This morning I took myself off on one of our favourite walks in the neighbourhood, down the road through a nearby hamlet, then back around across the rolling farm fields. It is a walk we’ve done countless times since moving here, one we’ve enjoyed in all seasons except when the mud is at its worst. Today, for the first time, I had to take the walk on my own, without my faithful little companion at my side. Our sweet little corgi died on the 20th of April this year after a sudden, heart-breaking decline. A scan revealed a mass throughout his liver and we had to make the decision to give him a gentle, pain free end.
The walk this morning was the first time I have done that complete circuit on my own. The day after Tristan died Mr. H and I did it together and called it the Tristan Memorial Walk. Since then I have only ventured out across the fields with my husband, never by myself. It was Tristan’s favourite walk, and we had walked it together for nearly three years. We walked over the fields when they were mired in mud, baked hard and cracked by the sun, and crunchy with snow and ice. Tristan chased his stick, waded in the stream, and jumped through fence gaps at stile crossings. He ate blackberries under the hot summer sun, licked up manure-tinged mud and crunched delightedly on leftover corn stalks after the harvest. He was good, he was naughty, and he was always there, always marching along in my footsteps, my faithful, loyal, loving companion.
To walk those fields without him, or without the soothing presence of my husband took a great effort for me, but I knew it was something I must do. Life goes on. It sounds trite, but it is true. Loss is a part of life that we don’t enjoy, but it can’t be avoided. All you can do is remember the happy times, be grateful for the time you had, however short, and go forward.
And so it was that this morning I put my trainers on and took myself off to do the Tristan Memorial Walk on my own. It wasn’t easy and I got a little teary-eyed along the way, but in the end it was enjoyable. This is spring, after all, when the air is scented with May blossom. Butterflies were busy among the dandelions, beautiful peacock and tortoiseshell varieties fluttering in the sunlight. The cows in one field eyed me suspiciously. Even the giant bull who had been chewing his cud contentedly when I came into view, lumbered to his feet as if he felt that if the girls were going to get all worked up, perhaps he should DO SOMETHING. What something he might have done I don’t know, but I didn’t put much faith in the single strand of electric wire separating us and was happy to scuttle out of sight beyond the hedgerow at the end of their pasture.
As I walked, I began to think about all the love and laughter that Tristan gave us, and I began to compile a list of things that he taught me during the years he was my faithful companion. Here, in no particular order, is my list.
- Smile a lot. Corgis are very smiley dogs. People couldn’t help but smile back at Tristan when we were out walking.
- Naps are good.
- If you like to eat, eat with gusto. Women, especially, tend to feel guilty if we have a healthy appetite. Eat your food and enjoy it. Food is one of life’s great pleasures, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Take lots of walks, especially if point #3 applies to you (as it does me).
- All rodents are evil, even those with fluffy tails.
- When someone you love is sick, spend time quietly sitting beside them. Conversation is not necessary. Just be there, oozing love from your pores.
- When you’re happy, show it – race around, hop up and down, shout it to the world – whatever. Don’t waste years of your life worrying what people might think of you if you act a little silly from time to time.
- Do some stretching exercises every day.
- Stay curious.
- Spend as much time enjoying your garden as you do pulling the weeds.
- Have at least one really nice outfit to wear for a special occasion.
- Be a good listener.
I look back on more than a decade of memories with my sweet, valiant little Tristan with a heart overflowing with gratitude for the time we had. Dogs’ lives are all too short, but they make our brief time together sparkle.
Mr. H and I are already talking about the day in the near future when we hope to add a new dog to our household. I made the rash decision of telling Mr. H that since he’s never had a dog of his very own before that perhaps he should get to name the next one. Thankfully I did add a veto clause to that suggestion, because it turns out that we both have very different ideas about what our future dog should be called. He greets my suggestions with snorts of scorn, and I look at him like he’s lost his mind over some of his ideas. We have settled on a girl name we both like, but oh, if it’s a boy!
Whatever we end up with, and whatever we call it, there will never be another Tristan. He will forever hold a special place in my heart. He was a part of my transition to this new life, padding boldly and confidently beside me through my years of adjustment, sharing my laughter and my tears.
Good bye, dear old friend. You are missed.