The wind caresses my face, lifting my ears as I watch the world wiz by through my watering brown eyes. It is moments like this that I live for and the jingle of the car keys that would make my heart skip a beat, but not today.
In my younger days I would dash through the little swinging door out to the garage, and I would wait, my little tail wagging with glee. I’d paw at the door handle of Master’s Navara, letting out a little whimper and then I’d growl and snap at it in frustration when it didn’t open. When I was lucky enough to join Master for a drive, I’d proudly prop myself up in the passenger seat beside him unless Mistress joined us, just like a human, but not today. Just as when Mistress came with us, I would have to sit in the back. Is she coming too? Where are we going?
Sometimes Master would give me an apologetic look as he finally unlocked his door. ‘Not today, Mate,’ he’d say, pushing me away, as I attempt to push past him into the driver’s seat.
Today I am in a blanket is laid out for me on the back seat, just in case… well you know. I am on a journey, but I don’t know where I am going. I am Bruiser. I am loyal. I am love in it’s purest form. I am no longer young. I am weak, sore and very tired, but I am happy.
Usually we go driving to the park or the beach, or to the footy to watch the kids play, but not today.
In the early days, when I was a young rescue pup, just getting to know Master and my place in my new home, I went everywhere in the car with Master, even to work with Master. They called me his little offsider.
When Mistress came into our family, my job was to look after her, while she was home. Despite wanting nothing more than to ride with Master on another of our adventures, I felt a sense of duty to Master. I took pride in knowing that with me around, Mistress was always safe. I’d stand on guard in the yard at 1pm every day, just waiting for the high pitched whine of the Postie’s bike. My ears would stand on end, tingling, when I heard the faintest sound, and I’d growl in anticipation at the first glimpse of his figure in the distance. This was my moment to shine and do my humans proud. As the roar got louder and the Postie’s figure came closer to my end of the street, I would let out the fiercest bark, growling my warning to him with absolute conviction. Then I’d run along beside him, with only the fence separating us, taking a flying leap at the other end of the yard, but never quite high enough to clear it. Disappointed, I would sit, giving a little whine in frustration and watch the Postie’s bike roar on as he disappeared from sight. I had failed. Tomorrow I would try again. I’d let out a warning pee on the post of the mailbox to mark my territory in preparation of the next day’s battle.
When baby Master Jr. first started to walk he would join me in those daily squabbles with the Postie, I would let him run beside me along the fence, always mindful that he is small and careful not to knock him over and he would shout along with me at the Postie. “Grrr!!! Mr Postman!!!” he’d growl in his meanest voice (I taught him well). Then I’d watch him try with all his might to climb the fence. Of course I’d nudge him with my snout, if he climbed too high, for it was my job to keep him (and later, baby Mistress Jr.) safe.
Mistress would call us both back, rousing on me for my ‘nuisance’ barking. She never really understood, or she might have one day thanked me or call me ‘Good boy’. Never the less, thanks or no thanks I would continue to do my job, but not today.
Sometimes when Mistress would tell Master about my battles with the Postie, he’d pat my head and give me a scratch behind the ears. He didn’t say it but I knew what those ear scratches meant. Then he’d jingle the keys and I knew I would be rewarded with a car ride. Excited, I would leap into the passenger seat and paw at the window until Master wound it down for me to poke my head out to catch the wind.
Those moments when we took to the highway were pure bliss. Even today, resting on my shaky legs in the backseat I still enjoy the sweet smells carried on the wind, tickling my nostrils making them twitch. As we drove through town, I could smell the steaks cooking in one of the restaurants and I savoured the scent, remembering the many BBQs that Master would host, and how I’d watch him full of hope, waiting for him to throw a steak my way. “Wait,” he’d say sternly and patiently I’d sit, with my eyes glued to the BBQ, watching him move each sizzling steak off the plate onto a dish. Then he’d hold the last one in front of my eyes. “Gentle,” he’d say, just as I’m about to chomp into it. I’d pause, to think about what I am doing, for I never wanted to accidentally bite and hurt Master. I’d gently take it in my front teeth, as Master released his grip and I’d take my prize to my bowl by the back step to drop it in and crouch down. First I’d lick it savouring the flavours of this small piece of heaven. Then I’d chomp into it, gulping down my prize. When it was gone I’d stare up at Master, charming him with my begging eyes and smile with my tongue hanging out. “No more,” Master would say, showing me his empty hands and pointing at the empty BBQ plate. I knew anyway but I never hurt to try my luck.
I lick my chops, as I stare out the window, trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. I long for one more steak. I pull my head back into the car to glance at Master’s eyes in the rear view mirror, hoping he’d see my begging eyes. That’s when I see the tear slipping from his eye and rolling down his cheek. I understand leaky eyes. Mine do that when I’m sad. Mistress had leaky eyes before we left home. I don’t know why she didn’t come with us, but when crouched down and put her arms around my neck, her chest was heaving and she let out a big gasp for air as she gave me ear a scratch. “You’ve been a good boy,” she whispered and then master had lifted me into the car. I know humans, too, get leaky eyes when they are sad, but I don’t understand what is making my humans so sad. Master and I are just going for a drive, aren’t we? Not today.
On shaky legs I inch toward the front of the seat where I can rest my chin on his shoulder. “Hey boy,” he says, forcefully batting the tear away. It takes all the energy I have in me to lift my head and give his cheek a lick to comfort. “Why are your eyes leaking, Master?” I try to ask but all he hears is a little whimper.
He misunderstands, mistaking my curiosity for a small cry of pain. “I know, mate,” he says, “It’ll be over soon.” I am more confused than ever.
My legs cannot take my weight anymore and so I turn my head away from Master and I crawl back to my spot on the backseat. I curl up on the blanket with no energy left to resume staring out the window. Through tired eyes I watch the power lines wiz past with the occasional crow clinging to the wire. “Arrrrk!! Hello!” they’d cry out and the sound would trail off in the distance as we keep moving along. I usually bark “hello” back to them but not today. I don’t have the energy to offer any more than a sigh. Tired, I close my eyes for a while.
I am awake suddenly when I hear the high pitched squeal of the car brakes and feel the car stop. Confused, I put a paw out against the back Master’s seat to steady myself from rolling off the seat. Why are we stopping? On tired aching legs I stand to get a view out the window. We are parked in front of a familiar building with paw prints painted above the door. Why do I know this building? I’ve been here before, but when? The last time I left, I remember wearing a bucket around my neck. I couldn’t lick to groom myself, nor could I scratch my favourite spot behind my ear. I had a new chip in my head and a scar where my manhood had been. I remember the cold stainless steel table and the sweet eyes of the nice lady vet staring intently before a blinding torch light burned into mine. They were the last thing I’d seen as I went to sleep on that cold table, the day my manhood was taken. Was I getting that back today? Half-hearted, I wagged my tail. That small glimmer of hope would soon be squashed when those kind eyes would show immense concern and a deep sadness. A bond had been formed that day back then and today I am learning fast that with that bond, as all formed over the life time of an old dog, is accompanied with the heartbreak of goodbye.
I want to show her and Master what a good strong boy I am. So I try with all my might to walk proudly into that door with the paws, but my legs are struggling under the weight of my 30 kilo body. These frail legs can no longer carry me and with the door just three steps away, I am collapsing in a broken heap. A man, leaving at that moment carrying a small cage, holds open the door as Master picks me up. My paws are draped over his shoulders and from this height, I can see a small kitten in the man’s cage. It gives a tiny “mew” in acknowledgement and I whimper a short greeting.
The sad, kind eyed vet is holding the door open to room with the cold steel table for Master to carry me straight into the room. I can feel the familiar cold harsh surface as he sets me down. I am too weak to struggle. It doesn’t seem as big as it was last time, but I am just as afraid, if not more. Master does not leave my side and I can see that even though the tears are no longer there, there is still the same intense sadness in his eyes. He converses with the kind lady vet in quiet whispers, so quiet that I can barely make out words they are saying. She is half talking to me, staring sadly into my eyes as she reassures Master that I will soon be ‘at peace’, whatever that means. I soon understand that it means I will no longer be in ‘pain’. Does that mean I will walk, proudly alongside Master out of this cold place, with my manhood back where it belongs? “Please don’t make me wear the bucket again,” I plead with my eyes. Would I ride up front with him on the drive home? Will I run along the fence with the Postie warning him not to overstep the boundary of the fence? Will the much older young Master and young Mistress run beside me again? They are now able climb over the fence with little effort. Would I be able also? “Thank you, Thank you, nice lady vet,” I say with a lick of gratitude up the side of her face.
“Do you think he knows?” Master asks.
“I’m not sure, maybe,” the vet replies after a long pause. “You’ll be in a nice sleep, soon enough my friend.” She gives me another scratch behind the ears and I lean into it, blissfully. She reaches for a needle. They still terrify me and I let my fear known in a whine, while I desperately attempt to escape. Of course I cannot stand and so I succumb. “Forgive me, Boy,” Master says as he takes my paw in his hand. My eyelids feel heavy but I begin to feel my fright giving way to the light. I can feel all the love and all his sorrow rush through me. I suddenly realise the nice lady vet is finished with the needle and putting it in a yellow bin on the wall. The last thing I remember is Master still holding my paw, never letting it go and the nice lady vet stroking my soft coat as all the warmth leaves my body. I can feel a new sensation, now, like I could just lift myself off the table and float. Am I floating away? I like this feeling and I give into it, leaving the poor fail body of an old dog behind, lying on the table still and lifeless. I no longer need it. I am Bruiser. I am seventeen years old. I am no longer young but I have lived a good life. I was loyal and loved with every fibre of my being, until the very end, as I was put on this earth to do and I in turn learned loyalty and felt the warmth of love returned. I am leaving behind everything about this world that no longer serves me, all its harshness and bitterness, taking with me only the beauty I’ve known that I treasure, the love in my heart and the lessons learned in this life. I am on a journey. I don’t know where I am going, but I am happy. I am at peace.
*This beautiful photo that went viral 2015 is the inspiration for this story.