The Long Dogbye

headshot of our shelty, Scotia

Sometimes we need the temporary comfort of illusions while we come to terms with an unhappy new reality. It`s been two weeks since we had to say goodbye to our beloved shelty Scotia. I’m no longer weeping every day. Most of the time I can deal with the fact that she is gone for good. No more fluffy chest ruff to run through my fingers. No more pitter-patter of little white paws on the kitchen floor. No more cool black rubber nose nuzzling me.

our shelty stands on the beach

But at other moments, I’m not yet ready. Last week, I stopped by a pond in one of the parks we used to go to with Scotia. Unlike other dogs, she spurned retrieving sticks or balls, but loved to run chest deep into water to bark at the cannonball splashes of thrown rocks. As I sat on a log and looked out over the pond, I became convinced that if I tossed a rock into the water, the splash would work some kind of death-defeating spell, and my little girl would run out barking from behind the nearest tree. I dared not actually throw a rock and expose the fantasy for falsehood.

Yesterday morning, as I drifted in that liminal state between sleeping and waking, I seemed to hear the short, sharp yip that Scotia gave at dawn to signal she was ready to come in from the patio (she preferred to sleep outside, even in rain and snow) and be served breakfast. Surely if I opened the door, she would slip between my feet, ready to lead me to the kitchen. Part of me knew full well this was a dream. The other part clung to sleep as long as I could, reluctant to be torn from that other world where Scotia is still alive.

Although I have a car, both Scotia and I often preferred to travel by bike, with her riding in a kiddie trailer behind me, enjoying full access to all the sights and sounds and smells on the way to and from our walks. When I rode with the trailer for the first time since her death, the familiar heft of its weight behind me made me feel that if I were just to turn my head, Scotia would be there, with that eager shelty smile, tongue lolling in excitement and head cocked to ask “Where are we going today, daddy?” But I did not look, preferring not to shatter the illusion that she was just a few feet away.

a photo of me with Scotia in her bike trailer

I’ve dealt with death before, of both human and animal companions. I know that the time between tears will gradually become longer and longer, and eventually I’ll be able to deal permanently with the fact Scotia is really gone. Someday, I’ll be able to remember her with a fond smile rather than a lump in my throat. But for now, with the wound recent and raw, I sometimes need to take a break from the cold truth and to shelter, at least for a few minutes, under the warm and comforting blanket of make-believe.

our shelty Scotia looking away from the camera