There has been high pressure over Norway for most of the last month-“Blocking Weather” is what I heard it called. It has held back the wet, westerly gales that normally mark this time of year in Scotland. Instead, an autumnal calm has spread its breath across the country. Walking the dog this morning across a dew-moistened field and and watching soft cirrus clouds in a sky like faded denim was good.
But given my form for the past fifty years everything is an opportunity for metaphor. I am waiting for the storm, either a sharp frost or the tumult of one of those Atlantic gales, as the earth’s axis inexorably tilts away from the sun and brings in another dark and bleak winter. Really, I am waiting for something else.
Dylan, my dog, is still with me- he is lying by my side and gently snoring. After our walk we played with a ball in the garden. I would throw the ball a few metres and for a few seconds he would stretch out that stride of his: that loping gallop I love. But he is arthritic and sore, yet incredibly stoic and enormously resilient. Yesterday, he split a claw open down the quick on a walk. I didn’t realise what had happened until he tracked spots of bright red blood into the hall.
Another visit to the vet’s surgery followed- the injury itself isn’t serious but for the first time a vet asked, “Do you want to go on with him?”. So, the quality of life assessment followed: he is continent; he eats, pickily, but sometimes with relish; he enjoys exercise and chases a ball; his medication seems to take the edge off his pain. It is a stark and desolate fact that he has lost huges amounts of muscle from his rear legs, but he is still mobile.
Anyway, the vet said there would be good days and bad days, put a protective boot on his paw, and gave him an anitbiotic shot to prevent infection. What could be done was being done. But last night I wept, not a slow, quiet trickle of tears but big convulsive sobs. I lay with him on his bed for a long time and he put his head along my forearm and let out the low crooning groan of pleasure that I have known for so long. He is about as human as a dog can be and curled around the warm curve of his back, I am as close to being one of his pack as I can be.
Walking him in the morning, watcing him stoically hirple when once he would have almost flown over the ground lets me see the grace and dignity that he brings to these days. The tears came again, slow, unbidden but not entirely unwelcome: they are simply the price to pay, or maybe the interest on the loan of love on which we exchanged, non-verbal contracts obviously, over thirteen years ago. How long before the final and bitter repayment now?
We were invincible once, he was my shadow-self. We were almost two parts of the same creature but the goodness lay in him. Energy and courage glowed in his heart. Faith and optimism shone in eyes and he remains the gentlest of souls. Between us, we made a good man. I dread the day when this respite, this last chance to be with him, breaks and the weather changes.