He was his loyal companion these half score years;
His genealogy traced back down both lines
From dogs that worked the Cheviots on the hill
& moor, the sea meadows and sometimes – in Spring
& Autumn – on the rain-lashed island.
Quick, lithe, one eye blue, the other brown, fleet-of-foot
Through heather, long and sodden grass, over the burns
in torrent & drought. His coat matted, rain & mud bedraggled
So that the dog-smell & dog-damp of his hair would fill the car,
leaving spider’s web traceries on the steamed glass.
Through thick-and-thin, rain-and-shine — he followed you;
At your heal over in Sleital or on the Rhu. Moving ahead,
crouched low, his limbs packed with latent, sprung pounce-and-dash,
ever-vigilant, watchful bid to bring the stray gimmer back into the fold,
or face down the recalcitrant, ballsy tup.
Days of silence in the high sweetness of Summer;
heather scent like salt and honey nectar moves over the hill
& envelopes you both sweet unsaid companionship.
At the clipping when the bleating weft of noise is quelled by his
Rounding hard-wired instinct. Hours & days of unspoken trust
Where ancient bond forms, reforms & tightens.
A constant companion –
The men build a loving coffin, dog-sized, to take dog-worn,
dog- tired body. Venerated, loved, respected the box laid above
The exact coffin cut grave on spade shafts, lowered with orange baler twine
— four-men’s worth — into the earth of broken schist & heather-root:
to be mourned, to be remembered, to be marked, to be missed.
Giles H. Sutherland