We let Michael name you. He called you Buddy, and you were his fine and loyal friend; but there will always be a part of me that believes you were a Gimli, dignified and stoic in your short, stout frame.
You were young, and so was Michael, the year I made you wear matching red Christmas sweaters. Your jaunty, gentleman Corgi gait, the tilt of your head, your elegant white ruff, all better suited you to a black bow tie. I never bought you one. I’m sorry.
I wish I’d had more patience for the slow, sniffing pace of our walks. After that first ramble, when I had to carry you home because you were tired and would not budge, I settled—perhaps too soon—for long walks on our short block.
Your fear of the rabbit delighted me. I apologize for letting him jump over you like he was the cow and you were the moon. Allowing you to cram yourself into my lap afterwards hardly made up for the torment you endured.
I regret letting you race around me in a widening circle on the lawn that summer morning when you slammed into a hedge root and flower-fractured your toe.
You loved opening the rear windows as soon as I boosted you onto the back seat of the car. Why did I insist on using the child-proof locks so often, provoking your weariest sighs? The windows did not open wide enough for you to escape. You should have been rewarded for your intelligence.
For thirteen Augusts, I said, “Next year, I’m going to enter you into the Ocean City Dog of the Year contest. Your photograph belonged on display so you could be admired by anyone strolling the boardwalk. Your joyful smile would have raised large sums for the dog park. Most years I forgot until it was too late, but even the year I started early enough, I gave up. At the time, the application was just too much trouble.
If I’d known how close you were to dying a year ago today, I would have fed you extra tidbits from the table, let you skip that last bath, given you one more scoop of ice cream. Instead, on your final night, all I could do was lie awake beside you and offer a cold washcloth for you to clamp down on while seizures wracked your body. In the morning, I laid you on soft clover in the sun before our last drive together. We rode with all the windows down.
You liked to sprawl near my chair while I worked. When the sun reaches your worn spot on the floor, the wood turns the same warm russet as your velvety ears. Sometimes I still see you from the corner of my eye, my old sweetheart, or hear your tags jingling. I imagine you hopping up the stairs to keep me company again.