‘Le soleil ni la mort ne se peuvent regarder fixement.’
It is the morning of 1 March. Our dog bangs her tail against the frame of the bed in a soft tattoo to signal she wants to go out into the garden. All seems normal. But her back legs give way. Not once, but twice. Twinges of old age, I think. But within a few minutes she lies on the floor and makes no sign of wanting to move. I alert my wife. I pick up our dog and hold her. After a while she wants to be on the floor once more. I put her down. Put her favourite square of cloth under her. Stroke her back. Her back legs splay out slightly, she lays her head out towards one side. ‘I think she’s stopped breathing,’ I say. She has. All this takes only about forty minutes.
We decide to bury her in the garden. I carry her on her cloth out onto the terrace, remove a dead bush from the flower bed, a victim of last year’s drought, and for the next couple of hours dig with increasing frenzy until I can only just scramble up from the hole. I lift her, already stiff, a dead weight, down into the grave, swathe her in her cloth. Bury her, along with my grief. A week later, only the rim of the grave is visible on the surface. I rake it over, but it comes back. Finally, we plant a laburnum burkwoodii, a snowball bush, at the centre.
I was trying to bury my inkling that my grief would not last long. Das Tuch gegen den Tod. I hid her in a cloth. But all spring small poppies appear in the lawn. They have long roots like tiny parsnips.