My Dog Myrtle 2006 -18

I am thinking about my dog Myrtle and how, in the evening, when she believed it was time for bed, she would look at me and then pad a few steps toward the bedroom. If I stood up she would become as an impatient tour guide, waiting for computers to be shut down, lights turned off, crockery detritus moved to the kitchen, bathroom ablutions undertaken. If I didn't stand to join her, she would communicate abject disappointment: 'you've let me down but mostly you've let yourself down' and then submit to my decision and leave the room. Five minutes later she would be back, head poked round the door to hopefully ask if I had changed my mind.

I go for walks as if I still have a dog. Still following the necessities of her routine. Of our routine. An established practice. Getting up and getting out. To meet her necessary needs. Get up and get out. Even when its raining. Even when I was tired. Even when I resented loving her so much. Get up and get out and get on.

Myrtle was the finest of dogs. Kind, funny, teasing; chasing her own joy as she ran and ran in ever-widening circles then flumping to the ground for a session of pleasurable-pleased-with-herself panting.

Where I live affords fine views of the city. Myrtle had a place by the window where she would go in the middle of the night to survey the world. Sometimes I would join her; a shared watchful meditation in the deep quiet of the night. She with the gaze of a Buddha.

She used to sleep on the bed with me. Tucked into my back. I couldn't sleep after she died. Her death coincided with a diagnosis of breast cancer so I was physically discomfited by treatment but it was her absence that kept me awake. While in recovery I stayed at a friend's house in a bed with an old-school solidly built teddy for company. I tucked that bear into my back and made myself believe it was Myrtle.

Now, nine months after her death, I still tread quietly if I need to get up in the night. I still expect, as I wake, for her to come and receive her morning ear-smoothing. I still murmur good morning good morning good Myrtle.

And I walk as if I still had a dog. Morning as the light comes. Evening in darkness or now, in the lengthened days, as the light fades. I walk because she taught me how to, because she taught me how to love and how to keep loving unconditionally, to love beyond the self. To colour outside of my own lines of comfort.

I walk to understand she is gone and will never return.

To know this causes the most piercing pain but worse is when I think of her as not dead at all but lost. That we have somehow been separated from each other and she is alone and scared, looking for me and I cannot get to her. This thought collapses me and I flump to the ground, brought to my knees by this overwhelming impossible-to-change loss. I wait within the pain, wait for it to release its grip, learning from my Buddha dog, my best dog Myrtle about abiding.

Eventually the world rights itself and, searching in the music library of my phone I press play on Nick Cave's Distant Sky and get up and go on.