I’m taking a break from writing about cycling to honor my dog. Thanks for taking time to read. Biking posts will resume next week.
One Last Time
I scooped up Truman, careful to wrap the towel around his frail body before cupping his back legs into my right hand. Cradled in the nook of my arm, we went outside and headed toward the bike path, the one we took every day, rain or shine, winter or summer.
It was an unusually warm day in Tennessee; I was grateful God had given us a break from the bitter January cold. We headed into the brisk, southern wind toward the distant hills I love to climb as a cyclist. His ears, like floppy wings of a plane, flapped and he sniffed the winter air. I drew him close and drank in his scent.
We walked. He sniffed. A jogger passed but Truman didn’t bark like he normally did; he didn’t seem to care. It was at that moment I realized how much pain he was in. A lump rose into my throat; my eyes blurred. We left the path and made our way to the stream.
We watched the clear water rush over limestone, savored the sounds of gurgling water, chirping birds, and children playing in the distance. Truman wasn’t interested in chasing anything or marking his spot like he normally did. My gut told me that he knew this was his last walk with me and that this was a rare moment of serenity, one to be shared together. Only a dog could bring such a gift to his master. Even in his final hours, Truman was more interested in my well-being than his, making me slow down so I could drink all that life offered, including the fact that he would soon be gone. Despite my pain, despite the tears welling up, there was a deep satisfaction within me, a connection between me, God, and Truman. Call me crazy but it was a divine appointment, one I won’t forget.
We made our way back to the path and I carried him to the playground, thankful no one was there, and we sat. I’m not one for sitting, not long at any rate. But today I sat.
“Be still and know that I am God.”
Funny what verse comes to mind when you stop, really stop, and your heart is overflowing with pain. At times, Truman would glance to the heavens, not out of anger or to challenge God’s will like I often do, but as if in expectancy of something better, perhaps accepting the fact that he was leaving me behind, maybe even asking God if I’d be okay. Time passed but I didn’t measure it like I normally did: frantic to get somewhere or to finish something in order to feel complete. Instead, I sat, wishing the inevitable would pass; hoping this was a bad dream yet knowing it wasn’t. With reluctance, we headed back down the path and home.
A bird chirped; we stopped to listen and look. The wind whistled through the leafless branches; sunlight peeked through the gray sky. For some, this would be too ominous a sign, too melancholic a scene and would push it away from their senses. For me, it was a glorious symphony playing the most vibrant chorus in the grandest of concert halls. I pulled Truman close, once more savoring his scent, loving the warmth radiating from his crippled body. Pain, gut-wrenching pain, ebbed through my veins, coursing my body like poison. “I’m sorry,” was all I could muster. “I’m SO sorry.” In years past, I would never have cried in public. Today was different. Today I didn’t care if the whole world saw my snot and my tears.
Our home came all too soon and we climbed the rise up to our condo. Before going inside, we turned back into the breeze. His ears rose on the wind, he sniffed the scents, I prayed for strength, and we took in the moment together…one last time.
Dedicated to Truman “War Pup” Lowder
2010/11 (?)-January 22, 2018