good night, coalie

"I put Coal down this past Saturday."

I met Tim and Coal in the summer of 1999, just outside St. George station. Tim and I had connected on one of the chatlines and I remember him raving about his pets: Coal, Rocky and Shine. We agreed to meet and take Coal for a walk. She was neither big, nor small. Black fur with patches of white and soulful brown eyes. She was very gentle and got along with the two cats famously.

I was back in the GTA for the summer, involved in a messed-up relationship with a 40-year-old child with BDSM proclivities. Living in the suburbs sans driver's license while working full-time downtown, I didn't have many friends to hang out with. My relationship with the parents was tense, so I was never in a hurry to go home.

Hence, I dated for sport. Tim was one of the players, but at the same time, we were friends. There were times, while Tim was at work, when I'd take Coal for a walk around the Annex or up to Casa Loma. She'd watch me play on the swings, I'd watch her sniff other dogs. Then we'd go back to Tim's apartment and take a little nap. Rocky would climb onto the bed and sleep on my chest; Coal, on the floor, beside me. Rocky helped me discover the cat person in me.

That fall, I went back to Kingston. Tim bought a house in Brampton. I acquired a cat of my own. Our e-mails/phonecalls became sporadic. We reconnected few years later; I was sad to find out that Rocky had died. Tim had cut off his mullet and was volunteering regularly with the Humane Society. That was the last time I'd seen him: in his car, parked outside my office on Lombard Street. A few months ago, he heard my voice on the chatline and once again, we reconnected. He'd mentioned that Coalie was getting weaker by the day, and suggested that we get together one day to walk her, like the old days. Coal's vet was located at Bloor and Dufferin, so we could always take her to the Grove after a visit with Dr. Jack.

Of course I should have called, but we all put things off.

He called me this afternoon. The moment I heard his voice, I knew.

"I'm kicking myself because I'd suggested that we meet up to take her for a walk. Now it's too late. I really thought she'd have at least another six months. I know how fond you were of her. That's why I had to tell you. And I know you're a bit mushy."

This is the first animal friend that I've cried over. And of course, it won't be the last.

It pained me to hear him try his best to not break down over the phone. "I've cried more this past weekend than I have in the past 20 years." Boys and their dearly departed dogs. Sad how I've encountered so many guys these past two years, mourning the end of what may be their longest relationships ever.

Coalie-polie is currently resting peacefully in a freezer just up the street. I hope Tim will be OK.


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