Love Is What We Are After

smith-bruno-cov-11-01-copy.gifI have a review of Annick Smith’s new memoir Crossing the Plains with Bruno — her story of a road trip from Montana to Chicago to visit her ninety-seven year-old mother, accompanied by her chocolate lab, Bruno — in this week’s Missoula Independent. You may check it out HERE. If memoir is your thing, you’ll dig it. Smith is a fine writer, and her life has been an interesting one. An excerpt from the Preface of the book:

Dogs may or may not be aware of the fragility of their humans, but we owners of pets are aware of the predictable mortality of our animal companions. Such knowing does not stop a lover of animals. Loss, we have learned, is the price of love, and love is what we are after, no matter the pain.

If you are a pet owner, you are likely well acquainted with that pain. I certainly am. At risk of being maudlin, as tribute here are the three desperate loves Julia and I have lost over the last two years, and our house is so much emptier as a result. They all lived long, full lives, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t leave us way too soon. Just looking at their pictures I’m reminded how terribly I miss them all.

Orly, aka El Rey, aka The King, aka The Little Warrior
Orly, aka El Rey, aka The King, aka The Little Warrior
Velcro, aka Little Velcs, the Best Worst Dog Ever
Velcro, aka Little Velcs, the Best Worst Dog Ever
Bernard, aka The Big Dog, aka Dagle Grande
Bernard, aka The Big Dog, aka Dagle Grande

One More to the Gut from 2014

I’ve been quiet around here lately; I’ve mainly just been focusing instead on getting through all the holidays amid all the changes that have occurred the back half of this year. Today 2014 is getting in one last nasty shot at us, as we are saying farewell to our big old loyal dog, Bernard. At 14 or 15, he’s had a hell of a good run, way longer than most big dogs, but it still sucks. Frankly, a couple months ago I would have been surprised to see him even make it to Christmas. But last night, whatever he had in him that was enabling him to move around, albeit shakily, gave out, and his time has come. I’ll miss him.

The Big Dog
The Big Dog

A year-and-a-half ago we were a four-dog house. We are down to one, with the two cats still hanging in there as well. It’s been a bumpy road.

2015 will be better.

Like a Civil War Field Hospital

One of the downsides to traveling a fair amount is that inevitably something goes down at home while I’m away. Whenever it does, I always say, “Why does stuff like this always happen whenever I go out of town?!” when the reality is that bad stuff rarely happens, and when it does, it’s likelier to happen when I’m around.

Here are a couple examples. Once I got home late after a trip and found a note that Julia was at the hospital. She’d fallen down the stairs, then had to drag herself back to the top, hobble out to the car, and deliver herself to the emergency room. She’d broken her foot. Another time one of our dogs starting acting out of sorts and was delivered to the vet, where Julia learned the beast had swallowed a rock and needed emergency surgery. Then there was the time I got a couple calls from Texas in the middle of the night, which I ignored, only to find out that my kid had landed himself in jail (long story), and the number the jail phone calls out from routes out through Texas. Yeah, that was pretty awesome.

No way am I suggesting that Julia is some wilting flower who needs a man around to take care of things. Hardly. She’s a hell of a lot more capable in most ways when it comes to day-to-day bullshit than I am. It’s just a drag to have to deal with stuff alone, and I always feel a little guilty when I’m not around to pull my weight. Like while I’m sitting in a movie theater, or eating my weight in expense account pizza, she’s dealing with calamity.

One morning this past week while I was in Minnesota, Julia discovered that one of our dogs (coincidentally the same one who’d required emergency surgery as discussed in the preceding anecdote) was bleeding from the back of her leg. Further investigation revealed some kind of cyst, or sore, or abscess, or whatever had busted open and was leaking profusely. This dog, Velcro, is (allegedly) a Jack Russell terrier. She’s also a nutcase. She’s a rescue dog and kind of a whackadoo, but she’s also loving and dear to us. She is gangly and misshapen, frankly, especially at the back end. We’ve always suspected that if any of the dogs ever developed some weird malady, it would be her. Yet she continues stumbling along, and has to be at least 12 or 13 now.

Long story short, Julia took Velcro to the vet. The vet said the wound was clearly infected, that it could be an abscess but could also be a tumor, as they sometimes will swell up and burst. He gave her antibiotics to kill the infection, then once that is under control and the bleeding hopefully stopped, he can investigate further. Velcro came home. The morning I was headed home Julia warned me that Velcro didn’t look so good, and that there would probably be some blood tracked around the house accumulated from the time she left to pick me up at the airport and then we arrived home again some hours later, and that I should be ready.

I really wasn’t prepared for the reality of her words. There were streaks of blood everywhere. The house even smelled like blood. The entire back of one of Velcro’s legs was streaked with it. It was stressful, as anyone with pets who are suffering knows.

Now, a few days removed, the worst is over. She still bleeds a little now and then, but her spirits are back to normal and the house doesn’t feel like a place where limbs have been amputated. She goes back to the vet on Monday to be looked at again. Last weekend, though, we were supposed to attend an Octoberfest party at the home of the woman Julia works with at Betty’s Divine. In explaining to Aimee why we couldn’t make it, Julia provided the following artistic rendering on a sticky note of Velcro’s condition. It’s pretty spot on, right down to the bulbous ass and odd hair patterns. Poor Velcro. Still, the picture’s pretty funny.

velcro-wounded

Hopefully Velcro doesn’t have a tumor. She’s loving the extra attention, though, particularly the nightly heated butt compress while piled up on Julia’s lap on the couch. We’re hoping for the best, or at least something close to it.

velcro-1

Take Them to the River

I bought one of these seat saver things from one of my favorite online shopping emporiums so that we could take the dogs on adventures without them totally befouling the back seat of our only current means of transportation. Yesterday during my lunch break Julia and I took all three of the beasts to Council Grove State Park for a splash or two. A good time seemed to be had by all.

bernard-2 darla-2 velcro-2

Long Live the King

I’m not one to piss and moan a lot, especially online, at least as it relates to myself. But if this blog is about my life, I really can’t pass off the big events unmentioned, and this is one of those. This morning we had to put down Julia’s dog, Orly. It was very, very sad. He was nearly 19, had some growing health problems, and . . . well, it was simply time. But that doesn’t make it any easier. I’ve known him 10 years, Julia had him since he was a puppy. He was a great little dog, and will be missed. Today, frankly, it just hurts.

Lots of great stories about this guy, and I have many photos. Don’t know if I will elaborate beyond this post. Nonetheless, here is a picture I found of Julia and Orly from January of 2005, when we were working on building a straw bale house.

R.I.P. Little Warrior
R.I.P. Little Warrior