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December 28, 2011 / annakpf11

Parting with Basil

“One loss folds itself inside another,” says the poet Jane Hirshfield, “It is like the origami, held inside a plain sheet of paper. Not creased yet. Not yet more heavy. The hand stays steady.”

Ghostly shapes emerge from dense fog along the banks of Los Gatos Creek. We’ve arrived early for our rendez-vous, and now we sit for a moment in the truck, Basil in his spot on the bench seat between us. All of us stare out the windshield at the deserted parking lot and the mist-drenched landscape.

After months of getting used to the idea, then more months of searching for the right people, what we are about to do still feels unreal. Moving as if half-asleep, we walk Basil around the creekside park until cold seeps through the soles of our shoes.

We return to the truck and wait inside the warm cab. A black Passat cruises into the parking lot and pulls up next to us. I clip Basil’s leash to his collar for the last time, and together we clamber outside. Two dark-haired women, Alice and Joanna, have alighted from their car. Basil wags his tail and runs to greet them. I smile, pleased to see he recognizes them from their week ago visit to our house. Dave and I transfer dog treats to Alice and Joanna’s pockets, dog food to their cooler, dog bed to their back seat. And then it’s time to part ways. Alice gives me a hug and Basil jumps into her car as if he’s been rehearsing the move all week. May he be happy, I think. May he and his new family thrive. May he be warm and nourished. May he feel safe.
Dave and I drive away and don’t look back. Neither of us speaks until we’ve regained the highway and started up the mountain. “That was hard,” Dave says. I reach across the empty seat and take his hand. Indeed, sorrow rides with us in the truck, but relief is a passenger too. Relief that the deed is done. That Basil wagged his tail. That our last sight of him wasn’t a forlorn, sad-eyed pup, but a willing, eager dog, ready for a new adventure.
Within a half hour we are home. Determined to avoid maudlin sentiment, we occupy the afternoon by subjecting the house to a blitz-krieg clean: ashes shoveled from the hearth, tables and bookcases dusted, rugs vacuumed, floors mopped, old clothes sorted through and discarded, even the furnace filter replaced. We are not trying to eradicate all traces of Basil—not exactly—the house needed a good going-over, and there’s something therapeutic and forward-looking about giving everything a shiny new face.
At dusk, a solitary walk. On the bluff overlooking our small beach village and Monterey Bay, I stand still for a very long while—something Basil rarely condoned. The tide is low, the bay smooth as a pane of glass, the horizon smudged persimmon. In the southwest sky, the bright star Venus pairs with a silver eyelash moon. No dog strains at the end of his leash, only this quiet beauty. I reach into my coat pocket for a Kleenex, and instead find a few of the dog treats I always (used to) carry.
The light fades and I make my way back to Antonita Cottage. When I open the front door, Basil is there, of course, in my mind’s eye. He’s curled up in his favorite corner of the couch, and when he hears me, his tail slaps the cushion in happy anticipation of the belly rub he knows I am about to bestow.


Leave a Comment
  1. Mario / Dec 29 2011 11:58 pm

    Seems sad to let him go, but nice he seemed happy about it. Thanks for the beautiful photos & words.

  2. Toni / Dec 31 2011 12:16 am

    Thank you for sharing…

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