Old Lou

"They always go off to die," Mom said,
maybe to me and maybe to herself,
to the slaw she was chopping on the counter.

Old Lou, the brown and white border collie 
that we’d been given by Mom’s brother.

We’d had her for as long as I could remember
and she’d been missing for three days.

I loved the way she’d chase the cows,
saving me a mile of walking and an hour of work
every morning and every afternoon, 
when she’d help me bring the herd of Jerseys up for milking.
I’d watch as she’d swing around the herd,
rushing up to nip any stragglers on the back of their hocks.

Sometimes Lou would walk with me along the pasture paths
headed toward the woods or the creek
until she saw or smelled something
and would streak away and show back up hours later.

She loved to lay over on her side,
curl her front feet up and stretch out her back legs
so I could scratch her belly for a while.
She also liked to be petted,
soft strokes flowing from her nose
clear back to the front part of her rump.

Whenever anyone headed toward the barn
or field or anywhere away from the house,
she’d jump up and take off with them.

"Mr. Raymond Stokes said he saw her—
Thursday evening—going down the road
carrying the biggest groundhog he'd ever seen.

"Most dogs can't kill a groundhog by themself," she said,
a hard slam of the heavy knife
finishing off another chunk of cabbage.

I had seen her and Sandy catch one—
Old Lou grabbed it by the neck 
and Sandy bit into its hind legs.
Shook it between 'em. Broke its back. Or its neck. 
Killed it and then ate it.

This one, Old Lou must've killed by herself.
Went off. Never came back.

Mom stopped for a moment,
looked over at Grandpa's picture on the dining room wall.

"They always go off to die," she said again,
dumping a tablespoon of vinegar
into the carrots and cabbage and salad dressing.

As if life needed any help with the bitter.

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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