I know now how…
I know now how to take a walk the first morning you have to wake up without your dog.
Carry his collar and talk to him even though it makes you look like either you have a bluetooth earpiece no one can see, or you are off your meds — but who cares, really? — and you stop at his favorite places to sniff and pee, and you cry, and you grip the collar really really tightly, and you keep walking,
and you thank him for being able to keep up with you again, and that you remember when he used to walk so fast you could barely keep up with him and he wasn’t even trotting yet, and you cry again,
and you pass someone with a dog who reminds you of yours, and they’re wearing a chemo-kerchief, and you ask them if you can pet their dog, and yes you’re crying, but they say “of course!” and the dog licks every tear as it sprouts, and you laugh, and you know it isn’t your dog, but god, what a pleasure a dog is, and you ask how they are doing, and they tell you, and you both give each other a long, hard hug, and you are still gripping the collar really tightly
and you keep walking
and you walk as hard and fast as you can,
and you talk to him — you keep thanking him, and asking forgiveness, and begging for a sign that there really is a “next” and that he is still somehow “there” and you wonder how much you are “making a sign” out of nothing and how much it really might be one, like the random screen saver that looked like your sweet boy at the hospital when you wrote that email after he died because you couldn’t stand to leave the place because it made you feel like you were leaving him…then you remembered you were keeping your promise, and you weren’t leaving him, that it was his turn to leave you…
and you cling to the hope that it’s really just a physics problem, that we can’t see from this place to the “next,” if “next” is even the right concept, and that really he IS walking jauntily and happily right next to me, delighted to feel better, and slightly sad that you are so sad, but full of some wisdom that it really will be okay, it really will…
and you keep walking.
And that is how you start to learn to take a walk without your dog –at the other end of the leash. And that is how you think of it.