Thursday, 24 October 2013


I knew something was wrong when I filled the bowl and he didn't come running.

I'd filled that bowl every morning of my life as far back as I could remember. It was the first thing I did every morning after jumping out of bed. My mum used to help me when I was younger of course. She'd hold the bag for me and I'd pour the biscuits in, the noise as they hit the metal sides would send him scampering hurriedly toward us. His face, a big dopey mess of lopsided grins and hopeful excitement, would dart around, sniffing and monitoring the situation carefully and waiting until we were done. Then he would charge head first into the food and start munching, his eyes always making sure we were nearby. He'd never eat alone. If I left the house, the food would remain untouched until my return. It was as if he never felt safe or relaxed when I left him alone.

Wherever I went around the house or the yard he followed. Watching me with a happy grin and only leaving my side to fetch a ball or toy. He'd then sit and wait patiently, never demanding but simply ready at all times, on the off chance I might pay him some much desired attention.

He followed me so religiously that he even followed me to school once. He strutted himself about, making all the other kids jealous. He'd greedily take their lunches but still only have eyes for me. When mum found out she took us back home and marched me into my bedroom meaning to smack me. He gently grabbed her wrist in his mouth. He always did that, and she hated it. Every time he did it she would say that she was going to send him back to the pound where he belonged, but she never did. Over the last 17 years of our lives he'd saved me a hiding more times than I could remember.

But he'd been slowing down lately. A few less fetches before being happy to give up and lay panting on the grass, watching me go about my business. His eyes had slowly changed from bright sparkling orbs, brimming with the simple joys of being alive, to duller more wizened eyes, content to watch rather than to experience. And lately those eyes had grown over a misty green, blurred by cataracts. He could no longer see me and I knew it upset him. I took him to the vet, but the vet said he was old, and what was the point, that I should think about scheduling an appointment sooner rather than later for putting him down. I flinched and tensed up, the same way I did before my mother smacked me, he sensed something was up, his ears pricked and he looked at me, ready to thwart whoever was the cause. I told them I'd think about it and took him home.

Without his sight he became anxious, confused and easily scared. He'd bark for several minutes at shadows. The life he loved had turned on him, it began tormenting him. I now had to stand beside him whilst he ate, so he didn't think I'd left him. He ate less and slept more. I'd find him sleeping at night out on the grass in the rain, oblivious and helpless. I had to carry him inside. When I picked him up he'd look at me, his once muscular body all haggard and gaunt, his eyes sunken and blurred. He looked through me, bewildered by what was going on but relieved I was there.

He'd become nearly deaf too, the only sound that could raise him these days was the familiar noise of biscuits against metal. He'd always wearily heave himself up and shamble his way over.

Except this morning. This morning I rolled out of bed, bleary eyed and took the bag of food out of the cupboard.

The last biscuit clattered and was still. The dog door did not flap.

The memory came flooding back. The appointment was yesterday. I picked him up and placed him on the metal table at the vet's office. His whole body began shivering, clearly petrified and confused, as if he could sense my trepidation. And then came the least proud moment of my life. I failed him, in his final moments, my best friend in the world. He looked at me for re-assurance, to steady his trembling body and tell him he was a good boy and everything would be all right, as he had done for me my entire life. The only time he ever needed me to help him, I couldn't. Instead I backed out of the room, racked with guilt over what I was doing and the inability to deal with my grief. I watched his face as the door closed, begging me to come back and make it all better. The door clicked closed and I never saw my best friend ever again. I left him to die alone.

Monday, 21 October 2013


My favourite sound in the world is rain. The constant steady thrumming, almost distant but yet enfolding. The way it gently taps away on the window panes and the iron of the roof. The occasional splosh as a heavy drop lands in one of the gradually rising puddles. All I ever wanted, as I drifted off to sleep, was to be one of those raindrops, slipping down the corrugated channels of the roof, pooling in the gutter and flowing freely to the creek. There would be no choices, no push nor pull, just the relaxing, inevitable flow.

I used to draw her maps on the footpath using chalk. "This way home," they said, with arrows all along the street pointing to our front door. There were secret symbols too, that I was sure she would understand - an eye, a heart, and a picture of a sheep. If she could finally understand me, then why wouldn't she come home?

I had planted seeds through the garden beds all along the path up to our door. I thought that perhaps when she came she would see how pretty life could be again. And, perhaps, she'd want to stay.

But the flowers never bloomed, and she never found her way.