Monday, May 14, 2012
Tears in my Beer
My life is starting to sound like a country music song. First my Grandma died, now my dog.
I know the loss of a Grandmother and the loss of a dog, are not on the same level at all. But I've got five kids who spent every day with their dog; some of them slept with him. I spent more time alone with him than I do with my husband just because we were here together all day long. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth for dearly departed Doug the dog, and it's not just the kids.
For some reason it always hurts worse when a death is untimely, and Doug was just getting good. He finally, could sit alone in a room with a discarded sneaker, and NOT eat it. We had replaced our front door that he ate. I just sold my car, the steering wheel of which he chewed--all the signs of his former bad habits had been whitewashed, and we'd moved into a new stage of Doug, lying peacefully at our feet while we watched a movie, Doug, gently licking the salt off your shins as you sit drinking water on the porch, Doug, waiting patiently while we finished our dinner to move in and clean up table scraps left on the kids' chairs and the floor, a Doug we could trust, a Doug we could enjoy, a Doug who was always a gem to look at, and was equally pleasant to be around. I have been walking around my yard and my house for two days now stupidly asking myself, "Where IS my dog?"
Well, he's in a big mound in the back yard. I even half expect him to come charging out of it, fine as he was three days ago, the day I had no idea would be his last, when I'd taken him for a walk, and he'd pounced on some kind of a rodent in the tall clover at the side of the road, and the sun gleamed on his black coat, his tail up and alert, and I thought that is one fine-looking dog.
Later that night, I was on my way into town to go to a school fundraiser, and I was almost there when my husband called to tell me that he had some bad news. My oldest son was walking my daughter to her soccer practice at the fields across the street, and after they had safely crossed, Doug ran after them, right into an oncoming truck. My son heard the unmistakeable noise, and turned around to see his pet rolling in the street. He ran back. The man driving the truck stopped, thankfully, and they discerned that he was killed instantly.
My husband carried him up to the house, and that's where I found my son when I got home about thirty minutes later, still sitting under the tree, sobbing and petting his dog, who was bleeding from the ears and mouth. We dug a big hole. My daughter picked some of the blooming Irises and Peonies out of the garden, which we tossed over him, and the deed was done. Doug was all but erased from our lives. After the kids were in bed, I vacuumed the house, mopped the kitchen floor, moved the dog bed and bowls out of our entry way, and carried the two forty pound bags of dog food out to the garage. And at night, making the rounds before bed, there was this void in the house, this absence.
Today I recognize the absence not just of the dog, but there's an absence of so many other things, like an absence of anxiety when someone leaves a sandwich unguarded on the kitchen table, or when someone leaves the car doors gaping open. In the past, the dog would have eaten the sandwich and jumped into the car for a nap, probably with muddy feet. There's a new recognition that I'm going to have to clean up after myself when I drop rogue cheerios out of my fist, while munching them throughout the house, or when someone spills a glass of milk on the floor. I used to just call the dog. And there's a new anxiety about leaving the doors unlocked, or my husband being out of town. Doug was very friendly, but intimidating. Our UPS guy wouldn't even come up the driveway if the dog was out.
And the squirrels in the yard are having a party. I've never seen so many squirrels climbing around on my husband's truck and the swing-set. I'd trained the dog to stay out of my garden, but he also kept other critters away, and they are impossible to train, though they come around as they like now.
I was talking to my mom the other day, about what she's going to do now that she no longer drives into Indianapolis two days a week to visit with my grandma. She just got her forty-year-old sewing machine fixed and is talking about learning how to sew altar cloths like her friend Jane does.
"I've got two days in my schedule now that I didn't used to have, and I just want to make sure I use them wisely, rather than letting them fritter away," she said. "I don't want to spend them shopping or being on the internet."
It's tempting sometimes to think that having our lives freed from the demands of all these people or other living creatures who command our attention will be some great new freedom, and I'll finally get to use my time how I want to (I admit to longing for a time when my house didn't smell like a dog.). But it's not freedom really. It's loss. Being more alone in the world is always a loss.