Saturday, 24 June 2017

Last of the St Bernards: Rug says goodbye

Sacré bleu and, as they say in this neck of la fôret, I’m tired. Je suis fatigué. Très, très, fatigué, and even the grandiose annoyances of the Attention Deficit Disorder Dog, Le Petit Dexter, have seemed increasingly irrelevant to me, moi and I.

I know it is a long time since we spoke, conversed on the existential nature of the universe, or the universal nature of existence, or the superior quality of caffeinated sheepdog food as compared to tinned, but the truth is, I do little else but sleep these days, and deeply. More and more deeply. I dream of Chinese food (in a previous life, I became addicted to monosodium glutamate, and its presence even now leaves me quivering with an inner ecstasy) mountains, and snow, and buried things. Buried things I dig to find, dig and dig and somehow never quite excavate, although the pleasure is in the digging. Almost as pleasurable as thoughts of Char Siu Pork Chow Mein, or drinking from a just-melted lake of soy sauce.

Sleepily, I noticed, dimly through my now-misty vision, the Large Male Two-Leg doing some digging this morning, after he had half-lifted, half-dragged me outside for my groggy ablutions. My back legs do not work now, or not more than occasionally in the presence of a Red Dragon takeaway, and so I must undergo the terrible embarrassment of being laid on my side on the grass...but enough. Tiens! At least it doesn’t hurt. Or not much, and not often.

I am old. Very, very old for a St Bernard mastiff, doyenne of Alpine rescues and leg-leaning to the consternation of strangers. I have recently given up drinking, or rather drinking - of water, nothing stronger - has given up on me. Failing kidneys, I suspect. I hear the Female Inhabitant, who has some dubious medical qualification, muttering, but my hearing is poor.

What was he digging, the human? Why not leave it to creatures more suited for such a task? He seemed sad. Ah, here is The Annoying Dog, quiet for once, and licking my rheumy eyes. I can still smell, my nose, battered and cracked as it is, capable of detecting any Sweet and Sour Chicken or Crispy Duck in the vicinity. But there is another aroma, too, and it gets stronger every day. I fear it is coming from the direction of...well. Moi-même.

I remember things. My many, temporary owners. The island I was on, teased by sheepdogs, nipped and shouted at, banished to a dark and stinking barn. Another home, where I was caged all day and night, filthy and unbrushed. I still love being brushed, though so much of my hair is left on the floor nowadays, great drifts of it, like snow. Snow. Ah, the snow of my rescuing forefathers, la neige, the snow I need to dig, dig, dig through. But looking for...what?

The kennels, the cold, the damp, the comfort of licking my paws until they bled. The breeder who took me in, the lost puppies, the bewildering harassment of 10 or 20 other dogs. Operations, the vet, trying to be gentle throughout it all. No nipping. Little barking. Dignity is all. And finally, for the past five, six years, this place. A place to sleep. To rest. If it wasn’t for That Very Annoying Dog. Still. I do like the way he licks my eyes clean of salt.

I sleep again. Running, running through a meadow, snow-capped peaks in the distance. Everything is clear. I can see, I smell only the sweetness of flowers, hear the joyous barking of my mother as she races me. Up, up to the snowline, where we begin to dig.

It’s no good. I can’t get up. Brushing. I’m being brushed. A hand is tickling my ears. I smell something, beyond the oily rot I know is, sadly, myself. Something clean and veterinary. Jim. Is that Jim? One hand is scratching my head, and there’s a tiny pain. Then I’m drifting away, falling deep into the kind of snow you only get in spring, deep, deep down. And I’m digging again, great pawfuls of it now, cool and firm and powdery, until at last I find what I was looking for. 

Et voilà. Here it is. Here it is at last.

Here you are.