I lie on the deck with Murdoch, our bodies sprawled out together on the worn wood, my arm draped across his side, fingers playing with the silky soft fur on his chest. I push my nose into the back of his head and breath deeply, inhale his smell.
It is early Sunday morning; the bugs are just starting to wake up beneath the bright overcast sky, only one or two blackfly tick against my skin. In another hour there will be a swarm, a barrage, they will bounce off my face in a frenzy, try to fly into my eyes, up my nose, they will form a haze around Murdoch. So we choose our moments, like now, to just be outdoors together, as we have spent every day over the past nine years.
Our time is limited. We found out mid-week about the bone cancer, the reason his leg has been so sore, the reason he’s gone off his food. It’s not his cruciate ligament after all. I had wondered why it wasn’t getting better, why his leg seemed to be getting skinnier, bonier. Perhaps it was never even his tooth that we thought was causing him to struggle through mealtimes, the one we had removed, and then the other tooth too.
Morgan called me at work. My new job that kept me from being there when the vet did full-body x-rays and told Morgan what was going on. I stood in the stairwell, concrete and cinderblock, as the icy sliver ‘bone cancer’ took its first stab at my heart, and I locked it away in there, the weight of it, as I finished my day, my week.
There is a crush of time, a desperate clinging to the hours of each day. We feed Murdoch whatever he will eat, one piece at a time held in hand beneath his nose, pork, ham, kibble, muffin. We walk in the woods, go for car rides. He sparks up, he is there, excited, engaged, and then he is exhausted. There is pain medication, and that is all we can do.
We feel cheated. It is too sudden, this news. My heart cannot catch up to my brain and my brain does not believe any of it. So I breathe in his smell, kiss his face, stroke his silky ears.
Saturday night he lay on the deck with his head against my leg. A warm wind ebbed and flowed through the trees, their dark shapes swaying against the last blue ribbons of light leaving the sky to the west. The quiet roar of wind, like water rushing in to shore, mingled with spring frogs and their cheerful peeping voices, the sound of life and time filling the forest; a forest in which Murdoch is intrinsically entwined, and I along with him.
I sat in the dark with my beautiful boy and my heart aching desperately and we listened, and breathed, and I just held on to him.