Ally’s going to her next home on Monday. Her work with me is done. She’ll be thirteen this November and time is simply catching up with this physical body. If i can ever return to her a small part of what she’s given me, it is the gift of peace i hope she finds and perhaps shares again–hence the arrangements for Monday. Though we might clear up her current infection, her system can’t stave off repeats.
Ever since my mother brought her in her arms to me, shortly after my return from four difficult years in korea and the california desert, she’s been my beloved and generous companion. At the time the message was “you got wierd, now you’ve got a dog, and it’s time to get un-fucked.” And that happened. Ally and i spent every morning and night in the sand of Virginia Beach. She came to work with me after giving me “the eyes”. We slept in the same sandy bed. We surfed the same board and paddled with dolphins. I trained her in some things that dogs do, she taught me more things that people can be. While I worked in the S-3 shop, she had the run of Fort Story and every formation commanded on the parade ground. While I didn’t work, she ran around the beach but always came back to where i was reading and dug a hole right beside and then under me or my soccer ball pillow. She led me through the pitch-dark woods on my mountain bike in Williamsburg, when the only cues were shifting shadows and the jingling of her dog tags. She taught me I could be not a poison to anyone come close or entrusted to my care.
She jumped out the window of my (slowly) moving truck, got her paw caught in a rabbit trap, she got stung by underground wasps, cut her foot on broken glass in a chicago river but she never complained. Later, much later in life, her hip ground on itself, the bottomland of her lungs crackled with fluid and her hind end slowed its signals. Still she never complained. I’m told that she wanted to please me, to be what i wanted her to be, to be a good dog. I hope those observations are incorrect. i hope i pleased her. I hope i became what she thought i could be. i hope i was her good person. Perhaps when i doubt these, I can look at my daughter and be re-affirmed for it seems entirely possible that it was Ally unlocked the doors to fatherhood.
It’s 0430 and I’m near San Antonio, Texas, getting ready to fly home. I’ve been here with Ma, Pete, Ma’s cousin Rene and his wife Beatriz. We came here to renew family and recon the hill country around Medina–where a new life for MP might begin. While doing these things, my girlfriend Peper refused to let Ally go to the kennel and has been up every hour of the night since, tending to a raging UTI that brought considerations of dignity and quality-of-life to bear. As with the putting to bed of Grandma, Grandpa and Terry, I must confess to the fatigue that accompanies the uncertain watch of physical decline. These four days without a cell signal in southern texas though have been friendly for reflection on Ally and what should best be done. Without Peper, I shudder to think what these days and longer nights would have been for Ally. While on the phone with her, on a street corner in Bandera, the right course of action became clear. Peper has been a gift for me, for Ally and those who care about us both.
Now I’m going to ask for something from you. Each of you is a holder of pieces of my life with Ally. I’ll be very grateful if you’ll think of sharing one of them so the mosaic with which I’ll remember her will be most complete. If this doesn’t seem appropriate i hope you’ll just think a good thought to speed her on to her next mission.