All Saints, All Souls, Old Dogs

originally appeared on One Minnesota Writer, November 3, 2021

As I write this, the remaining leaves on our backyard birch are bright gold against a gray November sky. The maple tree in the yard behind us offers contrasting red leaves still clinging in spite of the wind. Our resident sleek black squirrel just buried something beneath the old spruce and the contrasting snow white squirrel that we think is a sibling is scampering around in the front yard. A huge blue jay landed atop the privacy fence on our deck, peeked in the patio doors, flew away with a raucous squawk.

All this late fall activity belies the quiet ahead. The looming snow. The colder air. The naked trees. I embrace this time of the year, the breath between Halloween and Thanksgiving, the winding down of everything before the frenzy of the holidays. When we set our clocks back to standard time this weekend, I’ll welcome the earlier dark, the settling in.

Truffles the Doxie

I’ve been thinking a lot about those who have gone before us. My parents. Mick’s parents. Friends. In that mood, I found myself talking to our vet yesterday, making arrangements for our old mini dachshund Truffles. We are going to say goodbye to her this week, her small body now frail and shaky, her ability to take a walk down the block with us gone. She has to be carried up and down stairs, no longer hears anything, and sometimes stands in one spot staring at nothing. She got lost beneath our bed on Sunday morning, waking me when she knocked her head against the bed frame. Mick and I have known her time was short for a while, discussed when to let her go for weeks. Maybe months. It feels like forever. And yet it seems like we just brought her puppy-self home. But that was almost 15 years ago. She has had a long and good life with us. We have seen what loyalty – fierce loyalty – looks like. This tenacious little dog has taught us a thing or two.

This feels like the right time to say goodbye. A few last snuggles before the snow sets in and Truffles’ paws feel that iciness. A few last treats while she can still find them. And then a sweet, soft sleep before she suffers anymore from those stiff back legs we’ve noticed.

When we come home to our now-quieter house at the end of the week, I’m not sure how long it will be before we adjust. It might seem a bit vacant, a bit lacking. Mick and I have decided Truffles is our last dog, that it’s time to be okay with just taking care of ourselves. We’ve shared our marriage with three dogs and two kids. This will be the first time it’ll just be us.

That sounds about right. It’s time.

all photos by kcmickelson 2021