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The Old Kerry


© 2006 Rod Bull

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from Rod Bull.

The Old Kerry lay in front of the log fire, as the November wind whistled outside and the rain pattered on the window. He was fifteen years old now, and had lived with the Man's daughter and her husband since the Man Went Away.

He missed the Man. They were kind to him here, but it wasn't the same. He remembered so many things about the time before.

He went with the Man when he was but a puppy. He remembered his mother and litter-mates only dimly now, but when he cried in the darkness on his first night in the bed alone the Man came to him and held him and stroked him until he slept. He had felt better after that, and he looked for the Man's praise in all things afterward. He looked for him and knew the sound of his steps and the sound of the motor he drove, and he knew that when that was near his world was perfect again.

He had fathered puppies of his own, too. He remembered the smell the bitch put into his nostrils and the madness that came upon him and the warmth of her and the ecstasy of it. When he sniffed at the puppies she had bitten him. Hard. He had always wondered about females. The Man said the same to him on many occasions.

He wished he could still go for the Walk. He had loved the Walk. The meadow ,still damp from the dawn and the endless rabbits and the smell of them and the chase of them as he flew over the grass, his ears flying backward as he stretched his body to full speed. He had caught a few and felt the exultation of the kill and the joy of the killing necksnapping shake.

The Man's house had been his house and the Man's puppies his puppies. When a Bad Man had come to the house and tried to grab the Man's little girl, the Kerry had reacted with fury. The blood of his Irish ancestors had come to the boil in an instant . He had run from the back of the house and leapt for the Bad Man's throat. He had held out an arm with a knife in his hand, but the Kerry had bitten the arm to the bone. The Bad Man had squealed like one of the meadow rabbits when caught. The Kerry had been a hero for a while, then. He had had his picture in the local paper. The Bad Man had been held, injured arm and all, and was seen no more.

Time had passed. The Kerry and the Man had grown older and slower together. Their walks had become slower too, and they ambled across the meadow in a slower, more companiable way, and walked as the old friends they were.The man had walked steadily and painfully at the end and the Kerry had to wait for him. The walk grew shorter and shorter but the Kerry didn't mind. So long as he was with the Man he cared for nothing.

Then the Man couldn't come out at all. He lay in his bed, the Kerry by his side. The Kerry knew that the smell of passage was on the Man. It was the same smell all things gave out when the passage was upon them. As the smell grew stronger the Kerry shook in fear and misery. He knew what was to come.

When it came, the Kerry lay next to the Man. As others came to look at the Man, who was now cold, the Kerry snarled at them. He had always protected the Man but now ,what was there to protect ? He howled in his grief, but eventually, they took him away from the Man and to this place.

He stirred his limbs at the fireside. They were stiff, now and hurt him. He saw the world through a milky haze and he knew the people had to shout to get his attention. As he moved his nose (nothing wrong with that,still) he caught a new smell. He trembled. It was the smell of passage, and this time it was coming from him. He felt his breath grow short.

He looked up. There was an unexpected light , such as he had not seen for years since his eyes grew dim. It was the sun, shining on the meadow, the grass wet with dew and the droplets glinting like diamonds. At the top of the meadow he saw a familiar figure, dressed in his old green jacket and holding an old leather lead. The figure called out "Come, boy, come! Walk ! Walk!"

The Old Kerry leapt to his feet, his stiff limbs forgotten. He began to run across the meadow, his paws feeling the blessed coolness of the meadow grass. He ran towards the figure in the green jacket.

He ran like the wind.

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On this day in 1957:

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