We were newlyweds living in Missoula, Montana. I loved the funky town. But the best part of being there was that it was 1,300 miles away from Waterloo, Iowa, where Tom’s parents lived, and 862 miles from Greeley, Colorado, where mine lived.

I didn’t know much, but I knew that if this foolish marriage was to have any kind of chance, it was best to be as far away from both sets of our parents as possible.

Toward the end of the summer, Tom suddenly announced that he wanted to move back to Colorado because he missed his best friend there. Tom’s proclamation that we were to return to Greeley was almost more than I could bear. It was unbearable because it was so ludicrous and unnecessary. I ran out of energy trying to make Tom see how much I wanted to stay in Montana. He began making arrangements for our return to Colorado. 

I thought about telling Tom that he could move back to Colorado without me. I loved it in Missoula, and I could just stay here. But those ideas simply died inside of me because, as out of touch as I was, I knew that I had no way to support myself. I knew one couple in town, and that could hardly be counted as a support system. I was dependent on Tom, or more precisely, his parents, to keep a roof over my head. Looking back on it, I wish I had had the courage to stay in Missoula. I honestly think I could have been very happy there. I had not learned to trust myself or my ability to take care of myself. So I swallowed my disappointment and grief and went along with what Tom wanted. Again. 

One day after the pronouncement about our return to Colorado, Tom and I were walking along the river, and as we approached our car on the side of the road, Abraxas dashed out into the road.

No, no, no, no, no!!!!

He was a crazy little animal with his own agenda. He was chasing a rabbit and did not see the car approaching. Tom and I looked on in horror as the car hit the dog and left him there, a soft heap in the middle of the road. Tom dashed to the side of the dog and scooped him up in his muscular arms. Despite the callousness with which he treated my feelings, Tom could be a kind man with a good heart. He loved that dog almost as much as I did.

When we reached the car, Tom wrapped the unconscious Abraxas in a blanket and we drove across town to the veterinary clinic. We had not called ahead. We simply hoped that the vet could help him when we walked in. We got to the clinic, and Tom picked up the dog wrapped in a blanket. Abraxas appeared to be dead, and blood was flowing from his mouth.

Oh no. Please no. Please, please, please, no!

As Tom approached the door of the clinic from the parking lot, suddenly Abraxas came to life and started struggling against the blanket that wrapped him. I watched in horror as his little body fell from the blanket, blood streaming. 

The damned dog then ran off. Although we scoured the neighborhood there on the opposite side of Missoula from our house, Abraxas was nowhere to be found. I was certain that he had crawled into the bushes to die.

We cried all the way home and into the evening. Once again, Abraxas was all I had. I couldn’t imagine living without him and his yipping and garbage stealing. 

I walked around in a haze of grief, giving into frequent fits of weeping. I cried so hard, I thought I might pass out. I did not think I could face life with Tom without my little dog at my side. 

The disappearance and probable death in the bushes of my precious dog gutted me. I had waited my entire life to have a dog of my own.

But only a portion of the deep grieving I did for Abraxas really had to do with him. I mean, it all had to do with him, but so many other layers of grief wrapped around the Abraxas onion, that I couldn’t begin to parse the difference.

Abraxas loved me no matter what.

Abraxas never made fun of me.

Abraxas heard all my troubles while I held his little red body next to mine. I would feel bis body heat and I would breathe in his doggy essence and it calmed my amygdala. Abraxas was my connection with the earth, as dogs always are.

We conveyed the harsh news to our friends, the neighborhood children, about the car, Abraxas, and his disappearance. Cori cried. I cried with her. 

I cried like I hadn’t cried since I was a child. Sobbing from deep in my gut. Racked with grief, I could not stop, I could not breathe. This pain was from a lifetime of pain, especially what had occurred after my mother died.

I didn’t cry when my father told me that he had found my mother dead in her bed.

I didn’t cry when my father married an obviously mentally ill woman.

I didn’t cry when my father and stepmother sent me off to Catholic girls’ boarding school to get rid of me.

I didn’t cry when I was sent to live with a stranger when I was 15. 

I didn’t cry when my foster mother released me from her care when I was 17 and I had nowhere to go.

I didn’t cry when Tom mocked and neglected me.

But I cried over Abraxas. Big, messy, ugly wads of snot sobs. Shaking and trembling and more sobs. Nearly 10 years of extreme grief and trauma came out in those sobs.

I was numb and without joy for three days until I heard a familiar sound outside of our windows.  Yip Yip Yip! High, piercing, loud.

No. It can’t be. Abraxas is dead!

Yip Yip Yip!

Then came the pounding on the door. “Mr. Wise! Mrs. Wise! Come here quick! Mrs. Wise, your dog is back. Abraxas is back!!”

I ran down the stairs and to the front door. And there, right next to Jimmy, the child who had knocked on our door, was my little dog—just as alive as I was. 

“Abraxas! Abraxas! Oh my boy, how is this possible?” 

I picked the mutt up in my arms. 

And Holy Shit! Does he stink.

As I clutched the beloved dog in my arms, my nose was assaulted by the odor of garbage and the worst farts on the planet. And I noticed that my dog was fat and bloated. Abraxas kissed my mouth with his garbage-scented breath.

“Buddy. You found your way back to us from miles away. You found your way back to us having never been in that part of town before.”

Abraxas wriggled, wagged his tail, and farted. 

“Buddy. You ate your way across town! You must have hit every garbage can on the way. That must have been your idea of a terrific vacation.”

I felt Abraxas all over. No broken bones. No visible injuries. The only thing Abraxas had to show for his adventure, other than his fat belly, was a sizable scab on his chin. I think Abraxas had been knocked upside the head—his chin, to be exact. I had mistaken the blood from his chin for blood coming out of his mouth. I had mistaken a knock-out for death.

Here was a piece of Grace amongst my sorrow. My little dog was back. My little dog was resurrected after three days. What a dude. He really was the god of light and dark.

Despite my joy at the return of my little dog, I left Missoula with a broken heart. I knew that moving back to Greeley was a terrible mistake.

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