A small excerpt from the memoir in progress:
Bunker followed me from room to room. When the house was empty, we lay on my gray bedroom carpet, his shedding puppy hair entwining with my damaged blonde mess. I touched the wet soft of his nose. He licked my finger, then rolled onto his back. When his eyes drooped, I watched his eyelashes flutter long after they closed. It was a love affair of survival. With him, I began to think I could venture out into the world again. I thought of the days I couldn’t rise from the couch or the time I sat clutching the knife in the basement. I thought of how warm the wind felt on my ankles the day I opened the car door on the highway. It terrified me that I ever felt that desperate. As if a miracle had come, the lid on that endless sorrow clamped shut with this dog by my side. Something about him—some wordless magic he brought—began to close that chapter of my life forever.
June 17, 2012
After he came to me in 1996, I began calculating the years. He was a big dog, so I’d be really lucky if I got 15 years. I spent way too much time dreading the day I would lose him. I remember consoling myself with the thought that when he died, he would’ve done his job by then. I would be okay, able to survive another few decades without him.
I never said it out loud, but I knew that Bunker had come to help me heal. He was a therapy dog before there were therapy dogs. He brought me a level of calm I’d never known. Without him, my depression would’ve probably ruined me. He picked up my broken, battered spirit and carried it alongside his. He took away the heaviness, and I still don’t understand how he did it. I don’t understand who he was or why he carried such medicine. I spend my days writing my heart out, trying so hard to explain the tremendous comfort he brought.
He was 11 when he got sick, and he died within 10 days of his diagnosis. The moment he passed, I felt a shift in the atmosphere. The light changed. In a way, I still feel frozen in that spot, still stuck in that sterile veterinarian’s office with his lifeless head on my lap. I write this book in an effort to move out of that room, to share the beauty that was his being, to share our story of healing. How blessed I was to have him.
I just finished reading the memoir manuscript for the first time. Even though it’s an incomplete first draft and it has so much work ahead of it, I feel like I could weep because it’s good. It’s really good. And, of course, it’s awful in places.
But really, the story and the arc and what’s happening is so real and true and amazing that I feel daunted and humbled by the progress. I realize that I’m really only about halfway through, but judging the distance until I’m finished doesn’t seem important right now. The important part is that I feel hopeful. I can do this, and this story is so important and worth telling. Isn’t that a miracle?
I miss you, Bunker. This one’s for you.
(Remind me to read this tomorrow when I’m thwacking my head on my desk.)