My beloved companion dog, Lily, died a week ago now. Over last weekend, I cried so hard for her I made myself sick. That phase of grieving has passed.
Most of us have lost a pet, so I can write about Lily knowing you will understand how hard and how completely you can love an animal.
It’s a love that is pure and unconditional. Animals return that love to you in the same uncomplicated fashion. Their love is not mixed in with hurts and disappointments, slights and petty offenses, misunderstandings and losses, as our human relationships can be. A loving relationship with an animal illustrates the best in us.
And the worst. We see animals hideously injured and wondered who are the people who do this? What sickness in them bubbles to the surface to starve or beat an animal? Where does it come from? I don’t want to linger there.
What has risen to the surface in me since Lily’s death is my old fear of The Axe Murderer. I live in a village in rural, mountainous California. Crime here is likely to be teenagers breaking in to vacant cabins, identity theft, property crimes.
Nonetheless, I am a student of crime and crime fiction, and dark scenarios dance in my mind when I wake in the night. It’s silent here, and dark. No streetlights. A breeze might blow up and sigh through the pines and the oaks. Occasionally I hear the yips and barks of coyotes. Yet the motion sensor light often goes on signaling some animal is padding around the house at the bottom of the stairs.
A raccoon, a bobcat? It could even be the mountain lion that is caught on wildlife cameras. The bears have been driven into town by the drought.
I’m much more afraid of the human variety of mammal. Lily used to bark frantically when she caught the scent of the bear. I knew her bear bark. As she grew old, she became deaf, her eyes clouded, and she couldn’t see well in the dark. Arthritis and Cushing’s disease took away her agility. I had to carry her up and down the stairs.
Still, I felt she protected me, even when I knew that was a fanciful notion. Cats can stare at a wall until you believe something terrible lurks behind the drywall. They can look over your shoulder and convince you a killer is behind you, a blade ready to strike between your shoulders.
When I first moved here, I had night terrors about The Axe Murderer. Stalking the back deck, he wore a long black cloak and had red eyes. Thank you, Stephen King. Thank you very much.
Then Lily came into my life and I forgot about him.
Now he’s back. My doors lock and I have a butcher knife and a pry bar on my night table. In the state of mind I’m in right now, a gun would be foolish. I might shoot my foot off if the squirrel ran across the roof at night, or the cats sent something crashing to the floor.
It’s too soon to find another dog. I know that the right dog will find me, just as Lily did.
All is well. All is basically well. Time will pass.
Please see a related post: http://marpreston.com/writing-without-a-dog.html