Thistle is four now, which means my sweet Sammy has been gone for more than six years. But like any good, mountain dog, he’s taken on a certain mythological quality. That’s what we do with our dogs in Appalachia–we mourn them and then we tell their stories so that they do, indeed, live as long as we do (if not longer). Here’s a memory from Sammy’s last year.
AN OLD DOG
He’s an old dog and sometimes
I think he knows it. He stretches out
in the sun and rolls his belly skyward—
submits to something bigger,
something older than himself.
And then there are times . . .
Like that day we walked in the woods
where turkeys stirred the leaves,
uncovered new shoots pushing through
last fall’s rotting russet and gold.
That’s when he heard it—a rustle,
a whisper of feathers, a twig breaking.
And he leaped from the trail, down
a steep hillside to where he flushed
two turkeys into the treetops.
Who knew they could fly so high—
could forgo that clucking strut to glide
through tall trees and land beyond sight?
He is an old dog now and knows
he will have to climb back up this hill,
heave arthritic hips over fallen limbs,
regain the trail and continue on with me.
But first he gazes long and hard
after two turkeys that have flown.
He lifts his muzzle into the air, knows
that though earthbound and old,
he is the one who sent them flying.