The word companion originates in the Latin via con(m) (together) with panis (bread). You can hear the French word for bread, pain (pronounced paan), in its pronunciation. The connotation is that a companion is someone you break bread with, share a meal with.
Oh how true that is.
When we first got Pippin our golden retriever, we had been back from France for a year. He was a rescue dog, very sweet, and he fit right into our eclectic family.
And he loved to break bread with us.
Well, not really break bread, but steal it and eat it.
In the first week we had him, I had placed a baguette on the counter top. I left for a few minutes only to return to an empty counter. I asked the kids if they had taken the bread as a joke. Nope. I looked around the kitchen, thinking myself crazy, even searching in the pantry for the missing loaf. Nada.
Then I noticed Pippin.
He seemed happy.
So I did an experiment. I placed a piece of bread on the edge of the counter. In one stealth swoop, Pippin nabbed the piece and gulped it down. Our dog LOVED/CRAVED/NEEDED bread.
We’ve watched that bread-loving muzzle gray over the years. He ran with me in the mornings, matching my pace and smiling as he did. He spent hundreds of hours outside on our back deck with Patrick as they contemplated the meaning of life together. No words between them other than companionship.
As Pippin neared his geriatric years, his hips grew weak. After we installed wood floors last summer, he could no longer get up on his own, so we lifted his back haunches and helped him on his way. He continued to “break bread” with us, though we learned not to place bread on counters.
But the last month has been hard. His heart grew weak. He couldn’t seem to get a settled breath, and tended toward panting all the time. And a few days ago, we took him on a walk to the park. His legs folded beneath him and he laid down on the cement, panting, unwilling (unable) to walk. He fell several times, and he could not walk up the wide flat cement stairs to our home. He had to be carried.
It was time.
But wow was it sad saying goodbye.
One by one our family said thank you through tears, pets, looking Pippin in those sweet brown eyes. He was a good dog, no chewing, no craziness, just steady friendship. He was the strangest golden retriever–he could fetch but not retrieve and return; he flat out could not swim; birds scared him; loud noises unnerved him. He would have been a disaster as a hunting dog for those very reasons.
But we broke bread with our companion, and now we’re left to grieve the Pippin-shaped hole left behind.