Every morning like clockwork Sam Casey would park himself at the bottom of the staircase. So much of his life was driven by ritual. Prior to this current one he would appear at his masters feet each morning and sit patiently until the master beckoned him for their morning walk.
A life of order suited Sam Casey and he revelled in the fact that each day was going to be very much the same as the day before.
That was until the master went up the stairs the last time and didn’t return. He never followed the master but knew that up the stairs was a fate he didn’t want to entertain. It frightened Sam but it was one he had met before.
Death had visited once before when he lived with the master and his wife. Death had appeared one night and as it passed Sam, gave him a cursory look, nodded and went about his business, which on that night was to take the master’s wife.
The end result was that the saddened master along with Sam moved into a house owned by the master’s daughter, a kind lady who gave both Sam and the master the space they needed to deal with the grief they both felt.
Each evening the master would say good night and trudge up the stairs leaving Sam to find a warm spot on the rug in front of the dying fire.
There was nothing unusual about the last night he went up the stairs. If anything Sam had become complacent in the face of what he knew was just around the corner.
Sam was an intuitive dog and understood the master’s grief. He was not the same since his wife died, the walks they took were shorter, the games they played stopped and he sat and stared at nothing a long time his mind obviously on thoughts of his wife whom Sam knew he loved very much.
On the last night he awoke and this time he saw Death standing beside him. Death looked down at the small dog, reached down a deathly hand and rubbed the back of Sam’s neck.
Sam feeling death’s chill buried his head in his paws and whimpered.
In the chaos of the next morning Sam sat back aware of what had happened walked to the foot of the stairs and sat in tribute to his master.
Sitting each morning at the foot of the stairs became Sam’s morning ritual and he would sit there until the daughter came and waved his leash and the two would trot off on a morning walk. She too noticed the change in the little dog, as she referred to Sam. He pined for his master that was very clear, his morning ritual at the foot of the stairs bearing testimony to that.
In Sam’s mind losing his master had left a huge hole in his world. He and the master had been mates for such a long time, from the time Sam was a puppy and the master had found him in the front yard a tiny feeble creature, lost and covered with fleas.
Sam had no memory of what had led him to the master’s yard but he was always grateful for the rescue away from the cold and into a world of love and crunchy doggy biscuits.
There had developed an immediate bond between the two and he recalled later the master’s wife jokingly making comments about his treating the dog far better than he did his own kids. But Sam was happy and if this was life then he was happy to embrace it.
Their life had been one of morning walks, games, love, sitting together on the lounge to watch the cricket during the summer and the football during the winter. Sam learnt to understand the master’s passion for sport and tolerated it even when the master decided to watch of all things Darts Tournaments which Sam saw as nothing more than small arrows being thrown at a board.
Soon Sam began to feel a member of the daughter’s household and she accepted him as a connection to her father and the two developed a strong friendship.
But still Sam sat each morning at the bottom of the staircase.
Then one morning he heard a creak on the floorboards above.
There was something tell tale about the nature of the shuffle coming from above.
His ears pricked, his tale wagged as the memories flooded back.
Then he saw his master’s slippers. Five steps above Sam they stopped and Sam looked up to see his master standing there looking down lovingly at his faithful little dog.
Another man stood beside the master whom Sam did not know but the man held the master’s arm as if supporting him from falling.
Sam was up on all fours; his tail wagging as it hadn’t for a long time, here was his master once again.
The master looked down on Sam, his mouth moved but Sam heard no words, the master raised his arm in greeting but suddenly Sam knew it was a sign of farewell.
The master turned and Sam Casey watched as the man helped him back up the stairs. At the top the man turned and looked back down on Sam and nodded to him in a way that sent a familiar chill through him.
Sam Casey sat down below the bottom step and placed his head on his paws.
In his mind he had seen his master come down the stairs one last time, even if it was to say goodbye.