I know we love our dog. But then he goes missing and I really know we love our dog. And then while I’m trudging up the hill in the dark trying not to be futile with a torch, I accidentally think about how much we loved our dog. And the past tense clumps in my throat and comes out in a little dark and lonely hillside sob.
It was just another Saturday evening: finishing off in the garden, a bit of guitar, letting the telly go on, no worries, no hurries. A bit of dinner at the last minute, bits and pieces, chicken. Wait, chicken. Why isn’t the dog at my feet, sniffing the air with ohbutplease in his eyes? It’s a passing thought. I haven’t seen my husband in a few days and there are harvesters and maize and roadworks to discuss. Glasses of wine to drink.
We ate, we talked some more, we argued with the children about bed time, I stomped about a bit. And then I said, “Where’s Blue?”
And because he’s always, always there and now he’s not anywhere, and because two of us think we heard distant yelping, everyone panics.
So I’m on the hill shouting Blue in the dark, and below me my husband is searching the driveway for an accident and my children are wailing. I wish they would stop wailing in case the yelps I might have heard come again and prove to be actual dog-in-distress sounds. Stop being so dramatic, I think, which is rich coming from me. Me with the drama heart beating against the dark on the hillside.
Just a dog, just a dog, just a dog, I recite as I search for the bulls in the paddock in case they’d kicked and broken him. But not just a dog. A velvety, smiley, gentle doggie who behaves much older than he is and whose hair, I realise, will likely haunt us for years.
But there was no cooling bundle of torn velvet in sight, no wounded pooch to hurry home, and I wonder how we’ll all sleep as the beam of my torch flickers and dips. I wonder how we’ll be.
He had a wonderful four years, I thought to tell them. Think how happy he was. Not many dogs get to choose whose bed they’ll sleep on. And then I remembered that I’m married to a farmer and we’ll all have to get over it quickly because These Things Happen etc. It’ll be a good life lesson, everyone has to deal with loss at some stage. But the torch beam darted about in an urgent manner and below me I know that my childrens’ eyes were ohbutpleading with the night.
If Bluey comes back, I try, I’ll stop watching Housewives of Sydney. I’ll stop hiding in the wardrobe when the children are bickering and I’ll dust all the skirting boards. I’ll give up Pinterest and I’ll finish things and be an engaged mother and read the boring bits of The Australian and write a poem and stuff. I could write a poem about a little smiley dog. Once we wrote a song about him, the children and I…
“Our dog is like a unicorn, he has colourful poo, Because he ate some lego and my barbie’s little shoe…” It went on like that. The chorus was.. “His name is blue, he steals my shoes, he stole my socks and now he’s stolen my heart too”.
I sang it a bit, in case he could hear from nearby or from another realm or something.
And then I had to shake myself, steel up and get cross. Well that’s that then, we can’t get another dog, ever. This panic and that pain in my solar plexus is too ridiculous by far and that is IT. And my whistles and calls went wobbly and a tear squeezed out so I had to go a little further with my search even though I know Bluey would never stray that far unless someone was up there rustling a barbecue chicken bag.
A little while later, with my hope running away with those crickety things that darted into cracks at my feet, and the family’s bereavement plan in place, I went back down the hill toward the blazing lights of a place that looked very like my home but not quite. A place that looked like somewhere I’d like to be if you could add a small brown dog with one white paw.
And just before I reached the back door, I heard the sound of a small brown dog with one white paw. Not a yelp or a bark but a hello there sort of sound. A bow-wow, like the dogs of old fashioned story boooks. And I said, “Bluey?” without all the panic and there it was again. “Bow wow” from behind the door of the garden shed. The brand new and empty garden shed that we haven’t yet used. I opened its door and Bluey stood there looking at me with his ‘am I in trouble’ expression and he wasn’t at all dying or hurt or even cross that he’d been waiting for hours since the children had shut him in during a game of chasings. He was – as always – just delighted to see me.
When I tucked him in with my daughter, whose face had turned blotchy and swollen from crying and then sleepy with relief, I said, “Oh Bluey, look what you’ve done to us. I went a bit mad on the hill you furry little arsehole. It’s not your fault though, you’re just being you.” Except I looked at him just being him and I thought about dogs everywhere just being themselves which is what they do best and I thought actually it is your fault Bluey, it really is. You look at us with your river-pond eyes and your lip caught on your teeth and despite even the fact that (speaking of arseholes) everytime you turn your back we all find ourselves looking at yours, despite even that, we love you unreasonably and hope you never disappear again.
And he was all, “What’s the fuss about, did you see a chicken?
All up it was only about 45 minutes. But that, it seems, is all it takes.
PS I will write a poem and give up on those Sydney Housewives, who are proper arseholes. And I’ll search up doggy treats on pinterest.