My dog died. I haven’t been able to write about it until now. It was a month ago, and he was old, but it was still unexpected, and it leaves you feeling a bit raw. It’s weird feeling deep grief for an animal – it feels like you get a day, but anything longer than that is some sort of attachment problem. His dog beds are still around the house. And most days my eyes make out the silhouette of him there. I have to look again, and then I realise I’ve imagined it. Everything becomes him for a moment, a discarded jacket, a crumpled towel. He’s been in my frame longer than my youngest daughter. I am so used to seeing him, my eyes still believe he’s here.
Elvis is absolutely tied into the story of all my kids. He was their puppy. They chose him, and I told their dad that I’d found the perfect puppy at the pet shop and he was only $200. It was a lie, he was $500. It was nearly Christmas – wouldn’t this be the perfect gift? That’s how Elvis turned up.
His going is the last remnant of that shared childhood. When I am alone I think about him and I cry quietly. I’m crying now. Not rivers of tears. Just small, sad, burning ones. Ones that come when you’re old enough to know death is part of life, but vulnerable enough to feel the pain of letting go.
I’m not really a dog person. I don’t walk past puppies and go weak at the knees. Babies do that to me. But Elvis made his way into my heart, into all our hearts. He was 15. He was blind in one eye, deaf, had a dodgy knee, his teeth were falling out and he was a bit demented. It was, by human standards, the equivalent of living with an old man. On the night he died he’d wandered onto a busy road at midnight and got hit by a car and died pretty well instantly. We were all away and my poor friend had to deal with it. The lovely people that ran over my dog kept him until they could go doorknocking the next day to find his home. That is such a kind and gracious act, whoever you are, thank you. We then had to put him in the fridge at the vet until we could all be home to bury him with a fitting tribute.
Elvis had another life. He had people in my neighbourhood whom he visited, many that I knew nothing of. He was a dog who didn’t like fences. He spent his first three years digging his way out and escaping. We nicknamed him Houdini. Eventually I stopped locking him in, and he stopped escaping. But he did start taking himself on two short walks a day. He liked to do these alone. If I took him in the morning he would still nick out for a stroll. On those walks he visited people. I know, because I have a photo, from my daughter’s friend, when he popped by and knocked on her window. He was like a creepy little stalker.
Every morning and afternoon he would trot down the driveway, turn left and come back 20 minutes later. When I ran into him as I was leaving and he was coming home, he looked awkward, kind of embarrassed, like ‘I just had to stretch my legs’. His legs were only 15cm, max. Liar. I knew he had at least one other woman on the side. Maybe he had several. I could tell he was getting love from other women, but he always came home to us, so I allowed him the odd indiscretion.
He hated the cat, so in the four years we had her, he refused to even look at her. He killed one guinea pig – but that was the sum of his violence.
We buried him with his enduring love – his little sheepie; a stuffed toy he had claimed from my eldest daughter’s bed maybe ten years ago. It was the only toy he liked. He slept with it between his paws most nights. He was a great little dog.
I won’t be getting another. I’m a one-dog woman. And Elvis has left the building.
He’s taken his last walk, he’s out on the Big Road. He’s free.