I did not have it in me, when I got back from Lexi's euthanasia, to dispose of her ancient leather collar and leash. Instead, I hung them on the usual peg in the garage and told myself I'd get rid of them another day.
Today was that day. I rolled up the collar and the leash in my hand, and was crossing the kitchen on my way to the trash bin when Wolfie intercepted me. He stuck his big muzzle in my hand, sniffed, put his ears back and slowly wagged his tail. The look on his face was one of gentle happiness, undiluted, as far as I could tell, by grief or regret. He stood there a long time, sniffing and wagging his tail. Bisou also came over and stood on her hind legs to sniff and lick, jumping the way she used to jump to reach Lexi's muzzle in the eternal puppy greeting.
As I watched them, I remembered Lexi doing something very similar years ago. My younger daughter, whom she adored, had visited and then gone back home to Montana. She then mailed me something in one of those padded envelopes--probably a book. I left the opened envelope on the stairs and later found Lexi with her nose inside it, ears back, tail wagging slowly, and that same gentle, ecstatic look on her face.
I myself was grieving my daughter's departure at the time, and if I had found, say, a sweater that she had left behind, I would have felt sadness, pure and simple, instead of Lexi's smiling reminiscence.
And it was sadness that I was feeling holding Lexi's leash this morning, sadness and the desire to dispose of it quickly so I wouldn't have to feel sad anymore. Not so my two dogs. They were remembering Lexi, their stern but kindly mentor, who inexplicably left one day and did not come back. And they, unlike me, were wholly glad that she had for a moment been with us in the kitchen again.