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Dustin LindenSmith

father | musician | writer

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A week ago today

I had just laid Sage on the living room couch and then, nurse-style, I slid an old flannel sheet underneath him. In a part of my mind I wasn't willing to acknowledge consciously yet, I did this because I knew it would be easier to transport him after.

After what, I wondered. We had an emergency appointment with the vet in 90 minutes, but he wasn't looking good. Out of desperation, we'd just fed another half-bag of saline into him via sub-cutaneous IV, but nothing was having any effect on his hyperventilation. And nothing was getting his attention, either. When Jo shone her penlight into his eyes, there was no movement. When we called his name, no response. He seemed unconscious, yet his chest was heaving thirty times a minute.

Without really planning to, we never left him alone. One of us sat with him, holding his impossibly cold paws in our hands, kissing his face and cheeks over and over again, massaging his neck and between his shoulder blades like he loved, and rubbing his cold, delicate Lab ears between our fingers. Nothing changed for a half-hour. I gave Zoë her breakfast.

For a brief period, maybe 15 minutes, we all walked around the house as though nothing was out of the ordinary. Got dressed, cleaned up the kitchen. I heard an odd sound coming from the living room, a staccato slapping sound, as though one of the dogs had exhaled so forcefully that their lips had flapped against their gums a bunch of times. But when I walked over to Sage there was no change. He was still just huffing on the couch, eyes open and glazed over.

A few minutes later, Jorin was brushing Zoë's teeth in the bathroom upstairs and I went up to get something, I don't remember what anymore. And then when I came back downstairs and looked at Sage, there was something different about him. I stood at the far side of the living room, staring, and then moved closer. By the time I got to the coffee table I saw what it was. His chest wasn't heaving anymore, and his tongue was stuck out, long and limp and grey. His chest wasn't moving at all. And his tongue. It was stuck out so far. And where had all the colour gone from it?

I stood rooted to the spot and then I heard my voice come out in a wail. "Jo! Oh no, Sage! Jo!!!! Sage! Nooooo, Sage!"

Jorin came downstairs instantly and ran to him. I didn't move from my position on the other side of the coffee table. She fell over him, crying, "No, Sage, no, no, NO!!!!" Finally I came to her side and we laid over him, petting him and kissing him and crying and kissing him and crying and petting him and crying and kissing him and crying. I went upstairs and brought Zoë down, and we tearfully told her what happened. However, she wasn't interested in Sage at the moment, and she didn't want to pet him. She just watched us carefully, staring at our tears, and said, "Mommy and Daddy, grown-ups aren't supposed to cry... Why are you so sad?"
It has been a long, sad week since then. The first couple days were quite bad: lots of tears, intense sadness, instant mourning. But then later in the week our grief became more acute, more biting; especially each time we did something for the first time without Sage. Our first walks with only Riker were heartbreaking. Feeding Riker his first dinner without Sage eating at his side was, too. And we've spent the week unconsciously looking for Sage: waiting for him, expecting to see him around every corner and then realizing for the first, second, and twentieth times that we'll never see him again. Then the tears.

The tears still come quickly, being only a week since Sage died. Our mourning is exquisite, and when my tears come a sadness floods the space behind my eyes with hot, stinging needles. It feels so fresh, this hurt, and yet it feels like we've been like this always. Sage is still with us everywhere. He's in our hearts and memories, obviously, but his energy is still all around us somehow. He's everywhere in this house, in this yard, around this lake, throughout this forest. His furry, fuzzy body has gone away, replaced by an impossibly small and heavy box filled with gray ash, but his essence, his love, his energy, is still here. It's everywhere around us.

Oh God, I love that dog. I miss him so much.

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mimesis March 6th, 2006


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