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THE MORNING walk was just like any other in the cookie cutter subdivision with look-alike black mailboxes. I got Prince, the Schnauzer, on the leash first, but when I cracked the gate open an inch, the Spaniel King went between my legs and took off at break-neck speed across the street and into the neighbour’s yard to smell his own urine scent from the day before and to mark it again.
As Prince and I walked alongside the curb, Spaniel darted from one side of the road to another, and I never heard the Ford F-150. I called out to him, but he seemed on a mission. The truck stopped and the two teens on their way to school were visibly shaken and I reassured. Neighbours came out to share their own story of their pets who’d died and brought a black garbage back in which to wrap King. There was no blood, and his hair parted where the fender hit his head like mine looks when I wake up in the morning. I walked Prince home, told my wife and two teens their childhood pet was no more, and my son went with me to collect him for burial in the back yard.
King had been a digger and holes were all over the backyard. Shovelling the dirt back into the holes weekly helped me to keep in shape the last ten years, though I didn’t appreciate the holes. I’d only fallen once when the hole was in a new location and I hadn’t noticed when trying to trim hedges and spray weeds. Unfortunately, I had just filled in the holes the day before and would have to dig another one. King also loved catching birds, killing them, and then laying them at the backdoor for me to dispose. We weren’t hunters and I felt bad for having chosen such a pet for my kids.
I drove back to the house with my son to bury King wrapped in old sheet shroud, and on our way back through the subdivision, lightening streaked, clouds formed, and a light rain fell. I grabbed the shovel, felt it was ironic that I had to dig a hole for King in the rain after I’d just filled in all the holes. We cut a slit in the bag so the air would escape into the ground. We dropped him in and I began to cover the bag with dirt. My teens cried off and on most of the day and didn’t communicate with me.
The next morning before sunrise, I made coffee, and thought I heard a noise outside. I turned on the porch light. To my horror, King was at the back door. He must have been knocked unconscious and near death, but not completely dead. He’d managed to escape the bag and push the dirt off himself enough to crawl to the back door, where he died, his head swollen and a small puddle of blood on the stoop. I knew I would have nightmares, but thoughts of nightmares for my teens provoked me to finish one cup, go to the garage, get the shovel and rebury King.