There were three dogs in my life that meant a lot to me, and two had the same name (“Mac”; the other was “Crackers“). Two were from my childhood, the third, adulthood.
I lost the first “Mac” to a little sports car out in the country (where we lived) driven by a guy with his girl. He’d come around the bend and didn’t see Mac as he crossed the road. Mac–I swear to you–looked both ways just before he was slammed into. Out comes the little sports car. Next thing I know, Mac’s lying in a small puddle of his own blood in the middle of the road. Mac was a Black Lab and he’d accompanied my young teenage self on my bike to the Post Office, a short jaunt down the way. We were returning home. We’d buried him “up back,” and I put his favorite and well-chewed tree branch across his grave, in homage.
I don’t know exactly when it’d happened, but sometime later, at the top of the stairs in our house, I don’t know what I’d been doing, but I turned around and looked to the head of the stairs…and saw the butt and wagging tail of a Black Lab heading downstairs.
We hadn’t had another dog at that point.
I rushed to the head of the stairs…only to be met by empty steps.
In 2003, our 11-year-old Black Lab, Mac, died of bone cancer. He was my “Little Buddy,” and we did everything together. When I wrote, he sat at my feet. When I paced working on or reading my manuscripts out loud–he was there, eyeing me always with his big brown, caring, eyes. When I worked in the backyard, he followed me everywhere. Walked behind me when I mowed or sat and made sure I never missed a spot. Went with us on all our hikes.
When he died…I felt his spirit depart. Just as real as if I’d been hit. Or someone leaning on me had left. It was stark, jarring.
I didn’t think I’d cry–I was prepared, understood death as best as I could from my point of view–but I burst out in tears. Uncontrollably. Never saw it coming.
High Summer of 2006, I was out in the backyard, sweeping grass clippings off a sidewalk alongside a window. It was a bright, sunny day. As I worked past the window…in the window…was the reflection of a Black Lab following me.
I whipped around.
I rushed back to the window to verify what I’d seen–the reflection of a dog behind me, or maybe just me and my broom at some weird angle–and held the broom back to where I’d had it, moving it back and forth where I’d had it…but no reflection behind me did it yield.
I was extremely surprised to see a dog behind me, because we no longer had a dog, and there were no dogs that size (at the time) around us.
I looked back to the window.
I smiled and continued on.