Back in January I wrote about an absent friend. Since that time I have seen my old friend Ray a couple of times more, once at home, and later at the surgery, and on both occasions the absence remained a palpable thing. The guide dog Ray had lost was a big personality. When the two of them came in they were always the centre of attention. We kidded Ray it was all down to his chiseled good looks ("One of my friends says I look like Clint Eastwood"), but he and we knew his new found animal magnetism was easily 80% canine. Loosing the big rock-star dog that had been his ten year companion left Ray diminished and contracted his horizons far more than either of us expected it might.
And so it was with some trepidation that I viewed the screen message earlier this week that announced Ray plus "one other" were waiting to be seen. When I went to collect them, instead of the huge, golden maned, long haired Labrador of yore, Ray was escorted by a docile, jet black, short haired shade of a dog. Instead of bounce and slobber I was greeted with equanimity. We processed down the corridor to my office in a far more stately and reserved manner than we had been used to, and once in, the new guide settled himself quietly at his master's feet and watched me cautiously to gauge my intentions and figure out if I was to be trusted.
By the time we were done I think we had achieved a modus vivendi, and I should still be allowed to care for his master for the time being, and on the way back out of the office the carriage of the hound had a more familiar cast to it, and in reception a small flock of admirers began to gather. And again the majority of their attention fell upon the dog. I'm not sure this one will quite achieve rock-star status, but, eleven years on, his quiet efficiency will probably suit Ray better, and it is already clear that he,Ray, is moving on at last.
I was left wondering to what extent this shadow-dog communes with his forebear (or perhaps that should be foredog). I certainly got the impression at points during our consultation that older, more familiar eyes were gazing up from that long dark face.
Perhaps there is something in this reincarnation thing, or perhaps I'm just making a new friend after all....