On a Sunday in late March the vet discovered the tumors that filled his chest cavity when one burst and incapacitated him. He treated the pain and gave us the certain news on Monday. Pete had a week left, maybe two. For three and one half days after that, he seemed his old self — comfortable, watchful, a runner and a leaper.
For almost ten years he had traveled with us everywhere. I walked hundreds of miles with him, probably thousands, in all kinds of weather, but especially in the winter when he ratcheted up his energy level and was always ready to run. He loved other dogs deliriously. I think he read children as a different species and was consistently gentle and calm with them. His level of emotional intelligence was high and never wrong. He knew which dogs to avoid. He knew when to break off with guests and which guests were not dog lovers.
I carried Pete to the car on the afternoon of April 1, 2011, my wife’s birthday, and we drove to the vet. He had leapt onto the porch and another tumor had burst. He dropped as if stunned with a club. Later, at the end of the procedure, we held him, kneeling on a quilt, as his breathing __ just __ stopped __. There is no stillness like the stillness of the dead.
This July morning, Wolfie, a five month old border collie, ours of three months, walked with me up a hill and over the ridge and into the next valley to the south. He has Halloween mask ears. When he is alert, they form a pyramid over the top of his head. Most of the time they flop about as he trots up the road, nose down.
In the next valley, an enclosed meadow stretches out next to us for acre after acre. Trees dot its hillocks. Within a hundred feet of us two ponds lie in the hollow of the meadow, one below the other and separated by a farm vehicle path. We stop under a walnut tree and Wolfie laps water from my palm until he is sated. He is happy to collapse in the shade.
Sitting next to him on this silent road, I look out at the ponds. They are sheltered from the breeze that cools us. Nothing moves. But as minute stretches to minute, Wolfie and I also remain quiet, and then a bird rises from shrubby grass near the water and hangs on a stalk, and a fish rises to the surface of the closest pond, and the breeze shifts and the grasses and the willows’ leaves begin to float, west to east. The light is sharp this morning; it has a September tone to it. Above the pond the tops of trees in the heavy woodland on the next ridge begin to shimmer into motion. Sometimes this is a good old world.