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Barking at Squirrels

He died a day ago. There is a sand-fire up North. White flakes of ash fall from the sky like snow. And yet, this is not what alarms me. I stare at our yard. For almost 12 years, Bowie would appear, from the brush, often with a fully blackened snout from digging in fresh fluffy soil, from fitting his favorite stuffed animals for their graves or burying bones that were just too good to be enjoyed all at once.

The next day, at 10am on the dot, I open his doggy door, as that was usually when he was due for a pee. I look out at our yard again. He is still not there, of course. It is windy now, the leaves are starting to fall, and pine needles are raining down like daggers. He would hate this. He used to bark at everything, even the wind. We thought it was something he would outgrow. He never did.

In his absence, the squirrels have become bolder. They dig in the grass, they eat the apples from the apple tree. They get way too close to our house, practically touching our back french doors. I will sprinkle the dog’s ashes all over the yard in hopes the squirrels will smell him and show some damn respect. One day, I bark at them, emulating Bowie’s howling beagle arooo. The squirrels just look at me, confused. So I run at them while howling. It works. For a moment, I am proud. I’m continuing to fight the good fight.

“I’ve been barking at squirrels,” I confess to my husband a few nights later. I feel someone needs to know this information, as I am starting to worry about myself. (Though I’m equal parts terrified he will have me committed.)

“I get it,” my husband says, surprising me. “I still open a can of dog food every morning. Habit, I guess.” Then he starts to cry, resting his head on the pillow between us that the dog claimed over a decade ago in his Oedipal battle for my love.

I don’t tell him that I also sit perched on Bo’s downstairs dog bed waiting for the takeout guy to show up with food. Or that I stalked a raccoon near our garbage cans yesterday. And I chased the mailwoman (because she forgot to pick up my letters for mailing).

Is it possible that in all of my grief, I am becoming a dog? Or have I always been one, deep down? Trans-Species: is that a thing?

I took our daughters to a combination pumpkin patch/ petting zoo yesterday. As they fed chickens, I knelt down and pressed my nose against a goat’s nose and pet the blaze of fur between its eyes, the way I used to with Bo. If I had closed my eyes, it would have felt just like him. But I didn’t, as I quickly became aware of how this looked, a woman paying no attention to her human children running around, instead sitting forehead to forehead with a goat. Eventually my kids came over and pet the goat. Before leaving the parking lot, I texted my husband: “our next dog might be a goat.”

Bo’s favorite delivery man came today, with a package for us and two crunchy bones that he always gave to Bo. I explained to him that our dog was gone, had died, and then I watched as this big burly man’s face crumpled into tears. “It’s okay,” I said feebly, while looking away. He still handed me the bones.

Time heals all wounds, the other humans in my life have been saying. I hope that’s true. For now, I’ll bury his bones in the yard and keep barking at squirrels.

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Image courtesy Carrie Friedman

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