There is one thing I still have to do, and I have been putting it off. Stinky Wink's collar and leash are still hanging on the hanger with my coat in the closet next to the front door. That seems the hardest thing to do--even more than picking up the toys, for some reason. He loved walkies SO much. I plan to use the leash for baby; that seems like a nice continuity. But Wink's collar will be retired, and put with the other things of his that I am keeping in a memory box. He only had one collar his entire adult life, so it is truly Wink-infused. The leash and the collar were never separated because he only wore the collar when we walked. He was never outside without me, and when he was outside it was either in our fenced yard or on walkies. He never showed any interest in leaving our yard on his own. Occasionally I would leave the back gate open when I was working in the vegetable garden. I think maybe twice he came through the gate and sat there to watch me. Mostly he would lie next to the picket fence by the vegetable garden, with his head lying on the bottom brace, watching me and enjoying the sun. If he had been the kind to take off, I would have made sure the collar was always on. The way it was, he associated the collar with going on an adventurous walk.
I will have to take the collar off the leash and put it away--but not today. When Grandpa died, Grandma left his work shoes by the back door. A couple of years later, I asked her why they were still there. She said, simply, "That's where he left them." There was nothing especially sentimental in that response, but I knew it was the culmination of almost sixty years of marriage, and those shoes were infused with Grandpa. He died suddenly in his favorite chair while talking to my parents and my sister, who was home from California. Putting those shoes there may well have been the last thing he did. She wanted that reminder. Maybe I should put a hook on the closet wall and leave the collar there--just to remind me every time I open the closet door that the collar is a symbol of happy times and special events. Grandpa's shoes were a reminder of what he did every day when he came home. Wink's collar is a reminder of healthy and happy times, and of what we did together every day--something we both enjoyed and both needed. Of all the other interactions we had during the day, that was our special time. He snooped; I thought.
I'm going to take a little more time to decide about the collar. It's not in the way, and there will be a couple of months before I need to think about using the leash. In the mean time, when I open the closet door I smile, remembering a life that was so entwined with my own. I remember our walkies, Winker, and how we both enjoyed them. I try to walk our routes myself, but it's not the same without you. Still, somehow I think that you are there, your spirit trotting along beside me, sticking your nose in the same bushes, marking the same spots that you marked every walk. You still make me smile, my besses puppo.