True to his word, our vet

comes in late afternoon

and kneels in a slant of sun.

A pat, a needle stick

stills the failing heart.

We lower the ancient form

to the hemlock-shrouded grave

and before the hole is brimmed

set a layer of chicken wire

to guard against predators

so that the earth we broke

reforms, a mild mound.

The rock we place on top,

common glacial granite,

is mica-flecked and flat.

That night the old dog works

his way back up and out,

gasping, salted with dirt,

and barks his familiar bark

at the scribble-scratched back door.

I pull on shirt and pants,

a Pavlovian response,

and stumble half awake

downstairs to turn the knob

where something, some mortal stub

I swear I recognize,

some flap of ear or fur,

swims out of nothingness

and brushes past me

into its rightful house.