Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A sunny spot

I am not sure how to end this topic but I do have maybe a few closing comments. Last Friday, a florist package awaited us on the front porch. Inside was a rosemary bonsai from Kelly Sue and Matt, two of my most favorite people on this planet. Kelly Sue is a surrogate sister and Matt is my surrogate brother-in-law. They are very special people and we love them greatly.

The note inside read, “Rosemary for remembrance”. Their thoughtful gesture and the lovely miniature tree brought appreciative tears. How I wish they were in the room to embrace and thank personally.

Saturday morning, Susan and I headed to the local UPS distribution center to pick up a package that needed an adult signature before delivery. Thinking that perhaps a friend sent us a bottle of nice wine or other adult beverage as a Christmas gift, I was surprised when a smallish box was handed to me. Looking at the return address, my cheerful manner changed as I held the package even tighter.

While inside, Susan asked me who it was from, to which I silently waved her off. Once we were near the car, I told her, “It’s Heidi.”

Her cremated remains had arrived sooner than we expected and it is not surprising that after I opened the package to reveal a small redwood box that we cried once again. Unlocking the box was done after much fumbling with the small lock and I let out a soft, “oh!” when I saw the tiny plastic bag of gritty, white sand bearing her name written in black Sharpie.

“Honey…that’s not Heidi,” Susan reminded me. And though I knew it to be so true, I also had to pick up the packet, turn it over in my hand and feel the desiccated bone fragments crunch beneath my finger and thumb, just to find out if there was any recognizable sense of Heidi within the bag. Of course, there was none. It is merely a 4 ounce packet of desiccated bone fragments.

Yep, she’s really gone ladies and germs. Heidi has left the building. I really knew it, but apparently, I had to see, hear and smell with my own instruments, thank you.

Each morning for the last week, I have tip-toed past the area where her bed used to be so as to not disturb her. Before leaving for work, I think of making sure she is fed and watered. When I talk to Susan, I have to consciously stop myself from asking, “How’s fuzzy britches?” Coming home, I've found myself listening for the tinkle of her collar and upon hearing similar sounds, look to see where she is. Being mindful of this little dog became a part of my everyday existence. Heidi was a part of our identity, a bit of what each of us were. And now a portion of that is gone.

As we continued to drive, completing various chores, we spent the day sharing short memories of Heidi, how she came to be in our lives, (saved from Doggie Death Row - "DEAD DOG WALKIN'!") the times she made us laugh, (most every day) the times she pissed me off (I still hate stepping on dog poo in the middle of a rug - imagine that) and how she truly seemed to give more than what we gave to her (exquistely timed paws and heads rested on your lap - dog ESP, I swear). I thought of her final hours and her innocent suffering before the end came to her in the form of a peaceful, but very potent sedative. While we may have smiled and laughed more than once during our talks that day, the overall mood was one of melancholy and missing a loved one.

On Sunday, I found a bright spot in the family room for the bonsai and small box. They both rest on a shelf together near where Heidi would sun herself and rest her weary joints during the daylight hours. In a few weeks, I want to take her dusty remains and scatter them at a few significant places that hold meaning for us and that little dog.

I know I will save a little for the garden in back and I know I will scatter some to the wind as I thank her for being such a good dog, for loving us so easily and teaching us things such as being truly happy to see one another after even a short absence, that begging for treats or belly rubs works if you can do a trick and look up with soulful eyes, barking and growling only in dreams is an acceptable way to interact with the world, sleeping in the sun is an honest endeavor, a gray muzzle is not only noble but inevitable so just deal with it and waiting for a well seasoned piece of roast chicken is often worth it.

I want to thank all of the friends and strangers who have offered so many kind words of sympathy and understanding. Each word was felt deeply and is appreciated beyond description. To Kelly Sue and Matt, again, thank you...and give Captain Applejack a big hug from both of us.

Good night, fuzzy britches.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

My dog is dying

Hard to write too much at the moment, but I feel like sharing some of this with many of you.

Heidi, The-Wonder-Dog is dying. She is in a great deal of pain, discomfort and confusion. Nothing we can do right now except make her as comfortable as possible and make it through the day and night to see how she does tomorrow.

It is very likely that we will take her to the vet to put her down, to ease her pain and let her go to wherever good dogs go.

Dammit, this is hard. I know, I know, everyone has had a good dog that dies at some point. But I really don't care. This is my dog and it is my pain that I feel.

Susan, of course is in as much pain or more. Heidi was her constant companion, and maybe even the child we never had. Susan and Heidi spent many days together when I was away, working in the Bay Area for almost 2 years. They bonded even more than Heidi and I did. I might have been the one who brought home the kill from McDonald's, but it was Susan who was sought out for comfort and succor.

Yeah, Heidi was our surrogate child and fuck you* if you think that's stupid or silly. If it seems that way to you, then stop reading and keep your comments to yourself...this post will mean nothing to you.

I've heard it said that a pain shared is halved. If that is true, then I cannot imagine what it would be like to carry this alone. For either of us.

It is amazing how these little creatures can sneak into your heart, create a warm space to reside and be part of your daily thoughts and important characters in fanciful dreams. It's amazing how they seem to rely on us for just about everything, when in reality we rely on them for so much.

I'll edit this later. Just thought I'd share for a bit. Maybe it helps.

ADDED 12/11/06: As the day progressed, Heidi's condition worsened. She was displaying signs of dementia, her back legs stopped functioning and she began to soil herself repeatedly. When she lay there and whimpered with each breath, there was no waiting until morning to handle it.
The phone call to a nearby 24-hour Urgent Vet Care was easy. The drive over there with the knowledge of what we must do and what outcome would result was not. Hard, wracking sobs mixed with rain-slicked roads made the trip a bit treacherous, but Heidi's soft moans kept me focused to get there as soon as possible.
The wonderful staff at the Vet hospital was immediately accommodating, understanding and kind. After a few brief forms were filled out and consolatory remarks expressed from everyone, Heidi's suffering was ended. It was peaceful and as graceful as these things can be.
The number of times that Susan and I cried, sobbed or just paused in grief-inspired reflection last night is lost to me. For the last month, both of us have wiped a tear after witnessing some other sign that her time was nearing the end. It seems that all we need to do is to recall her fuzzy face, sweet ways or observations such as that she never barked, except in her dreams, and the heart stabs return.
Certainly, most dogs are good dogs and have their own charming dog-ways. It's just that Heidi was our good dog and now she is gone. Our home will be a little less human with her not in it.
I'll add more in a bit. I need to thank this mongrel of extremely questionable parentage for doing so much for us. I should mention that whenever folks asked us what kind of dog she was, it was generally, "pure bred pound terrier" which seemed to satisfy just about everyone who asked. To be honest, there was no telling what various breeds were added to the soup to create Heidi. All I know is that it resulted in a very fine companion and sweet natured family member.

*Many years ago, we had a new neighbor that stated the obvious when she said something like, "Oooh, you don't have kids - so your dog is your surrogate child I guess - harrumph!" Standing in the street with her and another neighbor (Alison, who loved Heidi, too) I answered, "yeah...and your point is what?" Alison was so flustered that she merely said, very loud, "Gawd...what a bitch!"
The creepy new neighbor lady turned away suddenly and went back inside to suck on her wine bottle. Okay, that's not kind. I apologize. So maybe it was vodka, but I really think the old bat was drinking most of the day away. I'm a little sensitive when it comes to the child - pet comparisons. Geesh, I'm not a total nut, I know the difference between the two, for goodness sakes.
One you gotta send to college, the other gets rabies shots.