Today marks three years since the passing of my first and only dog, Freckles. In some of the hardest times, he was like a little brother, and I miss him dearly even still. I thought that it would be fitting to post something that I had written for my creative writing class this past semester at college, “Dear Freckles,” in response to a prompt that asked our class to write letters to someone who had died.
I love you. I miss you.
At the risk of anthropic bias, I am going to assume that you have learned how to read since I last saw you. Also, in case you are somehow literate but still have yet to learn what anthropic bias is, an example of anthropic bias is a person assuming that the spirit of their dead dog can learn to read English in their Heavenly free time, instead of doing dog things like chewing bones – you never chewed bones in life, so why start now? – or angelic things like flying. As you may have noticed, that is exactly the scenario happening presently. I’m sorry if I’m being a haughty human, but you should be grateful that I’m using big words instead of baby talk; I remember how you used to tilt your head in all sorts of directions, as though, when my voice dropped an extra octave, every vowel lasted far longer than it should have, and every other word was accompanied by a multitude of kisses, flipping back your floppy ears to help you understand my meaning better. You can certainly forgive me for thinking that you might be a little confused by language now, considering your lack of education except for me reading Plato to you or watching Star Trek together on the couch.
Of course, we also both know that I should not be insulting your intelligence. Mom, Dad, and I still tell people the true story of how the day after we got you, someone stole dad’s identity and tried to withdraw all our savings from the bank. And, even if we could never prove it, we know that it was you who really did it. It was the great work of my pre-teen years trying to prove your corrupt intentions. I know that’s the real reason that you used to watch me sleep: you always had to stay four paws ahead. In the meantime, until you are posthumously convicted for causing the blackout during Beyonce’s 2013 Super Bowl performance, allow me to conjecture what the afterlife has been like for you:
Sure, you managed to cute your way into heaven. At first, nobody suspected a thing. All the saints thought that you were a good boy. All the angels admired your beautiful, dappled coat and big eyes–they were always too aesthetically minded, in my opinion. You pretended to be timid when you first went to the big dog park in the sky, but, like Sheev Palpatine in Star Wars, you had other intentions. You thought it was no coincidence that God is Dog spelled backward. Naturally, upon these grounds–again, I suppose that I am assuming here that you can now not only read but also spell–you decided to wage war with God and all his Holy host to make the Kingdom of Heaven your own. I imagine that that did not work out yet, although, if it did, more power to you. You were cast into Pandemonium, where you were taken in by a pack of demons–as a Dachshund, a wiener dog, a hot dog with four legs is surely not out of place on the shores of the lake of fire. And at first, you managed to cute your way up the ranks of Hell too. You did well for yourself, until finally you waged war against Satan and his unsavory fiends. And this time you definitely won and are now the Lord of All Darkness.
If I am right, all I can say is: “Evil, be thou my good boy.”
I can joke about this stuff because I don’t know if I believe in an afterlife. I don’t know if you’ll see this, peering down over my shoulder like a guardian angel, or if you will be able to understand it. I don’t know if I believe in a Heaven – I’m telling you this now, because maybe you can finally maybe understand. It’s not like your barking really ever added much to our previous in-depth religious debates – and I certainly don’t want to believe in a Hell. However, it sounds a little better if you’re in charge of it. Strangely though, just so that I can see you again, I want there to be some kind of afterlife.
Your death hurt. It might be because I haven’t lost too many people in my life and certainly not as many as I will lose in the years to come. You were the first being close to me that died. Babci and Grandma died before you did–I’m not sure if you remembered them, but I hope that they are helping take care of you now–and I miss them, but we were never as close as we could have been. Put another way, I don’t regret their deaths in the same way. It happened, yet I did not feel the dangling thread for very long; I did not feel that overwhelming regret, the need to say to them one more time that I love them because I felt that they knew. I might be misanthropic (which is different from anthropic bias, although they do have the same etymological root, but let’s not worry about definitions right now.) For me, you were just a different kind of loss.
You didn’t see yourself die. You didn’t really get to see it happen. I was there. And it hurt because we couldn’t talk. You couldn’t understand what I was saying, and, in those final moments, there was more of a distance between us than there had ever been, more than the distance of species, because you were slipping away someplace else. I couldn’t tell you to be brave and not to be afraid. I couldn’t tell that you were being so brave and that I was so proud of you as you sat there stoically, more silent than you had ever been, even though the vet couldn’t get the needle in right. I didn’t know how to comfort you, because I knew that you would not understand, even as I held you. In the end, the dose even took away your sight, the one comfort you might have had; you bobbed your head about like you used to when I would talk to you in baby talk, but your eyes were glazed over. You were looking for me, but you could not find me, not the sight of me nor the sound of my voice. “I love you” couldn’t reach you anymore, more than when you had not known entirely what those words meant. You must have thought that you were alone, and I can hardly bear the thought. There was no way for me to tell you anything else.
That’s what I saw, and I wish more than most things that you could tell me differently, but we never had the words. You were the first thing that I had seen die, let alone the first that I loved that died, and I couldn’t be there for you. I’m sorry. I was there. I loved you until the very end. I love you still, and if this letter could tell you anything, I hope it’s exactly that: I love you.
Most days, I need to believe that I will be able to tell you that someday, to hold you one last time, without you being afraid.
You are a good boy. You were the little brother I needed. I still need you, so keep an eye out from wherever you are. You will always be my dog, my little buddy, and I will always be your boy.
I miss you. I love you.
Love, your boy,
P.S. Sometimes, I still dream about you. The night after you died, I dreamed of a glass kingdom in orbit above the Aurora Borealis, with hexagonal windows of layered prisms patterned like honeycomb. The hallways curved like the scroll of a viola and glowed a milky white and faded silver. Robed figures moved here and there, towards things that I could not see, but one figure–when I finally saw his face, he sort of looked like Ricardo Montalban, but I find that unlikely–finally approached an egg-shaped alcove in my line of sight. He reached inside and pulled you out, but you looked like a puppy, with a smaller nose and clearer eyes, and you seemed happy. Perhaps this is Heaven, and proof enough, or just wishful thinking, and that was a comfort either way.
Then, a few months ago, I had a dream that I was in a forest of ash, dust, kindling, weeds, and tumbleweeds lit only by the scorch of fire in the distance. Everything was redness and darkness, and I felt very alone. At first, I heard only the sound of dried, broken sticks beneath my bare feet, yet, as I stumbled onward, a whining, whimpering reached my ears. I ran towards it, being careful not to step on any pinecones, until I came to a filthy, dead bush. The whimpering continued, but it was muffled. I tore away at the branches of the bush until I came closer to the sound, beneath the moving ash, and I dug through the ash until I reached fur: it was you, buried and afraid. I pulled you from under the bush and cradled you in my arms. Your body felt as warm as it had been you were alive. I could how limp you were too, paralyzed just as you had been in your final days. The sensation of holding you surpassed memory; no matter how hard I try, the memory is just mist, intangible, but this nightmare, as horrible as it seemed, also seemed like the first time that I had held you in years. I woke up crying. I spent the rest of the day crying, crying at my desk, crying in the shower, but not just because you were gone, but because it had felt good to have you back. But it couldn’t last. And perhaps, to me, that is Hell enough.
In other news, I will be posting more on the site, and more frequently, hopefully as soon as possible. I’m ready to tell my stories and more ideas, and I hope that you can enjoy them with me. Perchance has much more to it, and I know where Letters from the Waste is going as well. Additionally, I am working on some analytical posts within the realm of science ethics. I have missed this tremendously and look forward to more. Thank you.