Remembering our dog Sasha
Posted on 27 May 2013, 4:50
She and I walked every weekday in the big spaces of Gunnersbury Park.
Late spring mornings, warm enough to tempt her into the pond for a swim. Lazy summer evenings, when she kept a sharp lookout for abandoned picnics on the grass. Gloomy ends of day in autumn when we walked the paths alone with mist filling the hollows. Winter days when she wore a flashing collar for the dark.
Her habitual sin was hanging back. She hung back in her endless quest for food. She was one-third Labrador, you see, even though she looked like a large fox.
She hung back so much, I spent half my time looking over my shoulder to check she wasn’t so far back that I couldn’t see her.
And generally there she would be, 100 metres distant at the least, her nose to the ground like a Hoover, her ears pricked forward, her splendid, bushy tail held high and proud as she brisked back and forth over the grass on a very promising scent.
But there could be the most amazing reward for all this looking back. If you called her name and threw your arms wide and held that scarecrow pose, she would break off her hunt, tuck her legs under her body and fly towards you like nothing else in the world mattered.
It was her sprint of joy.
Because as she closed the distance between her and you, there was intentness and joy in her face and eyes and in the way her shoulders and bottom bounded up and down. I always squatted down to her height, arms still thrown out, as she made her final approach, and then she’d fly past me, or run alongside if I pretended to flee from her.
She made me feel in those moments the physical exhilaration of being alive. I loved that shared creatureliness, where she was so much more than me.
Back home, she wasn’t much of a one for physical contact. She was reserved and liked her own space. But she allowed us to stroke and fuss over her.
She nibbled her front claws so loudly sometimes you could hardly hear the TV. Lying in the dark in the middle of the night, hearing her deep breathing or snoring, in her bed next to ours, was comforting.
Her ears were long and silky and sometimes went inside out. But we taught her to shake her head when we said, ‘Your ears are inside out.’
Roey took her to training classes when she was a young pup in the late 90s, and then to dog agility classes, and found she loved learning. Somewhere I have a list of 60 words and phrases we collected which she understood. I’m sure this isn’t unusual for intelligent dogs, but it’s just part of our story with her.
After she died, a year today, I carried on walking the park. Those first walks were hard. I walked looking back for her. Through the long avenues of trees, where I had so often glimpsed her in the green distance as she unhurriedly caught me up, she failed to appear.
I watched for her to amble from behind a tree trunk, late as usual, but she just didn’t.
I cried for her a great deal. I knew I would cry, but I didn’t know how much. I didn’t know how much it would hurt.
Somehow, in our lovely dog who was strong, fast and beautiful, but also vulnerable and uncomprehending of this world, in need of our love and protection, my griefs and sorrows were gathered up together.
I will always remember her, look back for her, throw my arms wide for her.