This past week I've been overseas, in Goa, India, -a stunning destination, previously a Portuguese colony, where the people, towns, sights and fabulous food, all provided a sumptuous feast for the soul. During our visit to the oldest basilica where the body of St Francis Xavier of Assisi is interred, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach which I couldn't quite explain, it could have been the heat, lack of sleep and the previous nights cocktails, but I suddenly felt sad. I sat down at one of the pews and cried. Later, I turned to one of my friends and asked, "What, precisely, St Francis was Saint of?" My friend nonchalantly replied, "Animals" and strolled off into the crowds.
Last night, we swapped our sunny beach villa in Goa for a snowy runway in London but I was relieved to be back. This morning, my alarm went off with a reminder that my hound would be home tomorrow. Less than an hour later though, I received a call from the kennels where my trusty four-legged rascal was staying during my holiday. "I'm afraid, I've some really bad news about Fred..." I can't recall what I said, because it was at that exact moment, all those 'quirky' habits came flooding back, the annoying things he did, like roll around in horse manure, after I'd specifically told him not to, or bark when the doorbell rang. All day, I've heard his claws running along the floorboards. Ironic, isn't it?
So on my Sunday afternoon run? I took my usual route along backstreets, secret paths, and slowly, slowly, up grassy hills in the local park but it wasn't until I turned into 'our' street that tears slipped down my cheek. Here was the place I walked him every morning. I pushed my face into the wind and I torn down the path. Here was the place where he had gotten stuck in a pile of leaves whilst sniffing out some piece of trash. Here was the place where I'd cried over nothing and he'd been my only witness. I looked skyward, apologised to Le Hound for not being here, and then it started to snow, just lightly. Snowflakes on my face. Sloppy kisses from the sky. I know that it was Freddy saying goodbye.
Farewell my four-legged rogue, if you are hanging out with St Francis, do behave, no slouching! I might not miss washing the horse manure from your fur but I'll definitely miss all the other parts of you.