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.