It was great to have a proper send-off this morning for Jemby Dog, the great and true dog soul who played such an important part in my life for 18 years.
Melissa, Rai, Boy13 and I met on the low tide at Sirius Cove —Jemby’s favourite time at Jemby’s favourite swimming spot – and we each took turns sprinkling her ashes, deep in our own thoughts.
I waded out into the gentle waves at low tide, feeling the same cold pressure against my bare legs I’d known for all those years.
Throwing sticks, stones and shells for her to fetch, calling her name in vain when it was time to go.
Sometimes in summer swimming with her here, sometimes at the beach, alone or with her best buddy John and his owner Matt.
In winter and summer, rain, hail or shine, sometimes starting before dawn, or after breakfast or right on sunset, this water time was our thing.
I saw the little box fish dart away from my feet, the kind she’d spend hours chasing and pouncing on, sometimes bringing them gently to shore in her mouth.
I saw a few big oyster-encrusted rocks on the sandy bottom, quite likely the same rocks I’d thrown for her to fetch, holding her breath for ten seconds at a time, diving down like a seal, her long retriever coat swirling behind her like a fluid halo of fine yellow weed.
There were oyster and clam shells too, the kind we would throw for an hour at a time for Jemby to jump from the water and catch in her mouth when Boy13 was Boy5.
I watched the ashes swirl and slowly sink according to their mass. I thought about the tide, now bringing the ash to shore, later taking it back, in a twice daily dance older than everything.
As the ashes swirled I sang Jemby’s two songs – the one I’d sing for her when she was swimming, and the lullaby I’d sung her to sleep with when she was a young puppy.
That was back before Boy13 was even an idea.
We were doing pretty well raising a dog, Melissa said, maybe it was time we tried with a kid.
Both dog and kid turned out well.
I waded back to the shoreline and up the sandstone stairs to the grass, to hand the bag of ashes to Rai, who’d loved Jemby as a best friend.
I sat with Melissa on the bench she’d rested her pregnant self on 14 years ago, while I threw sticks for Jemby and wondered who we were about to bring into the world.
Now I hugged my intelligent, funny, loving teenage son and we lay down on our backs, feet-to-feet, so Melissa could confirm that our feet were now the same size and he could start borrowing my size 13 shoes.
I wondered about how big his feet would get before they stopped growing, and how far down he’d need to lean to hug me, and whether I’d have shrunk and widened in the meantime.
I thought about how eternal the present moment seems, whether you’re a boy waiting to become a man or you’re a man wading in the water, throwing sticks for a dog.
I thought about how distant the future seems when you’re looking with surprise at the woman you love and wondering what kind of father you’ll make.
Time passes, but the future never comes and the past is always present.
I’ll always remember you Jemby Dog, and wading in the water with you will always seem like just a moment ago.