There’s this older couple that lives across the alley from me. They’ve got to be somewhere in their mid seventies and during the summer growing season we often swap the fruits of our labor. Depending on our individual success we’d often trade such things as tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers and other assorted veggies based on our individual needs. There was nothing formal about it, it was more like if you need it, help yourself.
Over the years, we also fell into another sort of routine. See, I get up to leave for work almost every morning around 6:45 AM and come rain or shine, heat or freezing cold they would be out there walking their dog. The dog itself was nothing special, a mutt that in dog years was probably as old as them and shaped something like an American football. Without fail it would waddle over to me (they didn’t use a leash, it was one of those kind of dogs) with its tail wagging and I’d give it a scratch on the head and a pat on rump all the while holding some neighborly conversation with the husband and wife.
King went a-runnin' after deer
Wasn't scared of jumpin' off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin' and he would go
Was the best old hound dog I ever did know.
I think it was a week or so ago when I was out back raking up some dead shit that had accumulated over the winter when I noticed some of my other neighbors kids playing in their backyard. Since I hadn’t seen my elderly neighbors in awhile I asked them if they knew of their whereabouts. I figured that this being winter they might have headed down to warmer climates or were off visiting family. I was a bit shocked when one of them said:
”Bob, their dog died, they don’t come out too much anymore.”
That old King was a friend of mine
Never knew a dog that was half as fine
I may find one, you never do know
'Cause I still got a long way to go
I guess I took it for granted that my morning routine wouldn’t change, that I’d always be greeted with friendly conversations and wagging tails. I guess that’s what makes a “routine” a “routine”.
I was wrong…
I’m sorta tempted to knock on their door just to see how they’re doing but I feel kinda awkward. I'm embarrassed to say I never even knew the damn dog’s name but I hope that when spring/summer comes along I’ll see that elderly couple outside tending to their garden and life will resume as normal.
All I know for now is something is missing in my life.
I can’t imagine what’s missing from theirs.
I had a dog and his name was King
I told that dog about everything
Old King sure meant a lot to me
But that hound dog is history
In closing, I guess this goes out to all the people, especially those here at E2 who have loved and lost a dog somewhere along the line. I’m guessing that the elderly couple doesn’t have the urge to get a puppy or adopt another dog to take his place.
Some holes, especially when you get older, might just be impossible to fill.
Selected lyrics lifted from Neil Young’s fine tune called “Old King” and released on the album Harvest Moon way back in 1992.