We've arrived at a time I became convinced would never come.
Our dog Indi is no longer in the house with us, no longer the constant presence that added the exclamation point to our lives for the past fifteen years.
I didn't imagine in a million years (or at least fifteen) how profoundly her loss would impact me, but there is no denying the enormity of the hole that sits at the centre of my heart. I told some friends that it felt like the universe threw me a brick, and I tried to catch it with my chest.
Her name at the Humane Society was Sunday, but I think we knew before we got there that any dog we came home with would become Indi. Our sweet India. Just a few months earlier, we'd returned from a nine-month trip around the world. Three of those months were spent in India, and the time there left a mark, due to its splendour, its colour, its warmth. Indi evoked all of that and a lot more in those first hugs she doled out to each one of us.
They told us that she was about one year old, so we gave her a birthday to match - July 31, 2007. We had always wondered what her life was like as a pup wandering around rural Manitoba. That dog grew up with all of us, her wealth of energy spreading joy to everyone she met, including her dear friend and neighbour, Odin. All other dogs she despised with an intensity usually reserved for telemarketers and used car salespeople.
She could play for hours, chasing whatever toy you threw, ripping apart any stuffed animal that appeared under the Christmas tree. Each year she bested her previous record for best time removing all the stuffing and the squeaker. But above all, her most favourite thing was Winnipeg's river trail. The sounds that she would make when she would see that trail, all that open space before her, was the sound of pure joy. The first winter she was with us was the year the trail went all the way from Assiniboine Park, to The Forks and south to Churchill Drive. Almost ten kilometres. She could not contain her excitement while I put on my skates, yelping at all those within earshot to take her running now! And then she would run. She would run as if her life depended on it, as if she knew that watching her run was all I ever wanted to do. For a dog of only thirty-five pounds, she had no difficulty pulling my two-hundred-pound frame around. When I chose to skate as fast as I could, I was only able to keep up with her for a short while.
Summertime was the time of the frisbee, and seeing that thing pulled out of the backpack when we got to the field was like unleashing a wolverine at a vole convention. Run, run, run, run. That's what it boiled down to. She wanted to run.
After a good ten years of non-stop action, Indi began to lose a step. I would encourage her to slow down on the skating trails, and she would often find shelter under the shade of a large tree after a few pulls of the frisbee. She became a dog who found a lot of pleasure sitting at our feet in the evening, and going for slow river walks during the day. When her hips gave out on her, I prepared for the worst, but she recovered with the help of anti-inflammatories and painkillers. And while the medication did the job of keeping the pain at bay, it could not stop the march of time. The ruthlessness of that march began to show this year, with ever more aches and encumbrances placing ever more limits on what she was able to do. Cushions were placed around the main floor to keep her comfortable. I moved my computer downstairs to do whatever work I could while keeping an eye on her. Keeping her company.
Eventually I just started reading to her, reading the book of our travels. If she wasn't able to tell us what she was up to during her first year, I would tell her what we were up to during her first year. And I finally clued into the fact that her birthday coincided with with the first day of our travels that began in Rome, on July 31, 2007.
While she was exploring rural Manitoba as a young pup, we were exploring the world as a young family and it was an especially poignant thing to read to her about coming home. Home to meet her.
She will be in our hearts forever. What a dog.