“My poor boy, taken away so young…” came Mordecai’s sobs as we exited the Church, passing by a dozen wreaths bearing the name “Rollison” and making our way to the car. The tears weren’t unexpected, salty as they were, as the Priest had spoken quite beautifully about Rollison during the service, and at five years of age, Rollison was indeed far too young to be taken away from us. One hundred and fifty people had made it out to the service, just one indication of the powerful effect Rollison’s short life had had on the community. Even Father Eoghan, usually a true professional when it came to matters of mourning, wept furiously as the tiny coffin was wheeled down the aisle. As the choir followed us out, and the pall bearers collected artifacts presented in his memory, I stole a few recollections of Rollison from the back of my mind.
I remembered him as he learned to walk, and as Mordecai used to jump up and down calling out “that’s my boy!” I remembered him as he said his first words, or rather glottal yelps, but we knew what he meant, and gave him a lollipop to satisfied murmerings. I remembered him lying in his bed as Mordecai would read him his bedtime story and Rollison in turn would playfully chew on his arm. And now he was gone. Five years was too short a time for such a good dog.
A mixture of Jack Russell, Swedish Terrier, and Japanese Pitbull, Rollison was as intelligent and as valiant as they came. Along with the expected canine traits of loyalty and athleticism, Rollison was also hugely gifted in the field of applied mathematics, as anyone who ever played fetch with him could attest. Once the stick was in the air, you could see dozens of calculations flash through his eyes in the space of a millisecond, measuring the trajectory and estimated velocity to compute a probable destination, before he sprang into action. It was often said, that not once did Rollison ever allow the stick to hit the ground.
Poor Rollison. His demise came as close as I’d ever witnessed to the perfect argument as to the inherent danger of drugs. I had been off the stuff for years, but Mordecai argued that his work as a fast food cashier was greatly enhanced by the use of MDMA. While taking orders, the crazed hungry look in his eyes along with frantic licking of his lips almost always up-sold his customers to a larger meal, thereby scoring Mordecai with an unprecedented 6 consecutive Employee Of The Month awards. Because of this, Mordecai always had at least one pouch of the stuff in his pocket.
Except one Tuesday. He didn’t have it then. Waking up in a daze following a fairly intense blitz and not knowing exactly where he was meant to be but with the strange feeling it involved French Fries, Mordecai threw on his clothes and bolted out, leaving the pack on his bedside table. Rollison, intrigued leapt up, and using a tongue so agile it left many women of a certain disposition shivering with the anticipation of such potential, scooped out the contents and made them brunch.
Poor Rollison. Who’d never experienced anything stronger than a few dribbles of whiskey on his birthday along with his Pedigree Chum, was altogether unprepared for such a feeling. Making his exodus through the bedroom window, witnesses later attested that Rollison must have done 150 circuits of the estate, as though chasing its invisible tail, before collapsing, in pure exhaustion, head first into a trough of chocolate that Helen had left out for the neighbourhood kids. By the time the authorities found him, the chocolate had solidified around his body in the afternoon sun. They had to cut him out to retrieve him, creating a partial chocolate sarcophagus which now served as the centrepiece on the table in front of me at Rollison’s wake.
I stood, oblivious, in front of Rollison’s figure, examining his face and staring into his dairy eyes, which still bore that all too familiar blazed up expression that seemed to say “I really love you man, let’s take a yacht to the Canaries and party for a week.” Many of the mourners queued up behind me to pay their respects, though the McCaffrey sisters had a hopeful look that Rollison’s presence on the table was not merely as a shrine, but as dessert. I overheard one of the kids make an unkind comment about how Rollison’s greatest achievement in life was that, in his death, he had invented an entirely new form of confectionary – Dogolate.
Poor Rollison. So many possibilities, now nothing more than an after-dinner snack. In the shadow of his face, I wondered how many times is earlier years, drunk on my own sense of invincibility, I could have stared into the same Cocoa-oblivion as Rollison. Finally, overcome by grief and hunger, the gathering crowd began shovelling parts of Rollison onto their plates, led eagerly by Father Eoghan, who offered to bless each portion with his own homemade vanilla sauce.
‘Rollison, such a sweet dog!’ Annie McCaffrey sobbed as she gorged on his left paw. Whether this was a general tribute to his character or some sort of culinary review I couldn’t be sure. I suddenly felt sick. Turning around I observed Mordecai weeping in the corner as he watched his closest companion disappear over idle conversations about horse-racing and the state of the nation. Having seen enough, I retired for the evening.
I came down the next morning to find little remaining of Rollison’s shell except for his head. Apparently even with their taste for chocolate, the others couldn’t bring themselves to finish his most striking feature. Helen was busy clearing up, and as she saw the sadness in me as I stared upon his features, suggested I bring it home, saying Rollison would have wanted me to have it, ideally accompanied by some of Father Eoghan’s vanilla sauce. She wrapped his head up in a doggy bag and thanked me for all my support during this difficult period.
Arriving home, I placed the head on the mantelpiece above the fireplace, so that whenever I enjoyed my evening Gin and Tonic, I could stare up and think. As the months passed, Rollison’s golden brown armour felt the natural deterioration into a stale green hue. But I didn’t care. Some of my friends were put out when they came to visit, and they were denied part of his nose to dunk into their Irish coffees, but I explained that Rollison was worth more than that. Some of my more intimate companions felt uncomfortable as we explored each other on the couch, under the watchful gaze of Rollison, his tongue hanging out in approval, feeling that it somehow ruptured the atmosphere and ruined the romance. I would simply chew my lip and speak of the romantic canine Rollison was, and how in his five short years he had collected an impressive number of notches on his kennel, enough to make even Lord Byron blush.
My friends started asking questions, such as why I continued to keep a decaying chocolate shrine on my mantelpiece…and I said to them…I said to them. You know what? What’s the point. They’d never understand. You’d never understand. If you have to ask the question, why would I keep a chocolate dog on my mantelpiece, then I can’t explain it to you. Maybe, because sometimes my life seems like a quadratic equation so unbalanced that even Rollison would have struggled to solve it. Maybe it’s because that dog possessed the most humanity of anyone I’ve ever met. And maybe it’s because I hate to waste good chocolate.
So this is my Eulogy to Rollison. Rest in Peace my friend, you were too good for this world. Mordecai will probably get a new dog, and you’ll be forgotten about, but not by me. You’ll still be in my heart long after you were digested by all your former friends. But you know, perhaps it is time for a proper send off. A cremation surely, that’s how you’d want to go. The flames lapping you gratefully, and the gentle transition from a form so proud to brown mess on the carpet. Not the first brown mess you ever left on a carpet. But the last. Goodnight, my fine friend, goodnight. Goodnight.