Last night, I lost my best friend. Simon was five.
Yesterday, I came home from work early due to the snow. Simon was in bed with Adam, who was sleeping off a long night trick. When Adam got up, we bundled the dogs and went for a long walk in the woods behind our house. Simon loved the snow.
As usual, Simon was thrilled with his walk, bounding through the brush and snow, sniffing the deer trail. We trudged over two miles, letting the dogs sniff and roll and root around. It was a really, really good afternoon, cold and snowy and Simon was so, so happy. So were we.
We adopted our baby boy as a shared birthday present and brought him home on February 1, 2012. He arrived in a giant converted horse trailer at a truck stop, delivered from a “rescue” in Tennessee, a scared, pot-bellied ball of snuggles. He never got over his fear of long flights of stairs.
Simon was a one-of-a-kind dog, both frightfully intelligent and in possession of a discernible sense of humor. He ate a divot in our Tempurpedic mattress when he was a year old. At two, he destroyed half a couch. We brought him home when neither of us had steady jobs or reliable income, and he became a linchpin in our life.
From the moment he came home, he was the heart of our little furry family. Despite being a black lab-Great Pyrenees mix, and therefore larger than your average pup, he was always the gentlest, sweetest beast, even if his bark said otherwise. He was exceptionally soft with the elderly, but his favorite people were bald puppies. He would herd our nephews and nieces, follow them, love them, let them poke him in the eyes and ears and not even flinch. He seemed to identify with children.
He also identified with me. My best days are times with the pets, especially days I walked with the dogs and played with Simon. Chloe, a rescue, still hasn’t learned to play (or walk on a leash), but she did learn that she could play chase with Simon, wrestle him, and give him what for with no serious repercussions. I always spoke to Simon like he was a person, because he seemed to understand anyway, and because he was one of those rare dogs that occupies the emotional evolutionary space between dog and human.
When Adam nearly died in 2014 from rhabdomyolysis, Simon absorbed my anxiety and fear like dogs do, his goodness a sheer force of will to ensure his people were as okay as he could make them. On days when I couldn’t imagine getting out of bed, Simon made sure I did. And he was an epic snuggler.
Anyone who tells you that dogs don’t like hugs is a) lying and b) did not have the privilege of knowing Simon. At 100 lbs. and over 6 feet long when fully extended, not only did Simon like to receive hugs, which he would sit for and wrap his head around your neck in response, but he loved to spoon. Overnight guests will attest to Simon’s desire to be the little spoon, inviting himself into the guest bed and snuggling in, not-so-subtly asking for belly rubs and a cuddle.
We never trained him to give his paw, for fear that his giant meat fists would take a toddler out at some point. But he knew so many other things, like when someone was hurting, how to make friends easily (even if that friend was a skunk), and where his yard stopped. It is no secret that we purchased this small would-be farm, at least in part, for our dog.
At our last place, he would facilely jump the fence and take himself for walks in the neighborhood behind the house. The hours of panic we experienced over his five short years were tempered by the inevitable discovery that on each of his sojourns, our dog, rather than having disappeared into the world, simply found new humans or new smells to investigate when he became bored with our small yard. On one such journey, Adam found him lolling in the shade of a crab apple tree with a little girl and her mother, the child had tucked countless dandelions into his jet black fur. Simon was in heaven.
I cannot now recount the lifetime of love he was able to provide in such a short time. He was a water dog a heart, the only dog I’ve ever seen lie down in shallow water to cool and entertain himself. If you said “the lake” to him, he would immediately prepare for a journey to his favorite place – the lake where friends have a house and a boat. We are trying to remember how he lived, rather than the sudden and traumatic manner in which he passed. My only solace is that it was quick and he was with us, on the couch, when his heart, perhaps too big for the world and not big enough for his body, gave out.
In a breathtaking instance of cosmic consonance, Adam turned 34 on January 30. I will turn 33 on February 2. Today marks five years to the day we brought our baby home. Today is also the day that marks Imbolc, the namesake of Blackthorn Farm, and the time when Celts would make way for spring and new life.
Last night was traumatic, this morning has been lonely and cold, the sun shining on the snow as a vicious reminder that this would have been a really good Simon day. Chloe is sad and confused. The cats are cats, so I think it will be a while before they recognize he’s not coming back. There is a jet black, furry, hundred pound hole in our home.