A farewell to my dog with cancer
You were so ugly when we first met. Your nose all pushed in; your dirty dishwater blonde hair tufted out like a duck. Bisquit was convinced I was wrong and that you’d turn out beautiful. “Look at those eyes,” she said, meaning your eyes. I could not deny this. You reminded me of a beloved grandmother. Your eyes and her eyes were the same. Well, your one blue eye was the same as her two blue eyes. Your other eye, half blue, half brown was way too David Bowie, even the docile David Bowie singing Little Drummer Boy with what’s his name.
Bisquit called you away from your demanding sister at that first meeting. All of the others were saying in their own ways, “Pick me”. Loud ways, ways involving lots of movement. You were the only one standing there, solitary even while surrounded by those who could not remain still. You trained those eyes on us, following us as we passed you to check out your other sister, the white one, who was already so pretty, but so distrustful that she had to be kept apart from everyone else.
You are attending to your wrist right now, which has grown a small inflated innertube on it.
You’d been licking at it for a couple of years. “A hot spot,” one vet said, and then another. You were determined to care for it in the only way you knew how, even when Bisquit kept saying, “Enough already!” You stopped sleeping in the bedroom. We could find you in the nappy room, where it was cooler, darker, and without anyone to remind you of the little pink spot on your wrist that continually needed assistance.
“Bonne matin,” we coo when we wake up. We reach for the spot on your forehead between your ears, the spot that’s the softest part of you, like a rabbit. Your favorite thing to hunt and eat. Every morning we run our hands down your face, touching your nose, and pressing your ears down to your head. It took me years to figure out that you really like that.
I turn to drink these days because it reminds me of Trouble, who had lost her father, and reacted as though she were 12 years old and were just confronting the world’s harshness for the first time. She cried on the phone when he died, she was in her late 50s at the time, “It’s not fair”. There was nothing I could add to that other than to nod even though Trouble could not hear this. She drank a lot. I am drinking much more than usual, which isn’t a whole lot but, for me, it’s more. And then I sit on the couch in the dark and hear you going at it with your wrist, knowing that the specialist has given up on you and the generalists have conceded his point. Bisquit literally changes her mind every other hour about what we are doing.
You are stuck between sitting in the nappy room and on the front balcony because you are simply too big for us to carry you downstairs to the yard, and then back up. Your only excitement comes from being in a place, where, just last summer we all convened after dinner every evening to watch the sun set, to listen to something not too bluesy, and to comb your thick mane. Bisquit called me an expert at this, the combing, mostly because that’s what she said to convince me to take the responsibility of doing whatever she didn’t want to do. “You’re the troubleshooter,” “You have a talent for that,” “Trust me, it’s better that you do it.” They were often thankless tasks, but sitting with you and gently running the special combs through your hair, sometimes snagging a large chunk that must have hurt, but still a relief before the onslaught of the summer heat, gave me sustenance. And then I continued the tradition of running down the day’s events to you, speaking in a low tone, because you really did not like a lot of noise, and you always supplied low whispers in response.
You don’t whisper any more.
I knew those days and nights were special because I did. They just were. It’s not as if I got all Cats in the cradle with you. But now, that our time together is more stressful, and that your mind is here still but is also not here, but more on your damaged appendage, I see that you will be leaving us sooner than expected. And that even with all the signs you gave us and that we had speculated on, we saw things and did not expect them all the same. Bisquit and I are twelve year olds yelling out, It’s not fair. It’s like watching a Hitchcock movie, where you know there will be a surprise or a shock but you don’t know when it will occur. Life just goes along, and you know that there will at some point be a curveball and then a shock and an end, but you don’t know when. So that if you’re an old person it’s still a terrible thing. That’s the thing about someone who’s just come into middle age. I realize that old people don’t have it easier with practice; they’ve, we’ve, got it bad just the same. And that having loads of time to prepare for the absolute end of someone you love is just as bad or worse as a sudden sprint to the end, but who cares about the degree since it all sucks the same.
We saw you decline but didn’t think it would be the end. For now, the generalist we really love, the one who changed the atoms in the exam room and in all of our bodies, yours included, and even made the drive back through rush-hour traffic magical with its gaping holes for our car to swoosh through, all the way home…she thinks you’re not ready yet.
She was talking about us, too.
(edited to make it less sucky: March 8, 2013)