My Dog, Cortana, is Gone Now

IMG_0948My Chocolate Lab, Cortana, the only dog anyone in my family has ever owned, or known, or loved, developed an extremely painful paralysis called “Cauda Equina Syndrome.” She had to be put to sleep by the vet.

I’m walking a line between denial and some version of “normal depressed feeling.”  If that makes sense.

I was looking out my window a few days ago, down at the grass in our back yard where Cortana had made a narrow trail of bald ground next to the fence, all the way around. I was just looking, not really feeling anything until I noticed that the grass is already starting to grow back over the trail. At that point, it felt overwhelmingly sad.

This may seem a little callous or inappropriate now, but I’ve got to share something that might help you – before I forget. This blog is about writing fiction, after all, so here goes…

If you’re trying to write a sad scene, a third-party of some sort, preferably an inanimate third-party that’s “looking on” like the grass in my backyard, makes the scene more powerfully sad. It’s not just true in real life.

Go read the poem, Little Boy Blue, by Eugene Field, and you’ll see what I mean. Second thought, here, I’ll get the poem and paste it below. If you don’t want to cry like a baby right now, don’t read it. I’m serious, this poem may make you feel depressed for a while, so be careful. Personally, I’m not going to read it now because I don’t want to cry. Yeah, I’m a guy. Shut up.

Little Boy Blue    by Eugene Field 

The little toy dog is covered with dust,
But sturdy and stanch he stands;
And the little toy soldier is red with rust,
And his musket moulds in his hands.
Time was when the little toy dog was new,
And the soldier was passing fair;
And that was the time when our Little Boy Blue
Kissed them and put them there.

“Now, don’t you go till I come,” he said,
“And don’t you make any noise!”
So, toddling off to his trundle-bed,
He dreamt of the pretty toys;
And, as he was dreaming, an angel song
Awakened our Little Boy Blue—
Oh! the years are many, the years are long,
But the little toy friends are true!

Ay, faithful to Little Boy Blue they stand,
Each in the same old place—
Awaiting the touch of a little hand,
The smile of a little face;
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.


Two months later… Today my wife was in the room where we used to keep Cortana’s collars. My wife was always trying new ways to get the smell out of those things. Detergents, vinegar, Clorox.  Nothing worked. Today she sniffed each collar carefully, one after the other, but none of them carried any scent. She said she wished she hadn’t washed them.

M. Talmage Moorehead

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