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Friday, March 9, 2012

Saylor April Song


I just realized something as I was doing a routine task at work today—45 days from today is Saylor’s birthday. She is Saylor April Song, remember? Her birthday was April 23, and she would’ve been nine years old. My vision started to blur as I tried to concentrate on the revision letter to an author I was working on. My grief is obdurate—it had been hibernating these past weeks as I concentrated on Singer—but now it was insisting that I acknowledge its presence.

Saylor had so many health challenges, it’s easy to dismiss her life as the sum of her last illness. But she was so much more. Like people who face health challenges, she was very persistent in just keeping to her routines. And her most important routine, I deeply understood, was me.

What does that mean? She waited for me to come home, as all dogs do. And she slept by my bed, as Singer does now. But Saylor’s top, top priority was always her people. And she held everyone in her sweet mind’s eye as someone to sniff and appreciate, and perhaps wag a tail for. Her “smile” as my neighbor used to say, was huge.  I called her the sweetest dog this side of heaven for good reason.

I knew my grief was urgently knocking on my door when I got irritated with Jeff the other day for calling Singer  “Saylor” once again. “You call her Saylor more than Singer!” Alliteration aside, it’s easy to do. But Saylor is different, and I don’t ever want to mix the two dogs up.

Saylor came to us as a baby, she was a warm, soft puppy of nine weeks, still smelling of mother’s milk. She was the most playful of the litter, always ready to jump up and hop on her toys. Her mouth was always soft. She grew taller and thinner, her coat was glossy and long in her youth. Then her health started to deteriorate and she became more insistent. I felt frustrated right along with her because I couldn’t quite make things right for her. But she forgave me, and settled in.

In the last few years, Saylor had a habit of groaning as she would lie down. Now I surmise it was her hips that were bothering her. At the time, I thought it was a cute expression of her personality, starting to deal with an aging body. My grief flares at the thought of missing yet another sign.

In the basement are old remedies I bought through the years—glucosamine (she grew intolerant of it), vitamins for dogs, coat conditioners (same thing, couldn’t tolerate it), anxiety relief, natural pheronomes…I threw them all away recently. But they mark my efforts, they are tangible reminders that I did try hard for my girl. I did love her so. I still do.

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