The Ruark Kids



Our dog, companion, and friend of eight years is gone. Nalia died today after a four-plus month bout with cancer.

I wrote the following as I worked through my thoughts. I quickly came to the conclusion that writing verse is exceedingly difficult. This is definitely crude, sappy, indeed saccharin-y. But it captures my feelings, and I wrote it–as with all things on this blog–to help me remember (though some things I will never forget) and in this case to help me to cope (though there are some pains only time will ease). Many details I cannot find the words to express, some things that should not be shared, and I will have to rely on myself to hold onto the memory.

Note, a gallery of a few Nalia photos can be found here. Hopefully I can post more in the future.

I forget what day we brought you home,
but I remember: 21 pounds, a splash of white
on the tail, behind the neck. A well-chewed
squeak toy. Belly hairless and pink
like a pig, with freckles, exposed for scritching.
Legs and body flailing in delight.
Paws, such big paws. Look at the wheels on her.

The belly fur filled in, the puppy nose
grew out, fluffy fur turned sleek and wavy.
New freckles dotted your nose, but still we
see traces of white on your neck, tiny hairs,
vestiges of your given litter name.

We went on long walks along august streets:
Fayerweather, Brattle, Huron, Channing, Lake View,
meeting your friends, a collie, a westy.
We pretended we belonged, but always we were
a little too unkempt, a little too boisterous.
The country and the lake suited you better.

Summer weekends in Copake were your favorite:
Standing in the lake, getting filthy
up to your shoulders (hosing down before
getting back into the car you didn’t care for),
running free in the mornings to visit neighbors
much to our chagrin, licking the carving platter,
being loved and loved on by all those people.
We are glad you had a chance to go one last time.

Too many memories to count: The Berner bump,
the Berner sit, the sharp butt bone planted
on one’s foot: just so.
A mule-like stubbornness abetted by dog smarts.
Such expressive eyebrows and soulful eyes.
A shiny coat resulting from a stick of butter.
Bouncing on those Berner hind-quarters at
the sight of us, of friends, of other dogs:
such joy at getting attention.
Eating bacon, scones, goodies off the counter.
Dolphin-ing through the snow, chasing squirrels,
flopping down immobile as a mountain in the street.
Long three-mile walks around the Pond,
with us or with Barry and her dogs,
it’s hard to believe
you could walk so far then,
when you walk not at all now.

When we packed, you were always anxious
and needlessly afraid we would go, leaving you alone.
Now you have gone, and we are alone without you.

We want to believe we gave you a good life,
full of affection and devotion. When the fur-less
ones arrived into our lives, our attention waned,
yet you never angered or complained, dear friend.
I hope you can know, in your way, that we
always wanted the best for you
even if we did not always provide it.

Such a kind-hearted and considerate soul, you tried
to ease us into your absence even to the end.
You stopped
eating so we could get used to not feeding you,
pooping so we could get used to not putting you out,
greeting us at the door, so we could get used to coming home to no welcome.

You stopped
walking around the house, so we could get used to not seeing you,
barking, so we could get used to not hearing you,
wagging your tail, so we could get used to not receiving your love.

But you failed.
We are not ready for you to be gone.
And yet, the time has come.

She jangles the leash, to get your attention.
The anticipation of a walk always gets you running to the door.
She bends down as if to attach it.
Instead, pushing on the snaps
she unbuckles your collar and removes it from your neck.
She wraps her arms around you, buries her face
in that soft, dark fur. Hugs. Crying.
You look at her full of questions in those deep brown eyes,
this is not the normal routine.
She scratches your throat where the collar was,
and you stick out your neck and close your eyes, briefly.
As she opens the door your burst out into the yard,
free of the leash and restraint,
bolting towards a misty fog that covers the woods beyond.

You pull up, realizing we have not run out with you.
You look back, panting, ready but waiting for us to join you.
We are not ready. We will not be coming with you.

You start to wag your tail. Let’s go. Can I go? I want to go.
We are not ready for you to go.
Please don’t go. Don’t go. Please don’t go.
Your floppy ears shift down to their relaxed position, the
way that tells us you are safe, you are trusting, you are ready.

Don’t go. Don’t go.
Panting, wagging.
Don’t go. Please don’t go.
Don’t go. Don’t. Go.
You turn, sprint away,
and are gone.

Goodbye, dear friend. You will be forever missed, forever loved.


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