Death the dog

Courtesy Zevida Germain

My dad got his first dog when he was only seven. She was a wiry little white thing. Her ears pointed up to the sky and her tail curled to her back.

As a puppy, she had spent her time running freely through the winding streets of Montreal until she ran face first into my father on his way home from his first day of second grade. He scooped her up and begged his mother to let him keep her.  Though his mother never said yes, the dog never seemed to sleep anywhere else but his bed for the next eight years or so, her brown nose twitching as she slept dreaming of tomorrow's next adventure. Would they run together up the mountain? Play fetch along the river side? Or just lay in his bed for hours on end as he did his school work? When tomorrow didn't come, my father picked her little body off his bed, carried her past the rivers, and laid her to rest at the foot of the mountain. 

My dad’s favorite dog was when he was 27. He had moved just outside of Iqaluit where he found a yellow floppy-eared mutt. His paws were as big as baseballs and his fur so thick you could never see his skin. He was a bastard of a dog my dad would say; scrappy as hell and would try to fight anything that stepped foot in his little arctic town. Five years in, my father stepped out of his house to find his dog fighting a whole pack of wolves who were scavenging through the trash, snarling,  snapping, spitting and winning. There was barely a scratch on his big yellow body when he chased off the last wolf, sending him whimpering away. He turned to my father barking wildly as his tail lashed back and forth. That dog fought many more times, until one day he found there was nothing left for him to fight. My dad had to call two of his friends to carry his great big body back to the wilderness that he came from, and for weeks after, the wolves were quiet.

My dad’s last dog was when he was 37. She was a floppy-eared shepherd; her body lithe and her fur so soft you could just melt into it. She came into the world as my father’s family grew, born on a farm off the coast of Nova Scotia. Knowing every bit of her body soaked in the salty sea, and every ear, tail, eye; patch of fur grabbed, poked and prodded by tiny hands—and gentle to them all. She used to run along the shore with his nieces, nephews, daughters and sons. Her steps light and bouncy, until inevitably little legs would give out underneath the weight of their own body. She’d sprint over and help them back to their feet, then let little heads use her as a pillow during nap time. She was sweet as ever when they found cancer running its way up and down her body, and licked the tears off little cheeks as she watched the tide come and go for the very last time, leaning her face into my dad’s hand when she was put to sleep the next morning. 

My dad was 62 when I got my first cat. She’s a pot-bellied tabby with long silky fur and a purr so loud it rumbles. My dad’s in Ottawa, but she’s in Montreal. She’s a lazy girl who loves nothing more than to lay in the sun, stretch herself out and sleep. I call my dad and I ask him if the fact he will never meet her bothers him much, and he says it doesn't. Fur sticks out in every which way between my cat’s paw pads and she bats at my arm when she wants to play. I say are you scared of death? He says no not so much anymore. She sleeps on my bed every night, smashing her face into mine every morning to say hello. I say are you happy with your life? Has it been a good one? He says yes of course I am, what haven't I done? My cat’s fur is patchy in places where she used to lick frantically before I got her. She cries if I am in a place where she cannot follow. Where will I bury you then? And he does not respond.

This article originally appeared in Volume 44, Issue 5, published October 31, 2023.