Today, on my first walk without you, I kept on repeating a gesture that has now become something of a habit with me: looking back to check you were there.
It’s what I did for six and a half years, walk after walk, whether near home in Italy, or away in Provence, Normandy, Brittany, Alsace or Scotland. Because you have always preferred to be behind, to bring up the rear: you felt safe like that, without a lead; you were always with us but you sought refuge behind us.
When you felt the need for greater security you would stop and ask us, with a look, to be put on the lead. (Not in town, obviously, as you have never been offlead on city streets). But it had no longer been like that for a year: even here on holiday in Brittany, after months of strenuous walks near home in Italy, it was the support of my hand that helped you to stay with us.
But always at the back, always behind, and while this had been a choice before, it was now a necessity. With the odd exception, because you would always liven up unexpectedly for a moment when a dog or cat crossed your path! But you always stayed at the back, even when you were on the lead, and I would stop to encourage you or see how you were doing.
Well, today I kept on looking back for you, and your absence was like a punch in the stomach. Or maybe you were there in the woods and you were saying hello to us…I like to think that. And if that seems silly to anyone, then they would be wrong, because your presence is inside us, and so you are always with us. Like Pascal said: “the heart has its reasons, which reason knows nothing of.”
Looking back among the photos of you, which are so many and sooner or later we will gather them in an album, I found one in which you are not looking back but forward, as if to show us all the path. Because we cannot forget that you were a survivor, and that you had two lives: a horrendous one as a racer, sometimes beaten and often abused (and that’s not a fantasy but the actual truth), and one a life of dignity. Bit by bit you got over your fears and you had, I think, a good old age. So much so that the fur that was missing in your first years with us even grew back.
So I have chosen this photo, because even though I will continue to see you behind me, you have helped me look forward and understand.
I said you were looking back, but I see that really that was just my perspective. Because you on the other hand were always looking forward, and that is a lesson for me, forever.
Run, Blackie, and show us the way.
By Massimo Greco
translated by Isobel Deeley