All of my dogs are dead.
Last week I got a text from the Ex letting me know that Daisy, the last of our four dogs had died. I hadn’t seen Daisy for over five years, but the news still hit me hard. I suppose it’s the difference between not seeing and never being able to see again.
We lost P-Nut first. The night before we were hosting my nephew’s fourth birthday party, she seemed to be having a tough time catching her breath, so we took her to the emergency vet. It was heart failure and there was nothing that could be done. It was so sudden and unexpected, and I remember feeling absolutely gut shot when I realized the ER vet was telling us that the kindest thing we could do was kill our dog.
This fall, the nephew who’s fourth birthday I stumbled through like a zombie, is heading of for his first year of college. And still, I couldn’t make it through that last paragraph without crying.
Aussie, P-nut, Speck and Daisy were the first and only dogs I’d ever had and I imagine they’ll be the last. It’s strange, our relationship with dogs. We know what’s going to happen, how it’s going to end, yet we still bring them home and make them part of the family. I can’t think of anything else in which I’d willingly participate, where I knew going in that everything would be great for ten, twelve, maybe fifteen years if I was lucky, but still inevitable and guaranteed that I’d be devastated and heartbroken.
I had no intention of bringing another dog into my life after P-nut died. I didn’t want to be someone who ran out to scoop up a replacement puppy, and the reality of what I now knew I’d eventually endure with Speck and Aussie was a bit overwhelming.
But one day we found ourselves at one of those outdoor malls where spending money becomes entertainment, and we wandered into a pet store to look at toys for Aussie and Speck. Of course, there were puppies everywhere, begging for attention like a Snickers bar on the impulse-buy rack at the supermarket checkout.
I went back to see the little dogs, feeling strong in my determination to look but not touch. That vow of strength lasted until I arrived at the first enclosed Plexiglas display box. Sitting alone rather than with romping with the other two puppies under glass, was an impossibly cute mini-dachshund. I lifted her out of the enclosure and cradled her, smiling at her floppy ears and her adorable stumpy legs.
The store had a couple of closed areas for customers to use to better assess their potential purchase. I just had to see how she managed to walk on those tiny legs, so I went into a little privacy area and sat on the floor with the puppy. She would take a few steps and sniff around a bit, but mostly wanted to be on my lap.
The Ex eventually found me and reminded me about my self-imposed no puppy touching policy. I made some excuse why what I was doing didn’t count, and held her against my chest for a last little squooshle before returning her to her Plexiglas cell. As I did, she wiggled up higher, buried her head against my neck and in a voice only I could hear, whispered, “You’re my new human,” before drifting off to sleep. That’s all it took, I fell in love.
About three weeks after the Ex ran off with a mutual friend, I was on a mission of self-destruction that left me trapped in my car in a drainage culvert at 3:00 o’clock one morning. Because I was going to be completely of my rebuilt ankle for eight weeks and barely able to care for myself much less my dogs, I called the Ex for help. Aussie had died by then, leaving just Speck and Daisy, so the Ex came and got them and they never came back home.
I didn’t fight her for them. The accident didn’t mark the end of my self-destruction. In punctuation terms, it wasn’t so much a period as it was an ellipses. More to come …
I knew they were better off with her than with me. I was out engaging in reckless and risky behavior much of the time, and they would have been home all alone. The Ex had moved in with her new girlfriend, the girlfriend’s husband, their two teenage daughter’s and a menagerie of dogs, cats and birds. I knew the dogs would get a lot more love and affection there and the Ex was a fantastic pet parent, so it seemed the right thing too do.
And I always thought we’d find a way to at least be friends. After seventeen years I didn’t think she’d never want anything to do with me again. But she didn’t, and apparently she still doesn’t. So I was grateful that she me with the news about Daisy.
Daisy was the last remnant of my old life, our old life, and I wonder if her death will give me any feeling of finality on a past I can’t seem to leave behind. It’s pointless, like trying to catch smoke, yet I still find myself reaching out to hold on to it. Daisy brought me such joy in life, maybe in death she’ll bring me some relief. I sincerely hope so.
RIP my little friend.