Sunday, September 27, 2009

Missing Sally

Three, almost four, months have passed since the sweetest dog in the world died. Sally came close twice before then, starting last Thanksgiving. But our Lazarus girl survived, surprising us and her vet both times. And in June, she let those she loved know she was beyond tired, and that she was ready to say goodbye.

These days, when I put my lock in the front door and push it open, I expect to see her there. Or, at least, to hear her tail thumping on the hardwood, then her toenails clicking on it as she ambles toward the door. My son leaves a bit of scrambled egg on his plate, and for a split second I start to call Sally to finish it off.

I missed her tonight in another way. I'll preface how by saying I spent four nights in Santa Fe with two friends and two of their greyhounds, so I'm a bit more dog-attuned than usual.

Anyway, I went for a little flip-flops kinda walk awhile ago. I haven't been able to bring myself to get rid of Sally's fave Milk Bones, so I gathered three -- one in each hand, the other in a pocket -- to toss over the fence of a white German shepherd named Molly.

On the way back, I saw a woman walking. The sky was so dark that I didn't realize she had a dog with her until it stepped into the glow of a streetlight. She went ahead; the dog wagged his tail and brushed up against me. I petted him and talked to him.

When the woman whistled for him, I almost hoped he wouldn't hear. Or that another dog I hadn't seen would appear out of nowhere and follow her. And that the black dog would trot along next to me till we got home.

I'd open the front door, and his toenails would click on the hardwood. I'd give him a Milk Bone, and see if Charlie had left a piece of meatloaf from dinner on his plate.

While the newcomer ate, I'd open the cabinet in the laundry room, push aside a light bulb and some loose batteries, and reach for Sally's purple collar. But just as I was about to take it down, I'd pull back my hand. I'd instead kiss my fingertips, and touch them, gently, to what had graced the neck of the sweetest dog in the world. The collar, like the moniker and that certain piece of my heart, will always belong to Sally.