On Saturday morning, our family dog, my dearest, sweetest buddy Butch passed away quietly while sleeping on the kitchen floor after his morning walk.
He was 10 and a half years old, which isn't that old as far as dogs go, but for his breed, the American Bulldog, it was on the long side.
I am so grateful that he went peacefully, without pain, and seemingly in great spirits. He was a very good dog right until the very end.
And though I'd been trying to prepare myself for the inevitability of what Walt Whitman called "the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death" for about a year now, and especially so since his tumor and consequent splenectomy last October, nevertheless his passing has brought on a level of bereavement I was not at all able to anticipate.
I'm astounded at just how badly I feel. I'm battered by a relentless tide of melancholy that just keeps cresting and crashing down upon at me.
This morning as I sit here writing, my sorrow is especially heavy, for he was always here as I prepared the daily strip, waiting patiently lying down on the Persian rug in front of my desk, or if he or his bladder wasn't in a waiting mood, nuzzling his snout under my forearms and lifting my hands from the keyboard with his strong, muscled neck.
And it was on our morning walks that nearly all of the Soxaholix strips were conceived, in the dark, beneath the stars, a dog and a man each in their own little worlds but cleaved together, inseparably as one. Often I'd work aloud the dialog parts between Mike, Bill, Doug et al, while Butch went about his own important daily ritual of sniffing and marking, sniffing and marking.
And he was with me, literally right beside me, pressed against my leg or head in my lap, for every Red Sox moment since Spring of 2000. Through three different places we called home, he was there, listening to the radio broadcast or watching TV, from Jurassic Carl, thru Kerrigan, and thru the improbable comeback in Oakland in 03 and the eventual game 7 ALCS heartbreak later, thru the Schilling Thanksgiving and every moment of the drama of 2004, he was there with me.
He was always right there with me.
So my heart is heavy this morning, and I cannot write a strip. It just hurts too much. Everything. And I don't know how long this tremendous ache and emptiness will last.
For now I have become like the speaker in Auden's "Funeral Blues" —
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.