A Treatise on Grief and an Empty Collar

“Had we but world enough and time,”
-To His Coy Mistress, by Andrew Marvell

“I don’t think it would be worth that much to me,” I say, laying the table for this negotiation, starting my position low, disinterested. “I know we would be happy to see each other. I can see it now, the way that his tail would wag as he bounds towards me, brought back from the dead, and the way that my vision of him would blur with happy tears as I crouch down to receive him as he runs in to me. But I don’t have anything that I never told him. I have no regrets of not spending enough time together. I do not owe him any apologies that were not already mended in the moment of the transgression, and he, in no way shape or form, owes me anything either. So no, I don’t think it would be worth that much to me, to bring him back. I think I would rather leave it alone. I think I would rather let myself move on, even if it’s odd being alone now, and let him rest.”

There is no one on the other side of this conversation. The bartering plays out in my head as I re-walk, now alone, over the routes that we would go along on many happy mornings. But my offerings are to nobody.

I miss him in small ways. When I get up from the work at my desk and walk into the living room, part of me still looks forward to seeing him wagging at me from the couch, or if I don’t see him there, then tiptoeing around the doorway to see him asleep on our bed.

He isn’t home.

I hadn’t realized how much of my own mind, always, was dedicated to mapping out where he is too, and how anything I do might affect his interests—putting on shoes, grabbing a cheese stick, lying down to sleep. In doing anything, I expect to get caught and hear a jingling collar coming over to be involved.


In bed, I miss the warm weight passed out and snoring against my side.

And out here, re-walking the routes that we would go along on many happy afternoons, I miss that I am not holding a leash right now. I miss that I’m not holding you back while looking for traffic and then keeping up as you careen across the street to sniff the stop sign over there that seems so interesting and important. I miss that you’re not telling me which way it is we’re going to go today.

We did a very good job, the both of us. We nailed it. In your earliest puppyhood years, I was just an occasional visitor. Your owner’s old dog was so trainable, so eager to please. You were always more eager to be pleased. It’s no trick we ended up getting along so well. When you grew into your youthful adulthood, we were neighbors, and I got to start walking you every night. It’s hard to say if one of us was more happy than the other to find out what further neighborhoods there were to stalk through: you got to get in your exercise and your sniffs and your exploration, and I got to hang out with a dog again, and it had been a long time for me since there was a dog in my life, too long it turned out, and you were a good one, and it was interesting, bit by bit re-accepting the undiluted joy that vibing with a gratified dog could bring me. Those summer nights we would come back, drenched in sweat and panting respectively, and we would share a happy look with each other before I set down a new cold bowl of water for you to lap up all of and then ask for seconds. We were awesome friends then. With benefits, already, when we had that house to ourself sometimes, and that was fun, figuring all of that out with you, a couple of playful carnal spirits taking care of each other’s coy needs for pleasure, touch, release. Eventually your owner moved away, and entrusted you to my care, and the two of us moved into an apartment and shared a bed and a roof when the pandemic and the quarantines hit. There were nights I slept in my boots with a big knife nearby ready to protect you to the death. But more than that, as masks and distance became less of a shock and more of a normal, you and I both had someone we loved snuggling up with at night, licking the backs of each other’s throats. Well, the one of us who had the tongue for that kind of thing anyways, but the point being that we both loved it. You had moves, dude. You showed me many a good time and were very eager to let me know what ways I could reciprocate.

It was in that apartment, during those years, that we became lovers. More than good friends. Soulmates, even if this one’s soul had a callousness that took a lot of work for you to snuggle and walk and howl your way through. We got there. We loved each other.

This evening, as I re-walk some of the routes that we walked on, I cast my mind back to all of the places you brought me over the years. We lived in a few cities, until ultimately arriving here in a quieter part of the world for the retirement years of your life. Walking with you was like walking with a press pass: Out of the way! This dog IS going to find out every interesting thing there is to find out about the base of this mailbox! When I someday again find myself in the neighborhood of the apartment we shared during the pandemic, it’s a trail near there that I’ll scatter your ashes. I don’t believe in an afterlife, myself, but for anything it does count for I know the park you would want to prowl around as a ghost in, wagging as you sneak forward towards a sleeping group of ducks to cause some mischief.

You would be annoyed at the way that I’m slowing down as I walk to type this.

As night is coming and I shouldn’t ruin my sight by looking at a screen, I’ll put the phone away, and walk mindfully in the moment again like we did.

I appreciate the years we got to spend together, buddy. You were good. We nailed it.

Article written by an anonymous author (May 2023)

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