doug and i both took the next week off from work. when we scheduled the time off, back in the spring, we had hoped to take the boys up north, hoped that toby could make one last visit to his beloved superior hiking trail. instead, we slept a lot, and we kept boscoe near. my stomach hurt steadily all week.
that wednesday, doug said, "boscoe needs a good long walk. let's go to frontenac." i knew why he picked that park--it was not one of our usual haunts. we had no toby memories there.
it's a beautiful drive to frontenac, south along the mississippi toward lake city. the park has great trails that criss-cross through the woods, with lookouts over the river. the weather had shifted after toby died, and though the afternoons were still golden, the breeze was chilly. we wore flannel shirts and wool socks.
boscoe zipped around the trails with enthusiasm, but every so often he stopped and just looked at us. he seemed a little lost.
over the next few months, i devoted myself to him. we took long walks every night after work, just the two of us, around como lake on the high road and sometimes heading up victoria street toward roseville in the november dark. he trotted dutifully alongside me, but he did not seem joyful. he did not seem depressed, either. he just seemed tired. he seemed suddenly and prematurely old.
one day i came home from work and found a small package on our front steps--a small, cube-shaped cardboard carton. i stooped to pick it up. inside was a sealed white box. i looked again at the return address and then gasped. "Oh---Toby," i said out loud.
the package was from the U. the white box, i presume, contained toby's ashes. i don't know for sure. i didn't open it. i put it on a high shelf inside the dog cupboard in the kitchen, and there it remains.
we knew we needed to rile things up a little, get a little noise and action into our house. so we borrowed sara again over christmas, while Lo and her husband were out of town.
sara burst into our house, as squirmy and barky as ever. but she just didn't have the same magical powers that she'd had in september, when she was able to give toby a new lease on life. boscoe played with her politely, but it wasn't the same.
she went home at new year's, and i knew i had to think of something else. boscoe was too young to be old, too well-loved to be sad. he needed something to rile him up.
what he needed, i figured, was a puppy.
and so a few weeks later found us puttering north along I-35 on a cold friday in january, drawn by an ad on petfinder for 8-week-old border collie puppies. doug was sure that one of those miniature boscoes would be just the thing to herd us all out of our gloom.
we pulled into the snowy parking lot of the animal shelter. a small black-and-white dog sat politely on the frozen ground, his front paws together. he had slightly bowed, very speckled legs. he wore a red collar and an impassive expression. i got out of the truck and slammed the jeep door, and the puppy turned and looked right at me.
you know what happened next. you know the rest.
THE END. SLAM THE LAPTOP SHUT.
1 hour ago