My dog is dying.
Well, it’s not my dog actually, it’s one of the dogs in my book. But he’s mine, in a sense, and I’m taking his death hard.
So hard, in fact, that I can’t bring myself to write the death scene. I’ve written around it, the before and after. But the real-can’t-be-ignored scene? No thank you, just can’t do it. Or at least not tonight, when my partner is off on a hiking trip and I have the house to myself and my own dog is past 13 and has hurt her leg and my cat is sick and my other cat is 17, and when I look around the living room I think: I’m going to lose them all, probably within the next year. And I don’t know if I can bear it.
So instead of writing poor Willie’s death (lucky dog: He gets to live a few more days. What will he do with this extra time? Shuffle around the yard? Sleep in a patch of sun? Pee on the hallway rug?) I took my own limpy dog for a walk and then went swimming.
After I came home I still couldn’t write the death scene. So I made chives bread. I craved something spicy yet dense, something that would appeal to my tongue while filling my belly.
Once I kneaded the dough (my favorite part), I reread Laura McCullough’s poem “Moment,” about the death of a dog, and I cried, my still damp hair hanging in my face. I cried and hugged my own smelly old dog. Then I kneaded the bread for a second time, stuck it in the oven and changed the cat litter. (Which just goes to show that in the midst of death, there is still life. And shit to clean up.)
There’s a moment in every dog’s life
when it surrenders its dogginess
to a greater good, maybe to you
if you’re lucky and lacking the love
of a good dog, and that becomes
the firmament in the earthquake
your life is. Loneliness can’t enter
through that door—make your body
a door: what is overhead bears down
and the shape of nothing becomes
visible like your dog in the corner
who dreams silently, his legs pumping.
This is what you recall when his brave,
blue-black tongue lolls from his mouth,
so long, so thick you are shocked,
and you cradle it in your inadequate
hands to keep it off the cold, tile floor
in the last moments of his dedicated life
weeping like a child with the silly hope
you are the door he’s passing through.
And maybe it was my mood but the bread refused to rise, and while good and warm and grainy, with a nice bite from the chives, it was also heavy, as if mirroring my mood. Bread, I think, can do that, mimic your emotions, force you to see what you’re trying to ignore.
I’ll post the recipe later, if I ever get the tweaks out. Bread is very temperamental, which is why I love it so.
If anyone has a favorite bread recipe or poem, please feel free to share.