He lies at my feet, muzzle more grey than black, the once glossy coat dulled by age. Turning a page my eyes, temporarily cast adrift, fetch up on the irregular rise and fall of his chest, the tremble and flick of his feet. He’s hunting.
He lopes across a beach, chasing racehorses through shallow surf, catching rabbits, cornering a stag. His eyes are half-open: I can see the blood red rim of his inner eyelid, but not the darting eye rolled up into his head. His lip curls in a silent snarl, and a barely audible bark escapes. A soft “Good boy!” raises a silky ear. He calms.
Effortless and graceful only in sleep, and my memory, awake he can hardly stand; even his stretches are laboured, flexibility gone from his still muscular frame.
At our first meeting he was different. Alone in a barren pen, his huge noble head perched on an emaciated body. Sad-eyed, cold, afraid, imprisoned; his gentle nature corrupted by beatings. There was just something else there, in his eyes alert willingness. “Me. Choose me.”
We are alike: beaten into submission, rescued by love, growing old unwillingly, but the vet can only put one of us down.
For Clyde (1995 – 2009)