Last night, I heard a knock on the door and our dogs went nuts. They began barking and rushing the door like the hounds of hell. Which they do anytime anyone comes to to door. Peeked out on the porch and saw my cross-street neighbor, carrying two bags of dogfood, some dog bones and some other stuff. ‘He smiled.
“My old dog died, and I thought you might be able to use this,” he said as I opened the door into the night. Johnny is wiry and tough, a former Marine who faithfully flies the Corps flag and a MIA banner every year on the Marine Corps’ birthday. He’s about my age, a Vietnam vet and we talk on a occasion during yard work or maybe wave hello. His words hit like a slap.
The dog’s name was Hairy (Because he was. Johnny told me once. Creative naming isn’t his forte.) and he was a beautiful German shepherd, brown & black and a constant alertness you couldn’t help but respect. Johnny had owned the dog for 10 years. Every evening, I’d see him walking Hairy. Usually Johnny had him off the leash and it was beautiful to watch them together. Dog alert, keeping pace with Johnny, never tempted to chance cats or bark at other dogs. This was their time together.
We talked a few minutes about dogs we’d known and lost and how fragile their time is with us. Hairy had been troubled by arthritic hips and had begun to show signs of deterioration of the nervous system, shaking and losing balance. The night before, Johnny went out to the yard and found him still by the gate, not breathing.
“He was a good dog,” Johnny said and I agreed and told him Ginny would be heartbroken, because she truly admired Hairy.We could hear insects complaining in the night, everywhere else the street was quiet. “Well, good night,” Johnny said and we shook hands. It’s not a good night, I thought. Maybe soon it will. But not now. Not just now.