit later and later every morning. This morning was beautiful. It was one of those mornings I wake up wagging my tail.
We live on a busy commuter road in and I could tell by the number of cars going by that it must be a Saturday; nice and quiet. I stretched out my legs and pushed into Ben’s belly. “Oooff” he grunted. My brother, Old Dan, rolled his big brown eyes toward me and wagged his fat tail. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump. Time to get up; time to eat.
My brother and I shared our food bowl and our water bowl. I always let Old Dan eat first. Don’t know why; we just got into that habit. He would take a mouthful, walk over to where I could see him, and chew up the kibble while he looked at me. When he was done with that mouthful, he’d go get more and do it again and again until he was full. I would walk over to the bowl, and he’d always step aside so I could get my share.
But it hasn’t been that way for a while now.
Lately, he takes two bites of the special soft food that Ben bought for him, and that’s it. Ben looks at Old Dan. “Eat boy, please eat,” he says. Then Ben cries. He sits on the kitchen floor and hugs Old Dan and hums Old Dan’s song to him as they rock gently back and forth. Hummmm, hummm hummm, hummmm, hummmmmm.
Dan doesn’t eat much more, and this leaves the rest of the food for me, and lately I’ve been eating it all. Even though I’m full, I keep going until it’s gone. I don’t know why I do this. It’s like I can’t help myself. .
I ate; Old Dan didn’t. Then we all got into the car. Really, I never have any idea where we are going. Ben brought me, Old Dan’s bed, our food and water bowls, and nothing else.
When Ben parked the car I figured out that we were at Grandma’s house because it smelled like food. I jumped out of the car and Ben helped Old Dan. Together, we walked in the door.
Everyone came over and talked in loud, happy voices and I heard my name and Old Dan’s name again and again. I saw Ben smiling, and that made me happy because he has been sad for so long that I was worried he’d lost his smile.
I saw old people, young people and babies, and sniffed scents I knew and others that were new to me. I ran around and licked every hand and face I could reach. Sometimes I’d get a taste of a cookie or juice. It’s one of my favorite games and the different tastes delight me.
I was running around then looked back at my brother Old Dan. I saw him lying on the bed Ben carried in from the car. A little boy and little girl were sitting with him, stroking his head gently the way he likes and saying nice things to my brother.
People were moving all around. Sat here, walked there. They talked in loud voices and soft voices. I smelled the fire, turkey, bread, potatoes and even licked up some spilled gravy. I made sure that I was in the right place at the right time. I was so happy we were here.
Old Dan lay on our dog bed, breathing his shallow breaths; but he was never alone. All day long people came over, sat next to my brother and stroked his head while they talked to him.
My hearing is excellent, and while I know only a few spoken words, one word I heard spoken to Old Dan again and again was … “Love.” My brother would lick their face and wag that fat tail of his. Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump.
After a while I smelled coffee and then people began to leave, but not before they hugged my brother and said that same word again . . . “love.” Then they said “goodbye.”
I only got a few head scratches, but I didn’t mind. I felt like the day was about Old Dan. It seemed like this was some kind of party for him. I saw my brother struggling to breathe and I know what “goodbye” means.
By this time only a few people remained. The little boy and girl had changed their clothes and disappeared into other rooms with the tall guy who had fur on his face and sounded like my Ben when he spoke. As noisy and busy as it was before, now it was quiet conversation and the hiss and occasional pop from the dying fire.
Ben came over to lie down next to Old Dan. I went over and lay down next to them. I listened to Old Dan’s labored breaths until I heard the little boy screaming. He screamed and cried and cried. The guy like Ben with the furry face went and brought the little guy into the room.
He handed the little boy to Ben. When he did the boy stopped crying. Ben lay back down with the little boy lying on top of his chest. Ben’s head was next to Old Dan’s and his hand was on my leg.
I smelled the little boy. I heard him sucking on his pacifier. I heard Old Dan’s short breaths. I heard quiet voices and the whistle of a distant train rumbling through the valley. I heard Ben breathing deeply and slowly.
At the time I didn’t understand who all these people were, but I knew they were important to Ben. I do not know any children and thought about what it would be like to have a little boy for me and Old Dan just like Ben has us.
It got even quieter. I could tell the little boy had fallen asleep. A stillness washed over me and at that moment, and just for the next short while, all seemed right with the world. I let out a deep breath and fell fast asleep.
(Editor's note: This is the first of a two-part series. Part two will be published tomorrow, March 9 at 5:30 a.m.)