A year makes a great big difference. I no longer get a lump in my throat each time I look at the corner of our kitchen where the water dish used to live. I don't tear up when I look at the spot on the living room rug where her bed used to be. One of her beds. We knew that she preferred the couch, but mostly she respected this line of demarcation. Until we left the house and she was free to plop herself down wherever she pleased. For a while she took to the lofty climes of our bed, where the ravages of time and her aging bladder took its toll on all of us. We became somewhat immune to the not-so-faint odor of doggie incontinence.
But I digress. I don't miss her for that. Nor do I miss her for the fistfuls of white fur that covered most horizontal surfaces in our home. Had we chosen to, we probably could have constructed an entirely new pet from the genetic material we collected after she was gone.
Gone. It's not a happy word. Maddie has been gone for a year now, and it has become easier to leave the house, but I confess that coming home is still a chore. I still desperately miss the greeting that awaited me each time I opened the door. Head slightly down to accept the scratches she enjoyed behind her ears, back end wagging. This was her way of showing love and deference to the leader of the pack. At my house, I don't always enjoy this distinction, but I could with her. She recognized me as the bringer of food, the scratcher of bellies, the guy who would take her out for a run around the block. I was also the guy who would have his patience tested by those same walks around the block, the ones that were off leash. When we left the gate open, she would go out into the neighborhood looking for somebody's trash to sniff and roll around in. When I went after her, she would run ahead a few yards, then look back to see if I was chasing. Most of the time she stuck to the same route: the one that went around the block. Time and time again, I played this game that always ended with her running back into the front yard, as if that was where she had been the whole time. Because that was essentially what she was doing. Her idea of her front yard was just a little different than mine. Her front yard stretched out to wherever the scents of whatever horrible thing she might find to ingest or froth about in. But she always came home.
Over the past several months, I have had to become used to leaving the front gate open. My son has a car now, and his arrivals and departures are far more frequent than Maddie's used to be. He can come and go, where Maddie used to have to wait for specific permission. Or someone who failed to latch the gate properly. Now she's gone. I can't say that she's gone for good, since there's really not much about her being gone that is.