Our December Round Robin Blog Hop assignment was: Write a short story, flash fiction, or use an excerpt from one of your books. I considered an excerpt. Or perhaps digging out one of my short stories not yet shared here. But then this came into my head - or maybe it was my heart. It started out to be fiction, but I'll be honest - it's really my life over the last two months since Duffy crossed the Rainbow Bridge to wherever beloved pets go. If you've ever had a pet, you'll understand. If not, I hope you enjoy the story anyway. And Happy Holidays to you all, however you will be celebrating.
The vet and I were both on our knees, my face buried in his silky fur as Duffy passed from this life to the next. The vet, her eyes damp, gathered up her things and prepared to leave us, giving me permission to stay with Duffy as long as I wanted. But my furry buddy was gone. Everything good about him was in my past. He could no longer lick away the tears that continued to slip down my cheeks. I hugged him one last time, then stumbled weeping from the room.
I don’t know if there’s a rainbow bridge, or not, but I pray there is. For Duffy’s sake. I want to think of him romping and playing, not crippled with age and unable to get to his feet on his own, no longer able to walk to the beach for a swim, or gallop over the sand with joyous abandon.
Duffy was special. I know, everyone says that, but really, Duffy was extraordinary and the hole he was leaving in my life was enormous.
MacDuff been a rescue, born on the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and picked up along with his mom and siblings. I’d adopted him from a photo online and agreed to meet the truck bringing him out of that chaotic place along with dozens of other dogs.
A fuzzy ball of black fluff. They told me he was part Labrador retriever and part Australia Shepherd. The shepherd part wasn’t in question since he’d been with his mom when rescued, but as he matured it was increasingly clear he was more likely flat coat retriever than lab. I’d never heard of flat-coats when the vet mentioned that breed so I googled them and found they were considered the Peter Pan of the canine world, playing like puppies for most of their life. And he certainly lived up to that. Even on those last, painfilled days when struggling to his feet was a chore, he’d still bring me a toy and want to play tug of war with it.
Duffy was torn between his genetic inclinations to fetch and herd. When my grandchildren were small, he’d try to round them up and keep them away from dangerous things like water and streets. He’d gently put his mouth on people’s wrists as if he wanted to show them something or take them somewhere. But fetch was more like keep-away. Once you’d thrown the ball or toy, getting it back was the challenge and he loved teasing you, seeming to offer the toy, then snatching out of reach at the moment your fingers closed around thin air. He outgrew the herding thing, or perhaps it was my grandchildren who outgrew his thinking he needed to protect them, but he never outgrew his desire to play and he always enjoyed being with my grandkids.
Swimming was another of his favorite things. Any game played in the water at the lake always included him, and he especially liked it when it involved things that got tossed back and forth like frisbees that he could snag and carry ashore. The waves at the ocean didn’t faze him in the least. On hot days, he’d walk in up to his belly, sit down facing the shore and let the waves break over his head. If I went in, he was game to swim at my side, for as long as I wanted to be out there.
At home, he elected himself the welcoming committee for our neighborhood and since there are a number of rentals here by the beach, he was always making new friends. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone. But he was also my self-appointed social director. It wasn’t enough for him to greet folks passing by our little bungalow on their way to the beach. Once he’d greeted whoever was out there, he’d hurry inside and thrust his nose under my wrist, interrupting my typing and insisting I get up and go out to chat with whoever had stopped by.
Often, for no particular reason, He would push his head between my thighs. My brother informed me this was a doggy hug. And, perhaps it was. Duffy did it often and it sure felt like I was being hugged. That along with the eager, tail-wagging welcomes every time I’d been out for ten minutes, ten hours or ten days, made it clear how happy he was to see me.
And now that he was gone, my heart and my home were going to be horribly empty.
So, I’m never getting another dog. How could I ever find another canine that special? I could never replace the love, acceptance, and joy that nearly fifteen years with Duffy brought me.
It’s been two months and still . . . when I out of my recliner to head to bed at night, I want to bend down to pat his silky black head. It seems impossible he’s not sacked out there in front of my chair where he’s always been, and come morning, there’s no one eager to share my breakfast eggs. I haven’t skipped our midnight walks, though. Even on rainy nights, I’m out there making our usual rounds, remembering how he stopped here to add his calling card to a favorite clump of sea oats, or there to sniff along the ground to see who else had been by. I still slog through the soft sand near the sea wall when I go to the beach because that’s where he was most intent on sniffing things out. But then my heart aches when I remember I will never again feel the softness of his fur brushing against my bare skin as he walks close to me in the dark.
I got almost as many sympathy cards for MacDuff as I did when my dad passed away two years ago. I have them hanging on a ribbon in a doorway reminding me how much my friends care, but they also remind me how many people knew and loved Duffy. How could I possibly replace a dog like that?
. . . . . . But then I see a face like this one, and I realize it’s not about replacing Duffy. It’s about offering another dog a fur-ever family and finding joy again in the wagging, comforting love of a canine companion. (Sadly, this adorable pup was adopted before I got to the shelter, but there will be others....)
So . . . maybe I will get another dog . . .
Thank you, Duffy – for teaching me about unconditional love, the joy of an eager welcome, a warm body to cuddle and the solace of a wet tongue to lick away tears when life gets tough. Maybe it is time to share my bungalow with another extraordinary fellow like you.
For your holiday reading pleasure - hop on over to see what these other authors have for you today.
Dr. Bob Rich
Rhobin L Courtright