December is the dead-dog month. A month for I cannot remember which day we took Dog to the vets. Dates blur because we’d cancelled first time round. No, no, not yet, just a bit longer for he was still happy in his seventeen-year-old limpy one-eyed way. I’d known it was coming of course, so for months I’d been picking up moulted fur and stowing it in a small blue box. One unknown December day Dog stopped eating and the soft needle beckoned and you stroked him goodbye and I sat in the waiting room hands over my eyes to make it all go away.
A new December arrives and on the first Sunday of Christmas, my love, you buy for me a tiny cuddly dog on a key ring which I carry clutchy in my coat pocket.
And for the first time I touch the small blue box secreted in my wardrobe.
On the second Sunday of Christmas, my love, you buy for me a corduroy doorstop dog which I put on the armchair where Dog would lie while I tapped at my laptop. I start to google information about the Victorian art of making hair broaches from the locks of lost loved ones.
On the third Sunday of Christmas, my love, you buy for me a light-up-in-the-dark dog which I place with the reindeer and the polar bears, an outsized interloper on the Lapland hearth. In its sparkly light I search the internet for adverts by companies that will turn ashes into diamonds.
On the fourth Sunday of Christmas, my love, you buy for me four carved dogs, painted and comical, which I hang from piney branches amongst the silver baubles. The next day is 24th December and the dead-dog month is over for it was a Dog-less Christmas last year and his day of passing has passed. I open the lid of the small blue box, breathe in the aroma of Dog, stroke the so-soft fur, and think of DNA, Dog’s essence, the blueprint for recreation.
At 3am on Christmas morning I wake and pull up the blind. And there dot-to-dotted in the stars is Dog, huge and happy and leaping. Look, look, I whisper to you, my sleeping love.
Sadie Nott is a 2018 winner of a Creative Future Literary Award for underrepresented writers. She is working on her first novel, a coming-of-age story. Her short fiction has appeared in LossLit and anthology Chemistry, and is forthcoming in A Wild and Precious Life: A Recovery Anthology. She tweets @SadieNott