17th May 2023
[Pairing Suggestion: this essay is best enjoyed alongside Paul Simon’s ballad April Come She Will]


April, come she will. When streams are ripe and swelled with rain. 

I am sitting outside a café, and a young lab called Ebony The Second is sniffing at my hand. It is the month of adolescent greens and lusty birdsong. Winter has been wearying, and I am so happy now to be drenched in Spring, and in the slobbering of a friendly mutt. 

May, she will stay. Resting in my arms again

The caffeine has not yet kicked my system, but Ebony The Second awakens something in me. His owner, a blonde woman with all the warmth that shared coffee moments bestow, admires my dog in turn. ‘They are the best’, she says. Speaking of all dogs, surely, but especially of ours. ‘He’s our second’, she explains. ‘Ebony The First came from my husband’s family home, and the parting was too much. Too brutal. I said no. I can’t do it again’. I smiled an understanding smile. It is shocking the pain that love accepts. 

June, she’ll change her tune. In restless walks she’ll prowl the night

I too had decided upon a new pup, two years after Rufus died. I had needed the time, it seems. At the old M50 turnpike I had parked the car and met Frieda (I called her Frieda the Breeda), who handed me the warmest, silkiest pup fresh from Waterford, which I called Rufus Youngblood. The latter name had become part of the secret heroic life I had entrusted to him. But Frieda had none available now. So I came across Eski through a Dog Rescue place in Blarney which popped on Facebook. By god, did she have Blarney. Plenty to say for herself. Rufus only screamed after birds. But Eski had an exchange with all dogs-on-leads, and, on reaching the shore, with an assemblage of random stones and balls which might conceivably, possibly be thrown.

July, she will fly. And give no warning to her flight 

‘How can I love him, when I know I’ll live to see him die?’ She muttered these words as she looked at Ebony The Second, and they seemed half-buried as they were spoken. It certainly had been my concern too; my justification for spending two years canine-free. There was a dumb TV programme I once saw where celebrity guests have to pull a lever, and consign an uncomfortable truth of life to ‘Room 101’, a synonym for oblivion. Julian Clary chose to commit the brief lifespan of dogs to extinction. “It seems a cruel twist of Nature that it’s not equal divvies for us all”, he said. I have liked that man ever since.  

August, die she must. The autumn winds blow chilly and cold

When it came to it, Rufus’ ending was fast-track. We had a weekend where I saw a gathering decline, and by the time I brought him to the vet on that Monday in mid-September, his goose was cooked. The vet, a nice man, asked us to return at 8pm, when the surgery would be closed. It was a silent leave-taking, and the man with the white tunic and needle filled the air with words that might have been piffle but seemed otherwise to me. ‘It’s a strange profession, being a vet’, he mused. ‘We have so many joyful meetings with owners and their pets, but every relationship of mine in this surgery ends in trauma’. I looked at him with fresh recognition, and then down to where Rufus lay, exhausted. Not knowing what to do, I dropped to the surgery floor beside him, and nuzzled my nose close to his ear. ‘Thank you’, I whispered, again and again, until it all was done.

September, I’ll remember. A love once new has now grown old

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