You would have loved this day. It smells delicious, and it's sunny but not so hot that you would be panting helplessly on the dining room linoleum. Yesterday's thunderstorms mean mud puddles and streams in the woods, and you would have splashed and lapped and laid down in the cool dirty water without regard to how it would make you smell. You knew how to savor the sensations of a day like this.
The grass has grown over your grave and the rosebush is blooming and dropping petals down on you. Standing back there you can hear a buzz of invisible bees, quivering somewhere inside the flowers.
I miss you every day. That's what I want to tell you. When I mow the lawn over your grave I remember digging it, and laying you in there, stiffened and wrapped in a blanket. I remember seeing you dead at the vet clinic, patting you and talking to you and crying. I remember seeing you alive at the clinic, all ripped up, tired and bleeding but wagging weakly at me, giving me a little lick. If were given magic powers and I could do anything this is what I would do: I would go back in time to that hour when you slipped out of the yard to go for that fatal ramble, and I would keep you right beside me. I wouldn't look away. If, somehow, I wasn't allowed to do that I would go back in time to when I was patting you and you were still alive and the vet was telling me you were stable and would recover from the attack. I would stay there, with you, all day long, patting you and talking to you and cleaning the blood off of you gently with a cool wet washcloth. Maybe if I had stayed things would have been different.
But you're gone and I miss you every day. I have another dog now. Her name is Lila and she makes me smile and she's pretty different from you. (She doesn't like to swim, and she's fixated on cats.) She reminds me of you as a pup, in some ways, and it's been nice to re-live the memories of getting to know you as a young dog. You were shy, once. You were afraid of stairs, for months. You were disobedient and willful and full of energy. You mellowed out over the years and the way I remember you is calm and loving and confident and sweet, a being who saw everyone as a friend, equally willing to go explore or to lie in a patch of sun and dream. But you were young and full of juice, once. You weren't sure who you liked and who you didn't like. You weren't sure what was edible and what wasn't.
I've learned something about love from this. I haven't stopped loving you, but I am falling in love with Lila. There's comfort in taking care of her. That's what I've learned, although I'm not sure how to say it. There are two parts to love. There's the devotion you have to who you love. And then there's the action, the doing, the daily practice of thinking about someone else as you go about your day, the feeling you get from expressing your love and bringing happiness to someone else. Those are different things. I lost you and yet I am still devoted to you. I still remember the musky sweet soft way your ears smelled and how you liked to lick my legs after I put moisturizer on them and how you preferred to get into the car on the driver's side, not the passenger side. Maybe someday I will be as devoted to Lila as I am to you. I hope so -- she deserves it, and she will do anything to earn a steady, playful love. But I'm not there yet. It seems like it will take a long time. You can't just replace devotion. But the other thing: the part of love that is about how I act, how I take care of someone else, well, I can do that even without you. And it's good for me. I need it; it makes me a better person. I don't want you to think that you've been replaced. But being kind to a grateful dog feels so good. It's the part of my love for you that I can replace.
I miss you,