The dog is snoring again. She picks up the sound early warning radar pulsing through her body in the kitchen doorway as she struggles for oxygen. Unlike her own harsh rasp distorting the air around her the animal makes gentle, even sounds with the occasional yip yip. He might be chasing a rabbit in the Elysian Fields of his mind, such simple pleasures don’t diminish her exaggerated sighs the growing sense that for her this is the beginning of the end. The sensation pervades her fingers as she stirs the pot, potatoes and carrots tiny bits of meat for protein her bones crumbling from within her mind twisting around the fascia. The scent is sweet, sharp as she grabs hold of the chair, holding tight as if on a moving ship. So many miles of travel only to find herself back in that same dark space. The dog looks up his sad eyes mirroring something breaking in her but not quite yet. He knows what is coming.
Magdalena Ball is a novelist, poet, reviewer and interviewer, and is Managing Editor of Compulsive Reader. She has been widely published in literary journals, anthologies, and online, and is the author of several published books of poetry and fiction, including, most recently Unreliable Narratives (Girls on Key Press, 2019). A new book titled Density of Compact Bone, is forthcoming from Ginninderra Press in late 2021.
Contextual essay: My great-grandmother, about whom I am researching and writing, died at the age of 54 (younger than I am now) from complications as a result of diabetes. Her condition went untreated—she only found out she had diabetes when she stopped being able to see, not long before she died. Kussmaul breathing is a type of hyperventilation that occurs when the body goes into acidosis, often associated with diabetes. Dogs are said to be able to identify a diabetic attack due to the scent of ketones on the breath. In my great-grandmother’s case, her breathing would have become laboured as she struggled to push through the illness that was crippling her. I wanted to explore the idea that, in the non-linguistic intelligence dogs have, he knew that his owner was ill, and that the simple solidity of his presence would be comforting.