A couple of days ago, I took Sam out to the fairgrounds for his afternoon walk -- it has become one of his favorite outings. He loves the wetlands, the secret aspen meadow, the old barns and the duck pond for many reasons. Not least of those reasons, I'd venture to guess, is that the fairgrounds is a literal soup of good smells (at least for a dog) and in spring, those smells are bursting from the warming duck pond like something delicious baking in an oven!
In case you haven't already read some of my other posts about our flatcoated retriever, Sam ... I'll fill you in.
Sam helped me raise my boys when I was a single mother trying to be everything for them. He filled in as companion adventurer for Mickey and Gabe on their hikes and play in the hills around Helena. He kept them company on their paper routes, traipsing the dark early morning streets of our neighborhood as they delivered the news. Sam would lead the way, showing them which houses took the paper and which ones had "bad-dogs" to watch out for ...
This gentle black dog comforted Mickey and Gabe when they were out of sorts, and listened with complete attention and unconditional love, to anything anyone wanted to tell him. He taught all three of us compassion, empathy, connection and discipline. He was part buddy, part parent, part goofball and part life-lesson for those boys. He helped me raise them and for that I am always grateful.
Sam is 17 years old now. He has outlived most other flatcoats I know of ... and surely outlived all of his friends of the same general size: big. Everyone who knows Sam is awed by the fact that not only is he still alive -- he still loves his life and has spurts of energy and exuburance. He's slowing down though. Someday he won't be able to take these daily walks with us.
Sam is getting so he doesn't like going in the water the way he used to. Maybe it's too cold for his old joints. Maybe it's just too much trouble -- when you're an old guy, you shouldn't have to get wet and cold and tired just for the sake of chasing a few ducks. Or chunks of bread.
I get so sad everytime I think of my sweet companion, Sam, leaving us someday.
Any day now.
I don't know how I will be able to bear his going.
I haven't taken many photos of Sam lately, though I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe because he is kindof tangly and dirty and raggedy these days and I haven't wanted to record that side of him ... so today I shot almost a hundred frames. As if I were trying to save him. As if I were trying to memorize exactly the look in his eyes, the shape of his back and wagging tail. The wake he leaves in the water's surface, as he slowly paddles out to the deep parts.
I will be glad someday to have this set of uncomplicated photos:
Sam cooling his belly in the water
checking with me to see if it's okay to go
He turns and pushes through the element he was born to love,
swims out deep enough to
lose touch with the bottom
Sam looking away, into the distance
(to him, those ducks may seem unreachable)
Maybe he is dreaming of giving chase
or wishing he could retrieve
a bundle of feathers for me
my handsome, constant,
standing in the light
waiting for his time
biding this afternoon in the sweetness
of spring, light, water ...
his world quiet with deafness, yet
filled with a symphony of smells and
the sparkling dance of sun and sky and wings.
I love this dog with my whole heart.