Goodbye to Him

He was gone by Monday evening.  He was determined to die in his own way, and it's been understood by us all that it had to happen.  It's always inevitable, isn't it?  The way seasons come in confused rushes, the way you're never quite nostalgic enough to move back home.  He died on his bed with his family next to him, with his breathing heavy, then soft, then not at all.  He panted and looked my mother right in the eyes, probably apologizing.  Probably wanting her to hold him tight through it all. The last picture I took of him.  Two years ago, on a polaroid.

My childhood dog died.  His name was Charlie, he passed away of natural causes.  He was fourteen and my family had him since I was nine.  Three months before my brother had cancer, a year before I started middle school, a decade before I left for college.  I thought he was a girl at first, so delicate and beautiful.  He was bought in the rain and was scared of the thunder.  He was special, different than our dog, Humphrey.  He was needy and my sister would dress him up in baby doll clothes.  She painted his nails.  He ate a library book and a hundred dollar bill once.  He had a developmental disorder where we had to baby-talk to him for years and years, so he felt safe and understood we loved him.  He had a scratch under his right eye where it always cried a little.  He was beautiful, strong.  He was afraid of the basement and never went in there.  Not even when there was a storm and the television said to go somewhere safe.  He refused, that stubborn dog.

He one time starved himself to bones when we left him at a kennel, when we went to Florida for a week.  We were charged $200 to fix the fence he broke trying to find us.

He one time starved himself when Humphrey died, too depressed to play ball.

He loved the snow and even when he was arthritic, he still jumped head-first into the first fall of December.

He was special, he was different.  He was delicate like a girl dog.  Beautiful in his own way.  He was blonde, he shed a lot.   He didn't know any tricks.  He was stubborn.  He was perfect the way all dogs are perfect and special the way the small quirks of age make you special.

He was home to me, but he had creaks in him, too.  He stumbled, he fell.  He growled if you touched him when he was sleeping.  He would kiss your hand, then ignore you.  He couldn't walk down steps, so they built him a ramp to go outside.  He couldn't walk up steps, so my parents moved their bedroom into the library on the first floor.  Every morning, my mom would walk him around our fenced-in yard, the whole circumference so Charlie could smell and hear and remember he was still loved.

He died in his sleep, he wanted it to happen.  He panted, then slowly let go.  He lived for fourteen years, and it was greedy to ask for any more.

My mother called me the other day and said she was lost in the mornings, with more free time.  She said she wasn't going to get anymore dogs.  She said they would move the bedroom back upstairs when it didn't hurt so bad.  She said she's waiting for a sign that he's happy now.  I asked her what the sign would be and she said it was too soon to know.  She'll know when she sees it.

I don't think the dreams I've been having are a sign that he's happy.  I keep dreaming he's in pain, that we had to make the choice ourselves.  I dream about being a senior in high school and holding onto Humphrey as we put him down.  I remember crying until I threw up.  And I wonder why I haven't cried this week.  Why Charlie was different.  I'm waiting for a sign now, too.  To know it's okay that I haven't cried yet.  And when that sign comes, I hope this dam inside me breaks.

Introducing Elsa

Time is a rudimentary trick of consciousness.  A way in which we evaluate truth, a way to discredit our own mortality.  We remember to remember birthday cards and grocery lists, and forget to forget terrible fights and subsequent broken mugs.  I wish I could remember everything and forget nothing, but then my grudges would last forever, and I have enough trouble remembering to give second chances.

I wish I could remember favorite moments, but I have to use context clues to be back in that moment again.  I remember reading Wuthering Heights in a hand-me-down hunter green cot, wrapped up in sweatshirts, in the middle of the night.  I remember it so vividly, the peace I felt in that moment, in the tempestuous blur between mysticism and romanticism and how I longed for an obsessive love.  I was fourteen.  

I remember two days before that, my mother walking out because of a fight we had and her not accepting my apology when I tried to hug her to stay.

I was fourteen, she was thirty-nine.

And I remember last year, when I was twenty-one and Nolan was twenty-five and the memory of my mother didn't have the same comfort it once did, when I had quit law school and was unemployed and crazy.  I remember it in technicolor, ruby-red and emerald green.  I remember picking Murphy up the hour after my Contracts II final, in a Korean neighborhood of LA, where a Mexican family was feeding him adult dog food mixed with water.  He was $300 total.  I cradled him in my arms and sang in a low whisper songs off of The Carpenters' Greatest Hits.  We drove for four hours, to our new home in San Diego.  Traffic was bad, but my knowledge of failure was worse.

That was nearly a year ago, a year of memories that I have to convince myself that they are worthwhile to remember.  How every day could have been a blessing, if only I had allowed myself to feel blessed.  Instead, I entrenched myself in fear of the unknown and the unknowable regret of "what if" that's plagued me in various manifestations since childhood.

What if I didn't move to San Diego?

What if I shouldn't have even moved to California?

What if I get a shitty job and I'm stuck, all alone?


But, there was one thing I knew for certain since May 20, 2013:  That I loved Murphy.  I loved him greatly, powerfully, and unnaturally closely since the day I held him.  I still do, I always will.

But I loved him so much that the commitment to play with him, to hold him close to me when we were sleeping, was not enough to get by while I was at work.  He was lonely, pitiful each time I crouched down to say goodbye and he would look up with wide, white eyes and reaching paws.  It was heart-breaking (but convincing!).

And so the search for a sister began.  The checklist was long, having to include energy and kindness, a rescue and a puppy.  I looked every day for a month on Craigslist and hoped for the best, bookmarking dog after dog, mix after mix, and using Wikipedia to research an unfamiliar breed.  

And then we found her.  We found her instantly and the love was strong and as paternal as that which I have for Murphy. We found her on a website for an animal sanctuary down in a border town twenty minutes from the Border, Baja Animal Sanctuary. We changed her name from Violet to Elsa (a family name for Nolan), and picked her up from a Petco twenty minutes from our house when friends from Phoenix were in town.  


And, like last time, every moment is precious.  And I'll remember to remember these memories more fondly, cherishing Murphy and Nolan and the little family we have together.  I won't make the same mistakes again.  She's fitting right in, making herself at home on the Native rug and she's slowly training on the disposable pads to help with potty training.  But it's all worth it when I see how content Murphy is, now that he's no longer waiting for a friend to come by the window, to look at the world through glass while we're at work.


Here's the new addition: