I think I’ve always been more fond of Christmas eve than I have of the day itself.

I recall one Christmas eve in particular. It was 1988. And I was alone. I was more alone that year than I’d ever been my whole life. I was 25. In later years I would come to use that time as a measuring stick, to compare my state of “being alone”. But that year I was very alone.

I lived out of town. In a town. In a house on an acreage with a roommate, who had his own life, and whom I knew nothing about…and I’d only moved there to be out of town. It became one of those moves that never made sense, never would, and because of that, made more sense than anything else possibly could.

I was this close to disowning the woman who’d adopted me. We were at extreme odds. I was at odds with the rest of the family because of this. I spoke to none of them, really, because I didn’t know how to. This would prove to be the pattern I would follow, and have followed, for years. Later, once I grasped how relationships worked, I understood that I had nothing in common with these people, and therefore nothing to say, or share. That realization actually hurt. Until it didn’t.

Of course I wasn’t completely alone. I’ve spoken of Cutter before. My first Akita. Most people will never understand the constancy of Cutter. How he held me to this world, when I believe I would have gladly left it. He was the one conscious choice I made that surely affected my life more than any other I have ever made.

But that Christmas eve, 1988, he had just turned 2 years old. He was just coming into his frame. He was oversized for the breed, massive in bone, standing at 30 inches at the shoulder, and not yet his eventual realized weight of 140 lbs. I think he was maybe 100 lbs then. He was so young, and so gawky, and so full of potential. And he was my constancy.

That Christmas eve I was alone except for him. He was full of energy, and we’d often go for long walks in the countryside. That night, at around 10 pm, we went for another walk. I had a huge ache inside me, that I didn’t know how to ease…and so I grabbed his leash and asked if he’d like to go for a walk. Of course he said yes, and so off we went. I remember that night because there was a full moon. It was so bright. Startlingly bright. And we walked. And walked. And walked.

Now keep in mind this is out in the countryside. With mile roads. And houses on acreages. Granted we were on the outskirts of a major city, and technically within a township, but still, there was space between. Tons of space between. Yet we walked. And enjoyed the night. And the moonlight. And the Christmas lights and trees. And the views of people, and families, and friends, enjoying get togethers, and drinks, and good times…I saw these things and enjoyed seeing them; there really is something special to being an outsider looking in, without any kind of taint.

To Cutter, it’s likely that night meant nothing more than another nightly walk (we took so very many). To me, I remember that night because it was Christmas eve. And because I was alone and hurting. And because there was a full moon. Yet what I remember most is that as much as I was alone…I wasn’t. That night has been used as a yardstick for a reason, against all the hopeless and alone nights I have spent. I spent that time with a dog I’d raised from a wee puppy, and who was with me for so many Christmases following. I remember that night, because of the full moon. And I remember that night because of my dog. Because when no one else was with me, he was. Because he never would have left me. And only did because I insisted he must.

I think I miss him the most at Christmas…and every Christmas, because he was there for so many.