the science and soul of an innocent world

The Fall of the Dog and the Treasures of Snow

By Courtenay Trinder


Poets say April is the cruellest month. This year I agree.

Courtenay and Tinker

I promised my dog Tinker that someday we would run together through the silver grasses in the Summer Country. It couldn’t be heaven without her.

I didn’t know then that there would be no rest for me, eternal or otherwise, unless her weight was pressed against me. Most dogs are leapers. Tinker was a leaner.

For ten years she was my constant companion through a decade of upheaval. Men, jobs, houses, countries, and my pathetic return to the parental home. Tinker came into my life at its lowest point.

I was alone and poor for a very long time. I made ragged decisions with the tatters of my life, one of which was to buy a whippet for the Man-in-the-Middle, of where I’d come from, and who I am now. As a puppy, she was all elbows and ears.

When I broke up with him it was a dignified proceeding. We each sat on a couch and acquitted our lives together. In the middle was Tinker.

She curled up in the armchair I’d salvaged from a curb. She sat opposite us both in a complicated origami spiral. Whippets are lanky and lean. They are eccentric aristocrats, more akin to cats than dogs in their manners. They are descended from the sight hounds of ancient Persia.


The discussion reached, “Who keeps the dogs?”

From apparent torpor, she leapt up from the chair and launched herself at me. She squirmed in behind me. Our bones and angles twisted to fit. She crushed herself into the space between me and the cushions. Tinker was a dog with firm opinions.

And that was us. From that moment we were something special to each other. She chose me. And I opened my raw heart to her.

For most of human history, we have had families with twelve children, and knew everyone within a 100 mile radius. In the absence of a tribe, we find our kind and kin amongst other species.

Tinker and I belonged to each other. When we played, she blocked out the world for me. And I was the world to her.

My dog understood me like no other. All whippets have a gift for flirting; they can speak with their almond-shaped eyes. But Tinker showed that she was listening with hers.


Like most great beauties, human or otherwise, she hid her quick wit. Her sly humour was reserved for our private jokes. Together we found the laughter in life. On sunny days in the garden, she was my jester. When she galloped, she threw her dignity to the wind.

This year, autumn and winter bled into each other. The rain was sullen and constant. The blaze of falling colour guttered quickly into chill misty days, muted by frost.

There is before, the world I shared with my dog. And after. Now.

Our lives are like a dandelion puff before a breeze breaks the symmetry. Without her this world has lost its colour. It is a sketch barely rendered, never realised. The earth is flat after all, and somehow I fell off the edge.

But this is the year I learned survival skills. I draw, and I train at the pool. This winter I managed to keep going because of both. The grief is part of me now.

Two years ago her death would have been a mortal wound to me. I was wracked by anxiety then. I drank more than I care to admit.

This winter, her loss scarred quickly. I grieved and took pen to paper, seeking a cure. I am present when I draw; the distractions and my petty inner monologue grow silent. I feel the texture of the wet pigment against the paper as I press the pencil down.

They say a picture tells a thousand words, and that silence speaks even louder. I use my drawings to call energy into my life. I asked for healing.


I drew Elixir. She reads The Book of Life by instinct, with her eyes shut. She reminded me, like Job, I wasn’t there at the beginning of time. I didn’t see the foundation stone laid, and I don’t know by what rule life is measured. In this mysterious Universe I have two gifts to help me find my way, instinct and imagination. These are my truest senses. Logic and reason will always fail me sometime.

I feel Tinker’s absence everywhere I go. When I come home she isn’t dancing at the door ready to gallop ahead of me and launch herself onto my bed at a million miles an hour. The hallway is just a hallway now. No more circus without Tinker, and no more parade. My existence in the world is barely noteworthy, let alone a cause for celebration.

Losing Tinker taught me Love is a force of nature, like wind, rain, and sun. We enter into love. And come death, we shut the door on love’s country. It has no place for us anymore without our best friend.

This was my seventh month of drawing. A new season.

According to the witches’ calendar, autumn is the time for loss, harvest and release.


I drew Persephone and asked for the wisdom to bear my sorrow. The acorn for the Celts was like the apple in Eden. Only without the guilt and eternal damnation.

When Biel, the sacred oak, turned at the very first autumn, she bore 13 acorns, one for each moon in a year. The first 12 fell and struck rich earth. They sunk their roots deep. Those acorns became the gods and goddesses.

But the last acorn fell into a stream and was eaten by the Salmon Spirit. Salmon was caught by man, and eaten in turn. And that is how we got a glimmer of the divine in our nature.

I drew Lark at break of day before I put my dog down. Before she nuzzled my arms to comfort me even as I gave the order, sobbing, to end her life.

I held on long after she grew weightless. I dropped to my knees when she collapsed, so our embrace would be the last thing she would know in this world.

Lark is inspired by my favourite William Shakespeare sonnet:

But then … myself almost despising,
Happily I think on thee
Then my state like the lark at break of day
Arises from the sullen earth and sings hymns at heavens’ gate.

Lark means hope-bearer. It is the song sung in defiance of circumstance.

Tinker’s spirit is the one I mourn when I light a candle for company as I cook dinner. She is my remembered love. She is the one I call. Souls have no species. Tinker was my ally, my confident, my familiar. Grief had replaced her as my constant companion.

As I worked through my sorrow I accepted autumn’s gift. Its lesson is patience.

Her unconditional love made sure I never forgot the universe is kind as well as cruel. Even when I had reason to doubt it.

Losing her taught me to treasure the fragile balance of this moment. It won’t last, so treasure it, before the moment melts in your hands like snow.

My beloved is gone.

Losing her taught me love never dies. And a broken heart can go on beating.

i “Sonnet 29” by William Shakespeare

About the author

Courtenay Trinder

Courtenay Trinder completed her B.A. in Art History and Curatorship in 1994. Since then, she has worked as a phone psychic, a dog walker, an art teacher for pre-schoolers, and at the Canberra Theatre. The Weight of Lies, her first novel, took twenty years to finish, and is available here. She lives with a beautiful little boy who has taught her everything she knows about love.

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