If my Tryst had a theme this year it was walls.
You see, we left several elderly dogs and one sick dog in the care of our dear friend Mystique so we could go to camp.
Hank had been going slowly down with congestive heart failure, and I was waiting for him to tell me that it was time for him to go, to move on. But he hadn't. I've owned dogs for a lot of years and they always tell you when it is time. I petted him on the head and looked into his honest brown eyes before we left. I said goodbye but I didn't realize it would be the last goodbye. I put up the first wall right then, resolving not to worry about Hank, or Cinder, or the other dogs we had left at home and how they were getting on. I had faith that Mystique could handle it, whatever happened.
Thursday Hank took his turn for the worse, and Mystique called Master at camp. They made the arrangements for him to be put to sleep at the emergency clinic. Do you know how precious it is to have a friend that will do such a painful thing for you with so much love? I didn't until now.
Master didn't tell me anything about this phone call. They thought it would ruin my camp and I could find out after it was all done and we were heading home.
I know Master almost as well as I know myself though, and I knew something was off. I worried that it was me throwing our energy off, or that he didn't like being at Tryst for some reason. When I asked what was wrong he assured me it wasn't anything I had done, and that was the end of discussion.
That was another wall.
Friday night we walked the labyrinth, a maze of glowing candles, quietly and peacefully. I prayed at the center. We looked at the stars. On the way back to the tent he told me about Hank. A wall came down. We cried. I felt horrible guilt at not having had the strength to have done this myself, not to have made the decision before we left that we all knew was coming. I felt horrible to have put that burden on Mystique. But you just don't know what will happen. Maybe he would have been fine for another week and the kids would have been able to say goodbye to him properly.
We went back to the tent, I cried some more. We had sex. When I orgasmed I cried some more. It was comfort sex. I'm sure that is a thing, right?
Afterward we fell asleep in each other's arms.
In the morning I put the wall back up again. I literally told myself that I would deal with my grief later. But now the wall between Master and I was gone, so every time I caught a sad feeling from him I knew what it was and I didn't try to attribute it to something I had done or not done. Life made sense again with that wall down.
I thought I would cry at the burn, with a wish about Hank on the tree, but I didn't. I held a good friend as she cried, and still I had this wall around my heart. It was necessary. I couldn't feel just yet. I thought I would cry at closing ceremonies, as I have in the past two years. But my wall stayed up. It was necessary. I didn't cry and that was ok too.
On the way home we talked about our happy memories. At home we unpacked everything and put it away.
Then we dug a hole together, 3 feet by 3 feet by two feet. Big enough somehow to bury the dog with the biggest heart on the planet. I thought about he time Hank came in from working cows with a perfect cowhoof shaped print of mud covering his eye and yet he never quit his work or complained about his injury. How could that heart, that passion, fit in this hole? All the walls came down and I cried during the digging. I welcomed the small blister from the rough shovel handle. We talked some more while we drove to the clinic to pick up Hank's body.
Another time was on my mind, the time when we were running in a ranch trial and he had to stop a herd of stampeding cattle without any help from me because I was over a hill, and some of the spectators had to tell me afterward what an amazing job he did. One sixty pound dog against 10 cows weighing upwards of 800 lbs each? That is a huge heart. That was the time a farmer, the owner of those cows, tried to trade me a whole fat butchered Angus steer for Hank. I said no, of course. This was my friend, my partner.
I thought of all the times he had laid his head on my knee and given his heart to me, practically every day. There is no end to a dog's devotion.
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