I loved you.
I’m pretty sure I still do, but I don’t really know too much about such things.
Because if you found this note, it means you must have moved my bed from the floor beside your bed which you never do. And that means I must have passed on.
So I wanted to be sure you knew how much I loved you and to let you know a few things.
After 14 years, it was a good run. You always stood by me; I loved it when you rubbed my ears, scratched my back, and lovingly brushed out my fur, right up to the end.
All I ever really liked was spending time together with you; those were the best of times for me. Well, I also really liked it when I got to lick out the leftover cat food bowls. Or pretty much any leftover anything anytime. Hungry or not.
I also wanted you to know I’m sorry for when I know I did wrong. I didn’t really mean to do it, it’s just that sometimes stuff really bothered me.
Like the time I took off down our steep river bank, even though I knew I was getting too old for that, then I got stuck and couldn’t get back up. I know you were only trying to help me over that fallen tree, but my hips were really sore, you were really hurting me so I snapped at you. I didn’t mean to get your wrist.
Yes, I saw the blood, but you kept on helping, just a bit more carefully. I know I hurt you and I’m sorry for that. And I know I got angrier as I got older, but that’s been hard with my little aches and pains. I tried hard to ignore them; I never wanted to complain.
But I prefer to remember the good times. Like when we first moved to the river and I felt like I was free. Even that dog from down the road tried to persuade me this territory was his, but I was having none of that. He and I did have to have it out a few times. I hope you didn’t mind. Still, I liked him and I was sad when he stopped coming around anymore.
I’m a retriever and I always loved our river. So I especially liked retrieving stuff from the river.
Although one time you made it awfully tough. You kept throwing all those black walnuts in the river and I brought them back over and over. There were so many it was hard to get all of them. It was almost like you were trying to get rid of them by tossing them in the river. Anyway, I faithfully brought back all I could, but I’m sorry for the ones I let by.
I was just glad we left that other house where I had to wear that collar that hurt my neck something awful every time I ran out of the yard chasing away those evil little squirrels. I’m not sure why I had to wear that. Sometimes I almost felt like I was supposed to stay trapped in our own backyard, but you didn’t have to worry, I ran right through the pain! Those squirrels had to be chased off!
And I’m sorry about killing the little baby raccoons that came down from that tree. I know you thought they were adorable, but killing raccoons is something I can’t help; it’s like it’s in my bloodline or something. And you took so much time and care rescuing that little one I didn’t kill, but then what happened? A few years later he came back and killed three of your chickens! I hate to say it, but I tried to convince you that coons are no good.
Anyway, I also loved the pure joy I felt every time you walked back in that door after you’d been gone for who knows how long. How you’d scratch my neck and ears, my back and then you’d get down on your knees and let me give you loads of kisses.
And I loved our long walks in the parks. They were the best. I know how you kept wanting me to move along, but I just had to stop and smell the markers all those other dogs leave for me. It tells me so much about who and what they are and other stuff I need to know. You never seemed to really get that that’s how we communicate. You just wanted to keep walking along, saying hi to people or staring up at the trees, oblivious to my information needs.
But really, I had a great life! I felt loved and cared for all the way. I appreciated all of our time together and that you truly appreciated me. I loved our home in the woods on the river, sleeping there next to you every night.
When my time comes, I hope you don’t go to a lot of heroic measures to keep me around. I hope I’m not in that sterile bright place where they poke and prod me, hold me down and make me hurt.
I just want to lay down peacefully in the warm grass on a sunny afternoon under a blue sky and drift away. I’d like to imagine it would be just like that.
I’ll say it one more time: I loved you. And I’m pretty certain I still do.
Your loving black lab/American coon
Note: We found this note under Josh’s bed after he passed. We were away for most of the day and came home to find him dead, lying peacefully in the warm grass on a sunny afternoon under a blue sky. I imagine he just drifted away.
Appeared as Notes from the River, Mahomet Citizen, May 21, 2015, by Scott Hays