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.