Even the yard knows he’s gone. It just lays out there, stunned and frozen like a field from a forgotten war. The grass is asleep; what there is of it is buried under graying snow, with the ticks and fleas waiting for a dog they don’t know is gone.

The entire property is like Britain without Elizabeth, a boxing ring without Ali, a theater stage without Sondheim’s melodies or John Patrick Shanley’s prose.

And then there is the house. Houses are the ultimate theaters, where the lives of countless owners present comedies and dramas full of tears and echoing laughter, rooms full of ghosts.

This play is not over. This is not about an ending. It’s about the next thing, and what to do with it. It’s about what we, the remaining players, will do with it.

We, She and I, are old — not nursing home old; we’ve decided that will never happen. Besides, what respectable home would have us?

We’re famously difficult to live with. When we acted together in New York or on the road, we had adjoining dressing rooms and drove the others mad with our shouting back and forth.

“When do I say that?”

“You don’t say that. I say that.”

We can’t envision a scene where, like Fonda and Hepburn, we’re wheeled around some strange building.

We’re not even “assisted living” old. Assisted living? How would that work? Who could assist me in writing this stuff, searching the junk drawer for the wine opener? No.

Who could assist her in reading all the books she now has time for, or rearranging the pencils she no longer uses? I see that she now spends more time with her dusting fetish. What, I wonder, is she trying to wipe away?

The daughters tell her to get a cleaning person. For what? She would clean before they got here, and then present a list of things they must not touch, and they would “exit sobbing, stage left.”

No, not us. We’re impossibly cute, average, late-middle-age-old, castaway theater actors from the golden age of the ’50s in the rough, chilly corners of New York City.

OK, this is a play about two actors and a missing dog, one of several who played leading parts in their lives.

We’ve always had dogs, four sheepdogs and two miniature schnauzers, born in various parts of America and hauled back and forth from palm-treed beaches to the piney woods.

The ashes of three of them, other than Jack, are buried beneath the comatose grass of 30 seasons on this very stage. Jack’s ashes are in a lovely box tucked away in the living room, like a beloved prop from a favorite play.

Uh-oh! The children and their spouses say we should get another dog. This presents several problems. This would require us to go to the rescue pound and pick one out. Really?

We would have to look at all those forlorn creatures pawing at the wire gates, whimpering, crying for release.

“Choose me. Pick me. Love me.”

We’re dog people. We speak dog talk. We hear dog thoughts, dog dreams.

“I’ll love you, and you’ll come to love me,” they’ll whimper.

“I don’t shed. I’m a trained watch dog.”

How does such a thing work? We’ve never been to a rescue dog pound. We’re afraid we’d have to listen to the baleful ballads of their backgrounds.

“His owner had to move into a nursing home and had to give her up.”

Oh, swell, try living with that. A dog who cries all the time and would refuse our touch?

Worse: “The father had a good job offer, and the family had to move to a condominium in San Francisco that won’t take pets.”

How could I deal with that? This sweet animal would spend the rest of its days sitting by the front door, waiting for someone else to come home? And what kind of people would choose a condominium over a beloved member of the family?

And of course he or she would already have a name, stamped in its mind, and we’d have to accept it.

It might be a terrible name the owners thought was darling, like “Fifi,” “Mimi,” “Tigger,” or simply dreadful, like “Precious,” the killer’s dog in “Silence of the Lambs.”

Or even worse, something banal like “Spot” or “Fido.” No, that wouldn’t work. We’ve had Gatsby, Polo, Louie-Louie, Ziggy and Jack, all names I picked out. I’ve promised She, who never got to select a name, that the very next one would be her favorite: “Finnegan.”

She’s dusting in there again, and I notice how gently she wipes the glass on the picture of him, the last dog.

J.P Devine is a Waterville writer.

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