He watched her familiar shape getting smaller as she put more distance between them, literally and figuratively, her body as untouched by childbearing or age as he'd always known it would be. She was a lean, lanky Golden Retriever built for distance, not sprints; for action, not sedentary introspection.
Rex let out a mournful howl that echoed painfully inside his human's head. A short, vigorous shake couldn't cut off the internal dissonance. "Let it go, Rex!" blurted his human, "We're all better off this way."
(What? It's a surprise that Rex listens to Country upon occasion?)
Rex hadn't been lead dog in this relationship, however, his human had, and humans find ways to complicate life, no matter how ideal the fit they've found. If Rex and his human were complex, she was impressively, intricately, fascinatingly complex: smarter, quicker, much more intricate than any Swiss watch. Just as beautiful, just as precise in her movements, even more efficient in her mechanisms, but far less easy to predict. She was also less easy to make adjustments to -- impossible, in fact -- but then adjustments like those always began from within.
Truth be told, it was Rex who suffered most. Dogs like Rex bonded to their opposite-gender alphas with deep, life-long connections that never really severed, despite time or distance. As she rounded a bend and jogged out of their lives once and for all, having made her peace, said what she needed to (all of it positive, encouraging -- glowing, even), Rex felt a wrenching sorrow that his human would try to assuage with reasoned arguments and missives, but for Rex it wasn't conceptual or ethereal, it would not dissipate with time or therapy. It was real and profound, like a limb torn asunder, amputated -- but without any means of telling the brain that the sensation of that missing limb should dissipate and eventually vanish. It was there, as real in his dreams in three dimensions as it ever had been in the past, awake or in slumber.
As his human grimaced and set his teeth Rex howled again, mournfully, though no one else could hear. (He could keep it up longer than a Bloodhound with the most prodigious set of lungs imaginable.) A few searing grains of sand had made their way under the outer corners of his tightly pressed eyelids and he swiped at them angrily with one knuckle. He cursed under his breath and told himself to get on with it, with 'life'.
Rex's cacophony rattled his composure and concentration. The car idled, a honk from behind encouraging him to tap the accelerator and remove himself from the reality of this watershed moment. He drove on, Rex serenading him, both of them thinking about what was supposed to have been, rather than what might be.
Even an amputee who has a Lupus canis familiaris sharing his cranium moves on and lives another day, but frustratingly, life's not a male dog, life's a female dog.
(Read my account of when Rex first met his Golden Retriever here.)