“No one is as loyal as a dog.”
That’s what the old man down the street
told me, the last day I saw Buck.
When I asked him what he meant,
he sat me down, and Buck
limped over, laying his head in my lap.
I held back tears as I scratched his ear
and watched him perk up. The old man
smiled down at him. “See that?
The old boy will go through a world
of hurt just to see you smile.”
Water welled in his eyes.
“He may only be here
for part of your life, but
you’re all of his, understand?”
He laid his hand on the whitening fur
on Buck’s head, and he whined.
A tear dripped from his left eye
onto Buck’s head, but he couldn’t lift it
to comfort his owner. A few tears streamed
down my cheeks as I watched an old dog
on his last day, taking in the sight of his home
one last time. The old man between me
and Buck, and I understood without a word.
I helped the old boy into the rusted pickup, settling
him in my lap. His eyes lit up as we drove,
but he didn’t make a sound.
“He knows where he’s going, but
He knows it’s his time.”
I looked down at old Buck.
“How do you know that?”
The old man chuckled, staring out
at the road that’d have to end.
“He always used to make a big fuss.
Old Buck knows where’s he’s going,
And he’s being a good boy for me.”
The old man reached over, laying his hand
on Buck’s head. Still, he didn’t make a sound.
As we pulled up, Buck’s eyes closed.
I carried him inside, watched him as he went
Into that room, never to come out.
I swore I heard him howl one last time,
and the old man returned, giving
me his collar. “Remember
what I told you and give this
to your own when the time comes.”
On the ride home, I couldn’t
say a word, watching tears stream
down the old man’s face.
He dropped me off at home,
leaving me with Buck’s collar.
I didn’t dare ask why. Two weeks later
I saw his obituary, and the last part read.
“Gone home with his old boy. Buck
will be there waiting to spend another
life with his old man.”