We arrived at the campsite in Steenbergen, Netherlands, at around eleven on Saturday morning, with our caravan attached to the rear of our Jeep. A light rain was falling from the dark grey early autumn sky and a sharp wind held sway. The camping grounds consisted of a 100-plus meter square field of dense grass, surrounded by numerous hedges and trees. The area was empty, except for the owner’s caravan, which was parked on the far side. In spite of the bad weather, the property today was a very rustic setting of isolated tranquillity. After detaching the caravan from the car, we parked it after much effort, in a corner that offered a great view of distant trees and old farm buildings.
At around one pm, we drove to Steenbergen Centrum and had lunch on the terrace of a charming restaurant. Lieve ordered a green salad with mushrooms and I ordered an omelet. After Spikey had finished flirting with the waitress, he and Pepie wolfed down a few generous offerings from my plate.
Later in the afternoon, I watched, through the caravan’s half-door ‘window’, Lieve gathering walnuts on the far side of the grassy field. Pepie and Spikey couldn’t see her from where they sat, but as always when she went away for a short time, had their ears propped up and their snouts pointed in her direction. When Lieve returned, Spikey had an energized and happy time doing a great impersonation of a hyped-up otter rolling on the wet grass and later investigating with his seasoned nose, various bushes, and trees. In Spikenese, he was young-dogging it and he was Sherlocking it.
In the evening we drove back into town for dinner and dined at yet another very attractive and well-managed restaurant. Spikey kangarooed and Pepie begged like a lost street waif for some scraps of chicken. Lieve and I naturally gave in to these persistent solicitations. As it turned dark we all had a wonderful walk through Steenbergen’s beautifully designed marina, which appeared new. The magnificent setting was filled with glittering lights and reflections on the water. Exquisitely crafted boats and stout majestic sailing ships crowded every space in the water. Some boat owners relaxed inside their lighted cabins, reading, tapping computer keyboards, or watching TV. Some houses, with their windows exposing shelves of books and other rich soft-lighted interior settings, were built right on the water’s edge. This offered an image observed only in a dream or in fine glossy magazines about architecture.
Back at camp in the darkness, as I returned from the camp’s washroom facility, I observed the caravan with its lighted windows, 50 meters in the distance. An image of love, peace, security, and serenity. I’ll be together with Lieve, Pepie, and Spikey there, during this likely stormy night, I had thought. What else is there to ask for? We all went to sleep at ten, and I awoke around three. I had to use the restroom. As I lay there, I felt something hot and very wet on the sheets towards the lower end of the bed where Spikey normally sleeps. Lieve turned the overhead light on and we saw that Spikey appeared to be gravely ill. He was breathing heavily and his eyes were half-open as was his mouth. We both knew then that the end was near. As Lieve picked him up and held him close in her arms, we saw that his neck muscles no longer supported his head. Soon there was no longer a heartbeat. It was as if Spikey, who died in his sleep while never regaining consciousness, was waiting for Lieve’s arms to envelop him forever in his eternal destination.
It was still dark and it was now raining. The lights in the caravan were out and a candle burned bright on the small dining table by the window where Lieve sat, her silhouetted profile against the dark grey landscape and pelting rain outside. Spikey was now on the opposite seat cushion with a towel partially draped over him. The friendly, comforting cocoon-like vintage interior had been transformed into a cabin of death and profound sadness. At around 6 am Lieve started to organize our things to return home, while I went to shower at the camp facility. On my return, in the still half-dark morning, I saw in the distance, our beautiful vintage caravan, the place where the dog that melted the coldest hearts had played only hours before. The place where Spikey died.