by Liz

Still handsome despite his years. The blonde bombshell with soft, wavy curls and a graceful stride would turn heads and elicit smiles of appreciation.

He struggles to keep up these days. I wait on the dirt path leading down to the Torrens, our regular ‘wild‘ walk where I can smell the trees, spot a koala or listen to a kookaburra. Sometimes I try and sneak out with just his companion, Jazz, if Louis is too tired and sore, but even from a deep sleep he seems to sense the activity. I try and collect the other dog’s lead without Lou hearing, lifting the cold,‘clinky’ chain slowly with much care trying to prevent any sound. He’s lurching to his feet, his back legs slipping and sliding as he searches for a grip to push with the remaining strength in his withered haunches. It’s a slow walk these days. Gone are the frustrating times when he would get a whiff of a duck and head off up the river, lost to the wild and his breeding, generations of retrieving in his DNA.

I’m preparing myself as he nears the end of his life. I study his face to imprint his being in my memory. I look into his deep brown eyes, fringed with a blonde lash. He doesn’t like to hold my gaze too long and turns his head. The huge, rubbery black nose with matching nostril swirls has a strangeness when I focus on it in isolation. This part of a dog, so crucial to its life; smelling is like seeing and I marvel at the complexity of its receptivity. His nose is dry and I worry, is he unwell?

The jowls hang down and have become more droopy as he’s aged. Wet leopard skin pattern on pink, shiny leather skin edged with a black lip that tries to catch some of the drool. He pants so much of the time nowadays as his inner thermostat doesn’t work properly and his heart is failing.

This big hearted creature, this huge, big hearted creature is the size of a small lion. Aslan we sometimes called him when the kids were young. Watching me carefully he works out where I’m going to sit down so he can park himself next to me, and I quietly brace myself for my grief and heartache.