For Pinto, who is free

The coyotes have tried to dig up Pinto’s grave, again. They made it all the way to the edge of the white cardboard box before giving up. They were exhausted, I imagine, from digging under all those rocks, the ones we piled on Pinto’s grave when we buried him. I kick dirt back into the hole and gather more, even larger rocks. The coyotes are going to have to dig quite the tunnel, now. I wouldn’t mind if they took him, ate him, scattered his bones in the warm bright sun. It seems like putting off the inevitable, burying him again. He’s already returned to the desert, I can feel his spirit in this spot, leaping in the warm morning, saying Look how fast I can run. He’s free, now. Freer than any of us still living. I remember how I cried when the vet tech placed that white cardboard box in my arms, two months ago. The box was the familiar weight of Pinto yet, different, yet, completely the same. Crying holding a white cardboard box in a side corridor of the building, where they give you your pet’s remains. Then you go out a separate exit, so no-one in the lobby has to see you.

Cradling that white box in my arms, heavy with the weight of Pinto, I hallucinated a muffled “woof” as I made my way across the parking lot to my van. Pinto barking in response to the kennel next door, all the dogs clattering at their chainlink. What he would have said, anyway. How could he be dead? What even was death? If he wasn’t there, in that box, then where?

In the van I opened the box and looked inside. I needed to know. There was Pinto, curled up so peacefully. The warm smell of him filled the space around me. I touched his soft fur. He was gone. I touched his soft fur. He was gone. I turned inside out with grief.

I hallucinated that smell for days. Warm blood and dog and love.

Yesterday it rained and the air smelled of creosote. I went running and watched the stormclouds move over the Catalinas, layers of light and mist. The ocotillos waved their furled flowers against the sky. Furled flowers ready to explode like red birds. There is so much beauty in life.

The mango lassi you left in my fridge traveled with me to my new house, the house I moved to to keep my dogs safe from the javelinas. I’m not mad at the javelinas. I’m not mad at Pinto. I’m not mad at myself. What I struggle with is the concept of death. What I struggle with is not knowing what happens after we die, or if I’ll ever see him again. I bought a small stack of used books to help me move through grief. They are poetic, they struggle for secular language. They say things like “you are bound forever in a knot of love that can never be untied”. That helps. They don’t give me answers but I don’t want answers, if there aren’t an answers to give.

In the morning I can hear the doves, in the eaves outside my bedroom window. I gave the mango lassi to my housemate and she loved it so much, she asked me to ask you where you got it. I text you in Canada, where you’re whittling a chess set by lamplight, the mountains outside your window blanketed in snow.

The pigeons are called doves here, and they sound at dawn in the eaves outside my window. The sun always rises and turns the dirty world into a kaleidoscope of light. Spring is coming, the ocotillos have leaves the size of squirrel’s ears running up and down their stalks. Not the spring of common north american mythology but the spring of the Sonoran desert; just one of its yearly undulations as it moves in and out of the heat and the rain. I imagine Pinto being reborn, in the palo verde tree above his grave. I imagine the love he had as a dog emanating out from the ends of the palo verde’s branches. In this way I feel the whole desert smiling at me. The warm wind wraps around me like a hug. I sit in the dirt next to Pinto’s grave, and cry. I remember the way he used to lean his body against me and look at me with that dull, stupid love. I can feel the whole desert holding me. I can feel now, what he was always trying to tell me. Almost. I can almost feel it.