He is following me around the house like a lumbering, elderly wolf. It is as if he knows. The last time we did this was a year and a half ago, but perhaps he remembers. Back then, he could still jump into the back of the van, and he did so willingly. It usually meant we were going to the lake, to walk the three miles around its perimeter. Now he can barely do a fifteen minute walk, his arthritis makes his legs weak and wobbly. Still, he demands his walks each day, “woo-woo”-ing in the way Malamutes talk, for they do not have a bark. Yet he makes sure he gets input on the important things like meals and walks.
As I bend awkwardly to go into the short crawl space where all my boxes still linger – it will feel a little like Christmas when I open them all, for I have forgotten their contents – Louix watches me. He stops short of following me in. I have a flashback of the day we tucked all the boxes away: my brother-in-law sitting on the concrete floor, talking on his cell phone as he maneuvered boxes into the space. I wonder if my old dog has his own memories of that time, as he got used to a new climate, a new pack, and his mama running off to Spain to have adventures while he stayed in Colorado, waiting, aging.
He’s been a good old dog. After the death of Gump, a mere pup of seven months who was hit by a car, I longed for a replacement. Cloaked in guilt (why didn’t we fix the fence in time?) I wanted to give a good home to a deserving furry friend. My (ex) husband had pulled Louix out from under his coat with one hand that day, he was so small. Weaned a little young, he was a tiny beautiful ball of fur, the black Malamute mask accenting one blue eye, the other brown. Gump had been a tiger-striped cuddler, sleeping with his doggy arms around me. Louix was more aloof. But he was kind and gentle. He tolerated the embraces of dozens of day care children in his yard; they picked him up and went down the slide with him. Later, he helped raise my daughter’s puppy. They had the same eyes, but different temperaments. He became Uncle Louix, stern and intolerant of puppy nonsense. Sometimes our biggest heroes are the quiet, steady ones.
As I prepare for the move to a new house, I can’t tell what he’s thinking. I’ve never been able to tell if the quiet old guy is a smart dog. He keeps it to himself. But, doggedly, he is following me to the shed, to the car, back to the crawl space, back to the car. He doesn’t seem nervous. It’s as if he’s merely supervising or at least keeping me company.
He’s not accompanying me in this move. He’s bonded with my dad, another wise and quiet old guy. My mother has taken over his care and feeding, and graciously wants to keep him here to retire, insistent that I don’t have the time to do it right. And she’s correct. I’ll move into my house, be joined by my daughter and the pup Louix helped raise, hang my Spain mementos on the wall with a wistful sigh and go off to work, to yoga, to live my life.
But my other family, my parents and their pack of old hounds, will be five minutes away, and I’ll be keeping an eye on them. And so will Louix, a sweet quiet enduring friend.