It was freezing out there. Water had soaked through the fabric of my shoes, and now my feet were soggy like Raisin Bran left out too long in the bowl. Days-old snow covered the field behind the schoolhouse – a soft, dirty blanket, similar to the kind you’d donate to charity before getting a new one from your grandmother. The whole setting made me uncomfortable. The wind bit my face and it stung. I wanted to go.
I looked down at my dog, and she looked up at me, unwilling to move. Her determination was iron. I gave a gentle tug on the leash, and she kept staring at me. She was lying in the snow, panting heavily. Her breath rose into the air as little gray clouds before becoming part of the invisible realm.
“C’mon,” I said gently. She put her head on her golden paws to rest. How can you sleep in the snow? She had to be as cold and wet as I was. I pulled harder on the leash. We had to go. I wanted to go. I couldn’t take it any longer.
She was fat. People used to comment on how fluffy her mane was until they would reach out to pet her with their hands and feel the gelatinous mass that was her body. I thought back to how skinny she was as a puppy – how lithe and nimble she used to be. She used to jump on top of me when I was a kid and bite my ears playfully.
I then thought about her descent into old age. Her bad hips, her struggle to get up the stairs – the night she first slept on the floor by my bed instead of under the covers with me because it was too painful for her to climb.
Raising her head off her paws, she stared up into my eyes again as if to ask why I was rushing our last few hours together.
I knelt down and stroked her sickly patch of fur and felt the rise and fall of a chest that was soon to rise and fall no more. I was sorry then for my impatience. I didn’t want to take her away from here. I didn’t want to say goodbye. I just hated the anticipation. I wanted it done and over with. I wanted to start grieving instead of hanging onto this fistful of sand – this moonbeam – this soon to be memory.
Apologetically, I crouched down and leaned in to kiss her on her cold, dry nose. She licked me once and put her head on her paws again, in resignation. I unhooked her leash, and I curled up next to her in the snow.
I wish we had gotten to lie there longer, but finally she couldn’t take it anymore, and creaking, she stood up slowly and started walking home on her own.
It was time to say goodbye.
So we finished our walk.