No dog lives forever but I hoped he would be the very first. Kola, my Labrador. Kola, my trusted buddy and confidant these 7 years. Kola who has noticed my young children develop, just about considering that they had been babies, and has loved them each and every minute. Kola, the glory of his breed and the friendliest member of his household. Kola, bone-chewer, ball-chaser, beach-swimmer, humper of male dogs and feared destroyer of various chickens.
He was named just after a teddy bear that my son had when he was two years old. The bear had come all the way from China with a tag that bore the name of Kola. I do not know why they known as it that. Possibly they had been attempting to spell Koala. My son loved that bear, it slept beside him and he dragged it about in the dirt wherever he went. He ought to have imagined that obtaining a dog was the very same sort of factor as obtaining a teddy bear. So the day the puppy came bounding into our lives – the very first pet we ever had – my small son declared that the dog’s name henceforth would be Kola. And that is what we known as him.
We quickly discovered that a dog is even superior than a teddy bear. Simply because a dog is not a factor. He is not a particular person either, I recognize that, but he dwells someplace in the borderlands of personhood. Any one who doubts that animals have souls has by no means reckoned with a Labrador. No matter whether the dog brings his soul with him into the planet or acquires it by means of continual communion with the human soul is a moot point. At any price the dog is additional susceptible to humanisation than any other animal. He feels joy and doubt and affection and cunning and anticipation and contentment and shame – what human ever felt additional?
The creature of whom I speak utilised to sneak beneath the covers of my son’s bed and lie there on the forbidden mattress, a massive Labrador-sized lump beneath the covers beside a sleeping boy, hardly daring to breathe in case I discovered him and banished him to the unwelcoming floor.
When when I had taken him to the beach he saw me physique-surfing and was seized by a sudden terror for my life. He snatched the leash up in his mouth – I had left it lying on the sand – and plunged into the waves and swam out to me, whimpering horribly till I consented to take the leash in my hand, whereupon he turned and swam to shore, pulling me behind him. I thanked him for rescuing me, it was a considerate gesture, and I informed him that I would now continue swimming. But he – he who loved beaches and knew them so nicely – was incredibly distrustful of the waves that day and sulked mightily when I attempted to get back in the water. So I trusted his instincts and lay down on the sand alternatively and he laid his wet head upon me in satisfaction. And I by no means drowned that day, so possibly he was proper. Who knows how significantly a dog knows?
When, when I had left a carton of eggs on the kitchen table, he crept into the space and climbed up on the chair and somehow got the carton open and removed the small unfertilised parcels one particular by one particular without having cracking the shells or producing any mess. One particular by one particular he smuggled the eggs outdoors. I saw the carton proper exactly where I had left it on the table and saw that it was empty. I searched the premises and sooner or later discovered the crime scene: a black dog, seeking rather bloated, lying in an orgy of eggshells in the back yard, licking his dripping whiskers in mournful self-reproach. “The expense of spirit in a waste of shame”: Shakespeare ought to have been considering of Kola and the eggshells when he wrote these words.
Now he died.
He left our lives just about as abruptly as he had arrived. They mentioned it was a cancer of the spleen, it occurs often they mentioned, the invisible malignant development advancing secretly and one particular day bursting and then, just before you can say fetch, the Joy of Nature is lying incredibly nonetheless and watching you with infinitely patient eyes and telling you in small whimpers that he is sorry but he can not get up, not right now, that he does not really feel like playing any longer, that he will not be needing breakfast, not right now, not ever once again, that you really should go along to the park without having him and let him lie there in the shade a though with the ants and beetles creeping all about him.
By the time we got him to the vet he was practically dead. We gathered round him, my young children and me, and whispered our sweet nothings in his floppy ears and caressed his excellent sort face and anointed his gentle paws with our tears.
We did not lie to him. That is not how we do factors about right here. We did not inform him anything would be all proper. We told him that we loved him and he was dying and we would by no means see his face once again and we would by no means neglect him. He had walked his final stroll, he had chewed his final bone, he had fetched his final slobber-filthy tennis ball. He looked me in the eyes and trusted me absolutely, in dying as in life.
He had by no means died just before but he knew I’d get him by means of it.
Apart from dying, it had been one particular of the wonderful weeks of his life. For it was only a handful of days ago that he, Kola, the somewhat fat and lumbering Labrador, caught a young rabbit that had been grazing on the lawn. A hundred years of selective breeding came excellent at final. He caught it. He brought the rabbit to me. He nursed it in his mouth as gently as an unbroken egg. It hung from his jaws, alive and apprehensive, the two extended bunny-ears twitching in dismay. He stood just before me: Kola, catcher of rabbits. He laid the bunny at my feet as worshipfully as the Magi bringing gifts. His eyes burned with a holy pride. I paused from washing the dishes and looked at him and told him to take the goddamn factor outdoors this minute: which he gladly did, and with all ceremony.
I assume of him now with that rabbit and I thank God for it. I am glad the dear boy ultimately got a small taste of heaven just before he left this planet. He had caught chickens just before but that was years ago and it was only practice. The genuine factor, as everyone knows, is Rabbit. The prophet says that in the planet to come “the wolf will reside with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling collectively, and a small kid will lead them” (Isaiah 11:six). If that is correct, then even as you study these tear-stained lines you ought to image Kola curled up with his massive face resting on his paws, lazy as ever, sleeping like a dog beside the tender and ever-living rabbit in that peaceable kingdom exactly where cancers by no means develop, only joys, exactly where all the leashes are lost, and exactly where each and every hour of the day is breakfast time.