Hugo was tired. Not sleepy tired – done tired. No more balls to chase, sticks to carry, Frisbees to catch. He thought about these things he liked so much. Any other time he would have wanted to do them all right now. But here, lying on the sofa, now he was ready to go. He’d had a wonderful time. He was loved. He was happy. Sinking deeper and deeper into this comfort, he closed his eyes. He lay there for a minute or two, breathing getting harder but still hearing the chatter of familiar voices around him. He remembered riding home in the car when his new family came for him. Playing chase with the neighbors’ Jack Russell. Lying in the sun…
The voices of those who loved him and whom he loved so very much grew softer, more distant as each breath out drew him further away from there. Each breath in drew him closer to somewhere else.
He didn’t wake up so much as come back to an almost-the-same present after a moment’s distraction. He wasn’t in the living room. He was outside somewhere. The sun soothed. The breeze swirled dog-only scents around him. He was warm in the thick grass.
For a flashing instant, one of the smells made him think of a rawhide. And that made him think of cocktail hour with his people, when he got his rawhide. Where were they? And why wasn’t he in pain? He closed his eyes and thought hard. A butterfly flickered past his ear, and that made him think of lying outside by the lantana and butterfly weed.
He thought harder about the taste of the rawhide and the tickling of the butterfly. He knew there was a cocktail hour, knew the smell of lantana as it heated up under the summer Texas sun. Knew there were people who loved him. These thoughts were popping up and floating away; as soon as he thought too hard, it was gone.
The sun and breeze gently floated him away, towards slumber, towards the sound of clinking ice in glasses coming from inside. The patio door was open. He sat up and saw a monarch flit around the butterfly weed. He jumped up and trotted inside to head to the treat cabinet. There was Kevin. And Simon. And Kaydon. Kaydon saw him head to the cabinet and knew something good was about to happen, so he followed.
They both waited, he and that other dog. The drinks had to be poured, the lime sliced. Not much longer now. Just wait for the sound of the gin stirring in with the tonic. An eternity! At last, Kevin appeared around the corner and headed to the cabinet. Hugo stared at the door intently while Kaydon jumped incessantly. Then there it was. Kevin pulled out two rawhides and gave one to each of them. Hugo always got his first. They trotted to the living room taking opposite paths around the sofa, meeting again on the rug, facing each other as they chewed the rubbery hide.
Kaydon, the rawhide, the living room, the cocktail hour. All faded again as he awoke.
Now the rawhide and the butterfly made sense. Other things started to sharpen: diving into the pool for balls; snuggling his blanket; slapping the newspaper away from Kevin when he wanted his attention. There was a definite then-ness to it. And that last time he closed his eyes, when he was done. He remembered closing them, the complete relaxation, total letting go. What happened after closing his eyes eluded him, like the butterfly on the lantana, the fleeting bubbles of memory. He was just… here. Here wasn’t bad. Here was pretty good actually. But how did it happen? Hugo remembered going for walks and rides in cars. That’s how you got from there to here. He was sure that’s not how it happened this time.
The sun still felt warm. The breeze soothing. The grass inviting. He drifted away again.