In Memory of Shadow
I remember opening my eyes on those first mornings
Back in South Africa, when I was still able to visit,
And in the space between sleep and awareness,
Not yet knowing where I was,
I would hear footsteps walking up the long passage past the bedrooms,
Accompanied by the sounds of a large dog
Brimming with energy and the expectation of a new day.
And I would know that I was “home”.
It was the lovely Shadow living up to his name,
sticking close to my brother, as he headed towards the kitchen.
No matter how tired I still felt from the long flights,
I would rise eagerly because I did not want to miss the ritual of the morning walk.
I remember how Shadow would become more and more excited
As the humans he loved put on shoes and found his leash,
It was like he couldn’t understand the delays…”Come on!”
His beautiful eyes would beseech.
And then the gates would open and we would be off
Into the noise and commotion
that accompanies walking a dog in the streets of Johannesburg.
Neighbouring dogs would bark frantically, some at the fence
And some even from rooftops,
But Shadow knew he was king of the street and this was his domain.
Depending on the time available we would walk to one of a variety of parks,
And Shadow would shake with excitement as the leash was removed
and he could run free, his sheer joy, contagious and life affirming.
I would then have time to notice the red earth of Africa, and settle into knowing
That I was indeed back in the country of my birth.
Sometimes my brother and I would talk,
but mostly I remember walking in companionable silence,
As Shadow ran, chased sticks and “smiled” with joy.
The walks home were just as filled with the noise of the envy of dogs behind fences.
But my brother knew where all the “combatants” lurked
And would cross the road or just walk on by, depending on the level of threat.
Back in the kitchen, there were newspapers to be read, and breakfast eaten.
Often Shadow would be there also, making me laugh,
As he ate one piece of dog kibble at a time.
Throughout my stays, Shadow was always there,
Lying in his dog bed, following Benjamin around the garden,
hanging out with Sophie or surveying the front garden from his raised throne.
I always knew my brother had returned from work long before I heard the car,
Because Shadow would be up and racing towards the garage.
He was a constant reminder of the love my mother had for animals,
And how she passed this priceless gift onto her children.
As her legacy, there have been countless dogs on three continents
bringing companionship and joy to her children, grandchildren, and now great grandchildren.
A week ago brave, beautiful Shadow could no longer stay
with those who loved him, and had nursed him through his final years.
He has left behind empty spaces, broken hearts,
and a presence that cannot be replaced.
But I believe, true to his name,
his Shadow will forever stay with those who loved him.
And they will always be richer for his presence.
My brother said, “he was everybody’s dog”
This is the ultimate tribute.
11 March 2017