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Entries in death of a pet (1)

Saturday
Jun042011

Burying Zelda/Zelda's Last Ride 

Sarah always knew the call would come. Never sure when, just that it would. She knew how much pain I was in, the shock, the amputation of the very best part of me. Zelda would get her final bye-bye… a last trip in the big big car, in Zelda's backstage lounge, white lines and fence posts blurring before her mighty spaniel presence.
     It was just a matter of time, of stremgth, of being able to face it.
     I called the night before, letting her now I'd be coming.
     “Don't worry,” said the whip smart young woman who run Brentwood Veterinary Clinic. “I'll be here.”
     I didn't even think: did that mean she was coming in special? Or she would be working?
     I didn't know. Heck, I wasn't completely sure which way north was, just that the highway signs would get me there. I'd spent my life trusting highway signs, and somehow I'd always - through grace, maps, truckers and tour managers - arrived where I was going.
     This, though, was different. This was Zelda. She was going to where she could sleep forever, dream of the perfect world and be still. Well, as still as Wonderspaniels can be when they pass on, but refuse to leave their Mommy.
     
     It had been a horribly busy summer. Kenny Chesney isn't the biggest ticket-seller - doing more than a million tickets each year - for no reason. In the madness, the churning, the dealing the stadium shows - where Zelda had spent her last weekends, one can't step off the carousel. Not really, 
     So, you have to wait. Until there's a moment. And the pain compounds. That's the part you lie to yourself about. Packing the car for that trip to Cleveland was like moving through quick drying concrete; the striped LL Bean bag from Allison, the brown canvas that expands magically from the store in Chagrin Falls where Zelda almost got me arrested, the Chan Luu British West Indies shawl for her casket…
     Her casket. I started to sob. Garage door not even open, and I'm howling. Howling: something Zelda would never do. I could see her snap her head away from me, “Pas du howling! Talk to the paw!”
     She was funny that way. “Don't embarrass me.”  And of course, “Smells like poop!”
     You would be amazed how many people smelled like poop! She had no tolerance for b.s.
     “Zelda, I can't…,” I tried to reason out loud. “I just can't.”
     I could feel her face turn back to me, all puzzlement and amazement.
     “Yes, you can,” said the ghost blond. “Yes, yes, you can… You can take me bye-bye. You can drive fast and roll down the windows, open the moon roof, play the music loud! You can take me away, take me to places, remember how good it feels to be alive!”
     Even in death, Zelda got it. More than I did most days. An angel with furry paws, soft ears and the ability to melt into you, even when she was mostly just bones and fur. Especially when she got down to just bones and that fluffy fur we'd stopped grooming.

     The car door closed with a dull thud. The ignition turned over like it did every day. The garage door rumbled up, and looking in the back seat, at the folded boiled wool Indian blankets and velvet throws, I tried to smile. It didn't work, so I just tried to hold my lips without shaking.
     I put the car in reverse, exhaled hard and took my foot off the brake. So, this is how the real end begins. Just ease out of the garage, down the drive and turn onto the road. Get on Granny White Pike, past the sprawling yards, classic old Southern homes and past Otter Creek Road where we'd turn to walk her beloved Radnor Lake.
     I wanted to go slow, Zelda wanted me to go fast.
     “It'll be an adventure,” she said, in that voice I'd been hearing for years. Once she'd come out of her shell - after her brother died, Zelda sure he was the object of her homicidal plan - she started talking, and she never stopped. Old French red wine, certain kinds of jazz and funk and girl singers and Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith, looks that didn't work and “smells like poop.” 
     People thought the artist development consultant humanized the pretty yellow dog, then they'd spend time with her. Once they got past her annoyance that she was being viewed as “a dog,” the uncanny would happen. “Uhm. Holly, I know what she's thinking…” came the chorus over and over again.
     Zelda knew how to make her wishes, preferences and general commentary clear.
     Even now. “Adventure. Fun. Faster!”

     I called as I was driving. Let Sarah know I'd just passed the Granny White Market, was getting close. “Pull in the back,” she said. I figured it was to shield the staff from a jag of sobbing. Then again, who wants the owners seeing a tiny casket draped in natural fabric with cocoa henna print being carried out. Sarah, who Zelda loved, thinks of everything.
     She was waiting. Face set like granite. She met my eyes, telegraphing strength.
     I knew this needed to happen. I got it. I just… well… didn't want… to let… go.
     “You okay?” she asked. 
     What do you say? I bobbed my head. What could I say? She knew.
     “Okay, I'm gonna go get her… You ready? You putting her in the back?”
     Sarah knew about Zelda's Backstage Lounge, where the Stinkerbelle held court and was chauffeured about. She could most likely tell it was made up for the trip.
     I bobbed my head again, tried a weak smile.
     Sarah's lip quivered a little, too. She turned, disappeared through the backdoor.
     She emerged with a small beige fiberglass box. Not very big at all. I knew inside, there wa a pink velvet blanket, a St Francis of Assisi and a St Christopher medal, a baby Eeyore, her pink collar and a note I'd left with them. Hard to believe that much baby dog could be held in something so small, but with Zelda, it was always the spirit, not the frame.
     “You're really gonna put her in the backseat?” Sarah marveled.
     “Where else?” was the rhetorical answer question. 
     We both knew the looking back would be a papercut, but this was Zelda's last ride. This was her very favorite thing. There was no bye-bye too mundane, too long, too tedious to bore her. She had driven from Nashville to Martha's Vineyard in the worst of winter; driven the parking lot of Memensha - straight into the waves without ever moving; she'd driven from the Vineyard to Cleveland, Ohio one late wet fall for my mother's funeral, collar wrapped in black grosgrain, much to the priest's dismay.
     And now she was making one final trip to Cleveland. 
     I smoothed the shawl over the little box, laid a couple flowers down. Sarah nodded. 
     She and I hugged, and the vet's manager handed me a mix-tape CD. “When I get sad, this helps,” she told me. And I knew she knew, indeed, understood.
     “Thanks.”

     She watched me drive away. She might've been crying. Or maybe it was the tears in my eyes, making everything swim. But I had my Zelda, the Deanerschnitzel. So sweet, so cute, so sardonic. And we were going to drive and drive and drive!
     “You ready, poodle?” I asked. Thougb I knew I didn't need to. She was always ready.
     Nosed into the traffic, turned right on Old Hickory, found the on-ramp for 65 North.
     We were gone.
     
     463 miles doesn't look like a lot on paper. It really doesn't feel like much, either, when you're watching the farms, the little cities, the giant dinosaur statues near Glasgow, Kentucky. Not when you're born to drive, to fly really over scarred and veined concrete, black top, whatever kinda paving they're using. The bridges seem to be connectors over lakes and rivers - concrete in some places, steel going into Cincinnati.
     Zelda knows every inch of this drive. We talk about all the trips and reasons she went to Cleveland: Thanksgiving with cousins on my father's side, concerts and peace of mind. She loved the apartment on Van Aken, walking the second and third fairways of the Shaker Heights Country Club in the snow, sleeping in the backseat under a bunch of blankets while some band was playing, being fussed over by Alex Bevan, who “got” her, as she was, not as some pretty dog. 
     She'd be seeing the man who's music embroidered my growing up with sweet songs like “Rainbow” and “Rodeo Rider” soon enough. She was in the backseat of the big green car with the Allman Brothers Eat A Peach up loud. “Ain't Wastin' Time No More,” indeed.

     It took a lot to figure out where to bury her. Zelda was clear: nowhere near F. Scott - or as she called him “my damned brother” - would work. She wanted to be somewhere I'd visit, somewhere she loved. I thought about Martha's Vineyard, where Ali Berlow roasted her duck hearts; her son Eli worshipped her and followed her and made a true friend out of the reticent, reluctant Spaniel. Indeed, where she created havoc, tormenting Mr Berlow and then oldest son Max with well-placed pools of displeasure intended to express just how “pissed off” she was.
     “But, that's not our's,” she whispered as I would drift off to sleep in a bed too big without her.
“No, Mommy, find some place that's your's and nobody else's.. but some place I've been.”
     I'm not sure when it hit me, but one day, sitting on her bench at Radnor I knew. 
     The Club. The Shaker Club. Under the willow trees, down by the creek on 12. It was a spot of much peace, not in play for the golfers where I had slept on many slow, heavy heat-steeped afternoons growing up. There was no more serene spot in the world, which is why I would nap there… and where Zelda could watch the world go by in an idyllic environment - with enough golfers and wildlife to not feel alone.
     The willows on 12. Of course. Mine for the sleeping, her's for eternity.
     But the plan had not gone well. The club manager, not known for his warm sense of engagement, couldn't be bothered. Ran me around, made up excuses, never called back. I'd love to think he was thwarting me, but I know indifference when I see it… 
     I was ruing my lack of success to an old friend over soup the beginning of July. He of the sangfroid exterior and unruffled-able worldview. He regarded me closely. A dog person, he knew my pain; a former child of the '60s, rules weren't even to be broken, but more ignored if a higher morale compass was iengaged.
     “What you need is a Carl…,” he said in the low voice tempered by cigarettes and time.
     “Carl?” The lady who helped raise me's husband's name was Carl. But he was long gone to aShriner's Home or Heaven. Most likely the latter, and my friend didn't know his name.
     “Carl,” came the response. Flat. Given.
     “Carl?” I echoed.
     “I thought you were a golfer,” he returned, sitting up a little straighter, leaning in a little closer.
     “Your point?” I was anguished and now getting annoyed.
     “Didn't you see 'Caddyshack'? You need Carl,” he said evenly and not unkindly.
     “Carl,” I intoned. This time as sacred mantra. Carl, the stoner groundskeeper, obsessed with his chores, varmints, a world that has nothing to do with the regimentation of club life. Carl.
     I smiled. He smiled back, brown eyes sparklng a little, knowing he'd not just solved my problem, but had moved Zelda a little closer to her final resting place. Sometimes solutions aren't obvious.
     And I found Carl. On the 4th of July. Running yellow nylon rope. To keep the kids back form where the fireworks would fall after exploding. If my initial outburst - “Do you work here?” -- met with confusion and  its follow -- “I need you” -- inspired fear, my story hit his soft spot.
     The girl with the 17 _ year old Cocker Spaniel looking to bury her baby where she slept as a kid. The unresponsive club manager. The fact that months had passed. “Will you help me?” I asked.
     A tangle of curls, the firm physicality of youth and working outdoors made this someone Zelda would put her faith in. Not the logical candidate, but Zelda liked strength and personal conviction, not what everybody else sought 
     “Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, I will.”

     It was sometime in August by the time I could get away from the tours, the press releases, the tv and the what comes next. There had been an Entertainment Weekly piece that had a website coda which painted a very honest, highly vulnerable picture. It raised questions, those questions needed time to address with the people who asked, to explain so the client didn't look whiny.
     There was so much going on, and when I buried Zelda, I needed to do it completely. All me, all her, all about perhaps the greatest love of my life.
     When I finally called “Carl,” he'd about given up on me. He'd gone out to the site, which I'd also scoped. The willow trees had been cut down, a tragedy given their age and expanse, but there was this notion of galleries for golf tournaments - and so, away with the willows.
     Instead, I had found a small cluster of pines, some kind of special variety where the branches drooped and the long needles leaned down, seeming to sigh from the quiet cool of the moment when day surrendered to twilight. It was just as beautiful, off to the side of the green, also out of play, out of the way. No reason to ever cut them down, peaceful like the slumber of spaniels.
     We reconfirmed the spot. He told me not to worry. He suggested I meet him at the greenskeeper's shack, which was anything but. He'd figure out how to help me get Zelda's casket to where it was going… rather than parking behind a wall, by the tennis courts and negotiating a particularly steep incline.

     I had called a preacher's son from Macon, Georgia. What kind of scripture do you read at a time like this? What verses are right? What note to you strike? And I called Alex Bevan, who'd sung so sweet at my mother's funeral… who'd looked into Zelda's thickly cataracted eyes and smiled so she could see him.
     If there was a constant of kindness from childhood through my grown life, it was Alex Bevam. Not quite a friend, not really a brother, sort of a soul companion from somewhere else. For he was always on the shores of Lake Erie, threading the Grand River, the Emerald Necklace of the amazing park system - and I was somewhere in the wind, a postcard, an email, a call at random hours.
     “Would you come?” I'd asked. “Would you mind?”
     Alex Bevan has always had a soft spot for broken things, fallen birds, lost dogs and people out of sorts. He looked at his book, and said, “Of couirse.”
     He laughed when he heard where it was. Said “Of course,” again. Asked me what time about.
     Since this was clandestine, it could be midnight. Or twlight. It would depend on the road, and what kind of time I was making. 
     Everyone who needed to know knew. I was somewhere above Louisville, in the 90 miles where there just isn't much. Today, there would be no Reality Tuesday Coffeeshop, just before getting to Cincinnati. I had a holy trip to make, and nothing - beyond filling up the car - would stop me.
     “Hey. Zelda,” I said outloud. “We're finally getting you to Cleveland… We're finally gonna put you to sleep in your own little bed.”
     I could feel her smile form the backseat, feel the little nub of tail thumping against the cushion.
     Jackson Browne sang “Love Needs A Heart” from his song cycle about the life of the touring rock star Running On Empty. “Proud and alone, cold as a stone,” came the lyric from the speaker. Deaner liked the delicious sadness, but she wanted something… more.
     “Hey,” I could her little spaniel voice intone, “what about 'You Love The Thunder'? Now that gives you a little more traction in the pain.”
     “Pain?” I heard my voice say. “Are you kidding me?”
     I couldn't tell Zelda how bad it hurt. Beyond the fact that she already knew, I knew she'd held on so weak and frail, because she didn't wanna see me cry like that. She was the strong one, the fierce one: Zelda Warrior Spaniel, mighty, mighty broker of  munk death.
     Even when she was slipping from this realm, she would put a paw on my face, look into my eyes when we'd be sleeping and tell me, “It'll be okay.” Because it is. Life goes on. Even with a giant hole torn out of it. You don't get any choice, except to keep on.
     Still in heaven, Zelda finds her ways.
     Not long after she died, the phone rang and a thick, long, slow drawl poured out.
     “Hah-leeeee,” came the gnarled male voice. “Yeeewwww dewwwwin ohhh-kayyyyy?”
     I started to cry. It was Richard… Young… from the Headhunters. When I'd first moved to Nashville and was having a hard time adjusting after life in LA, he'd been my angel of how to adapt. I'd tried to help him understand being a “thing” because the Kentucky Headhunters were exploding. But as much as musicians crave adoration and attention, he was too genuine to have people respond to a notion and not his humanity. 
     “Honey, what's the matter?” he asked, clearly unprepared for the gale-force he was getting.
     I explained in snorts, sobs and stammers. He listened. He let me cry. He took it all in.
     Richard Young is a farm boy in a lot of ways. He keeps bird dogs. 
     But he's got a tender heart for all the biker exterior. When I finally got done, he was just quiet for a bit. I've known him long enough to know he's thinking. Looking for the appropriate thing to say, the insight that might help.
     “Well,” he finally said, “you know, it hurts so bad because you loved her so much.”
     I whimpered.
     “No, baby, that's the deal. And you should be glad it feels like that… because it tells you how much you loved that little yeller dog… and you know, too, that little dawwwg with thuh great big heart, she loved you even more than you loved her… if that's possible.”
     Richard Young. Hillbilly Buddha with a low slung Les Paul and a loose downstroke.
     He was right. I sniveled a little, but I found comfort. Never mind that Zelda called him, “That fat hillbilly…,” she knew who to have call. If he liked the beer-drinking F Scott Fitzgerald Spaniel Gleason better, whatever! She recognized plain dirt genius, and she knew what I needed to hear.

     “Deaner, you okay?” I asked. Truth be told, she was frozen. I don't really use the air conditioning if I can help it. But I didn't want her melting. Not like this. Not en route the weeping pines off the 12th green.
     “Yeah, Mommy,” she seemed to say. “I'm perfect.”

     So we drove on. In thought. In silence. At 72 miles per hour, the world can put you in a trance. Truths emerge; torment subsides. Just the road, the lines, the mile markers. Maybe not for everybody, but for us… especially for us. Always her in the back, peaking out, me in the front, foot on the gas.
     “See, better already,” Zelda said. Columbus, not quite rush hour. Pushing through, pushing past Polaris Parkway, where Zelda had reigned over a Brooks & Dunn Neon Circus backstage, trotting around, looking at the trick ropers, the fire eaters and contortionists with glee. 
     It was a tour devoted to big strong men, all musk and brawn - and she loved it. She loved the pomp and bluster of Brooks & Dunn in full rut. The big thick honky tonk beats, sheets of electric and steel guitars, the way Ronnie Dunn's voice sliced through it all and Kix Brooks whirled and churned that audience into a full boil.
     She'd sometimes sit next to me almost quivering with delight and excitement. So many things rushing at her senses, the music so full-tilt and the crowd just awash in all of it. To Zelda, that was the only way to roll. Blowed up, too loud, completely engorged and absolutely throwing oneself at the party…
     Columbus means less than two hours. The thought went through my head. 
     I called the greenskeeper, touched base with Alex. I pushed the hair out of my eyes, squinted a bit at the road glare. Mostly, I just kept driving, driving and driving and driving… and when the decision came to take the 271 offshoot, which would bring me in without going through downtown I took it.
     I would pass what once was the Richfield Coliseum, the giant basketball stadium where I'd seen Led Zeppelin, Heart, Bruce Springsteen, Hall & Oates the night before my SATs and the Allman Brothers with Muddy Waters at a Free Cliniic benefit, Neil Young on the Old Ways Tour, for an interview that would help break me as a national music critic. 
     Memories… of who I was long before I was anyone at all.
     Through Peninsula, where the Peninsula Nightclub was a stopping place for dinner before Blossom, where cool bands played and the grown-ups remembered dancing there to “real bands.” A small town on the 303 that somehow had defied modern quicker, faster prefab improvement.
     The exits on this stretch of highway got more and more familiar. Then there was Chagrin Boulevard. “Well., poodle, we're almost there,” I sighed as I nosed onto the offramp.
     Rush hour was basically done. The heat of the day was receding. There was still traffic, but it wasn't frantic in that trying-to-get-home way. I fell into the tide of Mom-mobiles and exiting businessman-sedans, moved to a major artery, made a right, then turned left on South Woodland.
     South Woodland would take us where we were going. Past Canterbury Golf Club, where every major national tournament has been played, where Duff Lawrence and Mike Kiley created a world of graciousness and sportsmanship for their golfers. My stomach became a fist, my throat strangled itself…
     I texted Alex. He texted back he was close. 
     I called the groundskeeper, who told me was ready for us.
     I got to the light at Courtland Boulevard, turned on my signal and waited for the cars to finish passing by. Then I headed for the cobblestones and the brick building with the cream portico… the cul de sac where my own grandfather had died on the 4th of July long before I was even a notion.
     Turning into the members lot, I kept going. Through the far corner where the service access is, behind the 8th green of perfect emerald bent grass and up through the trees that punctuate the far side of the hillside that sculpts the 8th fairway.
     Carl was waiting with a flatbed gator and some tools.  I turned off the car.
     “We made it, poodle,” I managed to say. “We made it.”
     “You need help?” he asked, then thought better of it. “Here, let me get her.”
     I got in the cart. He settled the little fiberglass carton with the raw cotton hippie shawl draped over it squarely on my lap. 
     “You good?” I nodded. I'd been flying over these hills on some version of this vehicle my whole life. We were walkers, people who believed in the sanctity of the game as played like the shepherds; but don't think I didn't chase around on golf carts after hours.
     He pulled out, slowly. Not quite a funereal pace, but certainly with the dignity this last ride should entail. I had my Bible with me. The few flowers I'd brought. But mostly, I could feel the weight of the best little girl in the world, Zelda Fitzgerald Spaniel Gleason.
     We made a little small talk. About the drive, about how green the golf course was, about cutting down trees and how good an agronomist his boss was. Alex called as we were coming across the 9th fairway towards the snackbar. I told him where to meet us; I explained to the young 20-something who Alex Bevan was. 
     “Huh…,” said the young man who'd signed up just from the decency of his heart.

     When we got to the site, there it was. Only more so. Carl had dug a perfect grave. Neat exact sides, deep enough, Zelda wouldn't wash out or be dug up easily. It was straight down, into the chocolate dirt and clay - fertile enough earth to make this golf course one of the most vibrant in Northeastern Ohio.
     “Wow,” I said.
     “I wanted to get it right.”
     Alex Bevan walked up. He said “Wow,” too.
     The pines in the fading light were the inky black green of a Japanese ink print. Moisture was in the air, which was - at this hour - neither hot nor cold. Everywhere the hole wasn't, there were trees roots and thick green gras, branches reaching down weightlessly, needles sweeping anything that passed under them forlornly.
     “What do you think?” I whispered to the box on my lap.
     “I love it,” came the whisper from Zelda. “It's so pretty and perfect… I'm home.”

     Home. A hole in the ground, albeit holy ground where I spent my growing up years. Maybe. I mean, we all end the same. We all find our place to decompose. Not that my composure was wholly resolved in that moment.
     Still, it was a peaceful place. After all of it, there was somewhere she could sleep and I could visit. There would be no end of people passing by, deers, ducks, geese, rabbits. Bucolic. 
     
     “You ready?” Carl asked. 
     “Yeah,” I said, gently helping him lift the package from my lap. So many things beyond the lifeless body of a frail dog were going into that hole, and we all knew it. 
     Alex smiled at me, that gentle smile he has. One that is reassurance and grace, the one that lets him weave songs of hope and solace out of topsy turvy moments. 
     The groundskeeper jumped down in the hole, took the box, gently lowered it. He turned and wiggled out, as he also settled the contents. There she was, ready to be covered. “Man you are dust, to dust you shall return,” I thought. 
     I read the scriptures in a voice stronger than I would've thought. I had spoken at both my parents' funerals, out of duty, out of wanting their lives to be remembered with meaning and the vibrance with which they lived. Those two events were scary, hard, the fear of failing their legacy; this was far more brutal.
     Csrl nudged the shovel over to me when I finished, Kinda nodded.
     “Go ahead,” my friend the folkie encouraged. It wasn't about burying the dead, so much as it was keeping the spaniel warm,. She, like her Mommy hated, to be cold. I closed my fingers around the handle, shoveled a few handfuls of freshly turned soil into the grave… wincing a little when I heard them land with soft thuds like rain.
     “Zelda, I love you,” I said. And she knew that I did. I knew she did, too.
     “If you want me to finish up,” the erstwhile gravedigger offered, “I can.”
     I wasn't sure what to do. The sky had turned the murky grey that quickly becomes midnight blue, then dark. It was getting cold. I didn't want to go.
     “It'll be okay,” he reassured, met my eyes. “I”ll take good care of her.”
     Lump in my throat, I nodded. Sometimes you have to let go. 
     I reached into my pocket, took out a folded bill. I put in Carl's hand and smiled through the tears. He deserved it, for making this not just easy, but dignified. For digging the perfect grave - in a moment too many people would think was crazy.
     I looked at him one more time. “Thank you. For so many reasons.”
     “It's okay,” he said. 
     I looked at Alex, a man whose love of dogs - Rounder and Harp and now Tilly - is legendary. He knew. Heck, Rounder had had better access and was even more famous back in the day than Zelda was now. And Zelda was a legend!
     “Wanna have a drink?” I asked. I needed to shore up. Irish to the core, it's what we do in these moments.
     “Sure,” he said stoutly.
     “Well, then, let's walk…”
     One thing about golf courses, they are built for walking. You cover that ground like a dream. It gives under your feet, pillows and supports you. It carried us straight to the veranda, to a wrap around porch where the crickets cried for a brave girl and her owner.
     Zelda. Zelda Zelda Zelda. The wonderspaniel finally laid to rest. Her mother left to wander the world remembering what love can be. I had done it. I had gotten my girl to a place she could sleep with the angels, where she could have peace and enjoy what was next.
     “What're you having?” the waiter asked.
     “Maker's Mark,” I said.
     “Me, too,” Alex Bevan, the local hero, requested. “Please.”

     Somewhere in the distance, Canadian geese took wing. Their honking was the sound of travel and euphoria, and they were almost the trumpet call Zelda's last trip required. It wasn't lost on my companion.
     “She was a helluva girl,” he said. And she was.
     We talked the way people who've known each other too long do: elliptically, the details already filled in, the sore spots known, the tears shed without worrying. Alex had been here before, had parted company with best friends and lovers gone. He knew the pain, understood the power of elegy and just being with it.
     But he, like Zelda, understood the unspoken.
     “I'm gonna be fine,” I said reassuring myself as much as him.
     “I know,” he agreed. “You already are.”
     Sipping the bourbon, watching the deeper and deeper shades of indigo descend and envelop the grounds, the conversation slowed and truly wasn't necessary. But the cold came up, and it was time for us, too, to go.
     I hugged my friend, who'd watched from the edges as I turned into an adult. Our worlds were so different, but our hearts were mostly the same. Northern Ohio kids who believed in love and kindness, dogs as true companions, ties that never die.
     He left, and I sat there. For a few more minutes.
     Zelda arrived when I was starting to truly become an adult. She had outlasted three engagements, superstars being built and falling apart, clients firing me and getting fired by me. She'd listened as Scooter Carusoe and I had written the second half of “Better As A Memory,” thrilled to be at the root of creativity and watched me struggle through sickness and the first draft of my first novel  in a place that was anywhere but her Nashville home.
     Zelda had been through it all: huge tears, major triumphs. None of it really mattered to her. Just love. She would - as she got older and deafer - sleep by whichever door I'd left from, that way she wouldn't miss me when I got home; then when she was too aching to sleep on the hall or kitchen floors, she would wait wherever I would put her to nap, lifting her sleepy head to say, “You made it.”
     Someone has said the thing in life we all deserve is someone wondering if you got home okay. For almost 18 years, Zelda did that for me, Always. 
     Now looking at an abandoned putting green being frosted with evening mist, I had finally done it for her. Worried until she got home. Now she was all set and safe. I could know that she was okay, and in that, I could truly say “Good Bye.”
     It wasn't easy leaving that spot. But I was too cold and it was too dark.     “I love you, poodle,” I told the night. I knew somehow she - now quietly sleeping under several feet of good, rich soil - heard me. She sighed and yawned, no doubt, smiling that she was so loved, then returned to her dreams of bunnies and ponies and roast munk supreme.

 

Portrait of a Wonderspaniel + Her Mommy
by Glen Rose