It’s a fine fall day. The sun, although low in the sky, is warm enough to be felt through my down jacket as I scuff through the damp leaves, my old dog pulling back to sniff at the detritus. I look back at her and see her brown eyes meeting mine, her lovely face grizzled and loved, so deeply loved, so deeply embedded in so many moments of my family’s life, bridging back to my daughters’ childhoods.
They were twelve and ten when we got her as a puppy, twelve and ten and skinny as rails as we made the trip to and from Oregon to get this border collie puppy of my older daughter’s dreams. She stretched out between the girls on the ride home, barely reaching them tail to nose, and the puppy gradually matured as my daughters moved through their teen years. My daughters moved through their teen years and the dog got older and our family went through some huge stresses, heartache and stresses the like of which I hope never to see again. But throughout these stresses we kept feeding the dog and filling her water bowl and taking her on walks and she would sniff the leaf detritus every fall and we would take her to the vet and once she had to get a tooth extracted and another time she ate my dark chocolate and had to have her stomach pumped and I would drive her and my daughter to dog 4H and we would complain about how vocal she was, baying in our ears, and laugh to see her and the cats interact. She was a pain and she was a love and she was my daughter’s heart and she bridges the present moment back to my daughters’ childhoods and she was and is deeply embedded in the fabric of my family’s life.
My daughters have left the house now. They are in their mid-twenties now and my dog is over 100 in dog years and we still go on walks, slow walks but walks nonetheless. We still go on walks, the two of us, and I remember other walks with my daughters’ hands in mine and the dog going crazy swimming in the river. I remember those other walks and nostalgia jolts my heart with such longing and love and with the painful sweet passage of time where things change, they change, but for now, my daughter’s dog’s eyes are the same as they’ve always been, her brown eyes meeting mine as they always have.
I turn and move on – I want to finish my route before dusk. The dog breaks into a geriatric trot behind me. The smell of moldering leaves and smoke from wood burning stoves is in the air as we approach the old barn and fields up behind my house. A horse looks over at us, and the dog raises her head and stands still for a moment before sniffing the leaves again. My gaze takes in the horse, the field, the dog, the sky, the heavens, the world, my life. “This,” I think to myself, suddenly exultant. “This.”