The old golden lies by my feet as I watch the sun set. Every evening while we sit out on the side porch, I sip a small glass of bourbon and smoke a cigar and the retriever dozes with one of his paws touching my foot. The routine is always the same and sometimes my leg goes to sleep because if I move, it disturbs his rest.
Angus is dying and there is nothing either of us can do about it. When he looks up at me I can see that his eyes are cloudy. His snout is almost pure white and he is terribly arthritic. His tail still works fine but he’s eating less and is noticeably thinner.
When he was young, he would follow my tractor into the fields and walk on my left side down one row and back up the next. He would stay with me as long as I was out. Sometimes I would wrap some leftover fried chicken and cornbread up in a napkin and when the sun was straight up, we would stop under the big sugar maple and share lunch. Oh how that dog loved lemonade.
He was a fine hunter and for years we had no squirrels, rabbits or hedgehogs on the property. Every once in a while he would bring me half a critter. I would always praise him and give him a biscuit; and while he was distracted I would get a shovel and discretely dispose of his trophy.
His best trick was self-taught. When I would let him out in the morning he would run down our driveway, about 800 feet to the front road, where he would get the morning paper out of the box and bring it back to the house. If the deliveryman was late, he would sit by the box and wait. It was a great trick for which he always received two biscuits.
I guess I first noticed Angus was getting on in years when he started following the tractor to the end of a row and then he would sit and watch me plow two or three rows before he would walk to the other side of the field and repeat the process. Finally one day my shadow stopped going into the fields’ altogether. That’s about the time I spotted the first squirrel running around on the lawn.
One morning last winter I noticed that Angus came back to the house empty mouthed. He looked terribly embarrassed. I gave him his biscuits and later that day I phoned the newspaper office and canceled my subscription. Every morning since, I have helped the old guy into the car and driven into the village to the market on Elm Street where I buy a paper. He holds it in his mouth all the way home and proudly carries it into the kitchen where I give him his reward. It’s still a great trick.
It’s getting colder each day. The two of us love sitting on the porch watching the beautiful red, yellow and orange leaves cover the lawn like a patchwork quilt. My wife has started brewing up a batch of her cinnamon cider. It’s especially good with bourbon in it. The pumpkins across the road are ready and soon the ground will be frozen.
I don’t think my friend will be here when the daffodils come up. Maybe I’ll stop reading the morning paper. There’s nothing but bad news in it anyway.