My removal was a final act of tenderness. Moments before, eye to eye, she made the decision.
Fidelity, it turns out,takes many forms.
She stroked his head and they inhaled together.
But when she breathed again, hers was the only breath, and she suffocated it with a shudder of tears.
From that moment I lay beside her on the bedside table. Traces of him, ingrained in leather, were better than nothing.
She would shake her head sometimes, when she caught sight of me.
“He was just a dog” I heard her say. But just the once.
Yet despite this, every evening, before switching off the light, she would touch me, smell me, bid me goodnight. Taking comfort from the familiarity of a new ritual.
Her own passing was a lonely event. And in the days that followed, with strangers busying themselves in drawers and cupboards, I went unnoticed, a worthless item, but a strange one.
Someone finds me, picks me up, and thinks, “Why keep such a thing?”
And they shudder then, as the loneliness of the room descends upon them.