When I look at you
I see a soft blue-gray haze,
Like the one that hovers over the Great Smoky Mountains,
In the place where your eyes used to be.

You lift your chin
In the way you used to do,
Sensing my presence with your canine radar.
But your imaginary gaze
Misses the mark of my face by a few degrees.
I call your name.
“Jake!” “Come, Jake, come!”
“Come on, Jakey!”
“Come to Mummy!”
Your head cocks left then right
Then left again.
Do you hear something, anything?
Or do your paws pick up the vibrations
Of my vocal cords
Leaving you wondering where the sound went.

If I shout loud enough
And with a high enough pitch
The spark of recognition puts a spring in your step
And you come running.
So I keep up the sound in a steady beat,
A vocal beacon for you to follow
Into my waiting arms.

We never had to teach you
How to catch the treats we tossed in the air.
That was all you!
You’d pass every test –
Higher, further, even a false start to throw off your timing.
But now the bone-shaped kibbles
land on your head or back
Then bounce to the floor
As your clouded eyes search in vain.

Even your nose is failing you,
Unable to detect the scattered pieces.
So we hold them just below your nostrils
And touch them to your waiting mouth
As it opens so eagerly to receive this gift.

We watch as you approach the nearest sofa or chair,
Always wanting to be as close to us as possible.
Your chin feels for the height
As your muscles calculate the effort needed.
“You can do it, Jake,” we say encouragingly.
Then wonder if we are tempting you to your doom.
But we don’t want you to give up
Any more than we want to give up on you.
Today, your old bones meet the challenge
But who knows what tomorrow brings.

Others may make the same claim
But you ARE the best dog in the world;
Sensing our tears before they reach our eyes
And comforting us with a rested chin
Or the slow persistent stroke of your paw,
Letting us smother our grief
In the curls of your soft black fur.

You have been there
For all the losses that have come our way
Giving and receiving love
When we needed it most.

We will be there for you
For whatever time you have left.
But who will be our comfort
When the loss we grieve is yours?

– Debra Rose Brillati

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