Tanner wasn’t waiting for me at the fence yesterday.
Dakota and Tanner, my two oldest dogs, are always waiting for me at the chain-link fence. Dakota can’t hear and doesn’t see well, so she stays close to the fence in the afternoon when I walk by in order to collect her treat. Tanner really can’t see or hear at all, so he keeps close to Dakota. Yesterday he wasn’t there.
The thing about giving out dog treats is that, even though I have a relationship with all these dogs, I don’t know much about them.
“Where is your brother?” I once asked a long-legged hound that I always met with her sibling.
“We had to put him down yesterday,” the hound dog’s owner said, as his eyes filled with tears.
“Oh! I’m sorry. That was sudden,” I said.
He nodded and wiped his eyes. The now-single hound looked up at me with big sad eyes, as if she knew what we were talking about. It was sudden for everyone.
Today I am worried about Tanner. He’s 14, and it pulls at my heart the way he takes his treat so gently. He cannot see my hand. His teeth are old and worn. His muzzle is gray. He is so old and kind and careful. And yesterday, he was missing.
My heart was already tender.
My husband Peter’s oldest sister, Shelley, has been in and out of the hospital for more than two months. She has made it out as far as rehab, and then had to go back to the hospital for more surgeries, more infections, more trouble.
Peter is still grieving the loss of his other sister, Lori, who died of cancer just this spring. He is worried — we are both so worried — about Shelley.
I try not to ask Peter, “Any news on Shelley?” because he would tell me if there was. And so I go for my walk and always in the back of my mind I’m wondering about Shelley. And then, yesterday, Tanner was missing.
“Where is Tanner?” I asked Dakota, as she ate her treat. She did not answer. I could tell she thought she should get a second treat, since I had another one in my hand, ready.
“This treat is for Tanner!” I told her. But she kept staring at me, giving me no clue where he might be.
I used to think bad news was the hardest thing to bear. Now I’m not sure if no news isn’t a little worse. No news is a constant buzzing. It is hopeful one moment and doom-filled the next. It is pain and fear mixed together. It is the anticipation of loss, and it causes me to see ill omens and sadness everywhere.
There is still no news on Shelley. Her son and daughter-in-law can’t know any more than the doctors, and the doctors don’t know what is happening. She is tired. She is sad. I imagine she must be lonely. All we know is that she does not call and her voicemail is full and that is not like Shelley.
I brought a couple of extra-large treats with me on my walk today. When I got to Tanner’s house, there was only one dog waiting outside. It was Tanner.
I hollered at him to no avail. I jumped up and down and waved my arms and finally caught his eye. He tottered over.
“Oh, Tanner. It’s so good to see you,” I told him.
“What’s the big deal?” he seemed to say.
Sometimes no news is the best news of all.
Till next time,
Carrie Carrie Classon’s memoir is called “Blue Yarn.” Learn more at CarrieClasson.com.