This is an old post – from September 16, 2009 – when Jonathan and I had a divorce action pending. I have edited some of it, leaving in the reference to Beaker, who died February 2, 2012 from a brain tumor.
The thing with dogs, with pets in general, is they fill a gap that people somehow can’t. Perhaps because animals love so unconditionally, and dogs so readily share that unconditional love, when life gets rough — and it was incredibly rough in September 2009 — I lean on my animals, turn to them for some level of solace, for what the people in my life can’t quite give.
So this post from September 2009 encapsulates some of that leaning:
Not much humor today.
For a lot of reasons. So, in no particular order:
It’s raining here. In New Mexico. And it’s been raining for the past couple days. Steadily. Everything’s flooded – well, as flooded as a high desert can get. Don’t get me wrong. We like the rain here. We need the rain. I like the rain.
But I had to drive in it. For most of the day. Back and forth. From one side of Albuquerque to the other. Costco. Trader Joe’s. The Weight Loss Center.
And the problem with the rain? People don’t know how to drive in it. So I get annoyed.
And all the driving meant I kept seeing red, 4-door Neons everywhere I went. Just like the one I gave away to Jonathan’s personal assistant–a woman I’d considered a friend, and a woman whose betrayal hurt me.
So that wasn’t good.
Then when I got weighed in, I’d only lost 1.6 pounds. And I’ve been so so so good on this diet. I have been so good that last night when I was dying, absolutely dying for a glass of wine, which I can’t have because of the carbs, I uncorked the bottle, poured a glass, lifted it to my lips, and just sniffed.
That’s a little bit crazy, but that’s how good I’ve been. Really good.
When I got home from driving in the rain, Beaker and Triscuit greeted me. (I’d locked Rocky in the bedroom before I left because he was being horrible to the cats, and I didn’t want to come home to piles of fur. Rocky has always been prey-oriented, which is okay if he’s chasing quail around the yard, provided he doesn’t catch them, but he can’t chase the cats around. He can’t even pretend to chase the cats, or he gets an extended time-out. )
And so as I pulled into the driveway, Beaker and Triscuit came across the yard, and right away, I could see that Beaker was limping pretty badly.
A little over a year ago, Beaker had an FCE, which is like a stroke in that it leaves a dog paralyzed, but unlike a stroke in that it doesn’t originate in the brain. Instead, the FCE originates in the spine.
The FCE affected Beaker’s back right leg. Last year, I thought she’d need to have the leg amputated; however, after physical therapy, she was okay. Not great. But okay. She had trouble getting up and down, and when she ran, she hopped.
Still, she seemed to be doing okay.
About a week ago, she started limping on her front right paw. We have a lot of goat heads (wicked little weeds that turn rock-hard with spikes and embed themselves in your feet) out here, so I thought that she’d stepped on one. I looked and found nothing. So I kept an eye on her.
The limping didn’t get worse, didn’t get better.
Today, when I got home, Beaker greeted me, still limping on her front leg, and now she was limping on her hind left leg, as well.
She’s getting old. I worry about losing her. I don’t think I could stand to have only the memory of her.
Too much in my life right now is only memory.
Especially today. I broke out my Danskos for the first time since March. And instantly all I could think of was Jonathan.
Remembering. The first year we moved to Corrales, we took the dogs for a walk to the acequia. It would have been late summer, and the acequia was filled with rushing water. I was walking Triscuit, who was very interested in the acequia and the water and she kept pulling at me, trying to get down the cement embankment, so she could check out the water up close.
Jonathan told me to watch her that she was going to fall in the water.
“Naw, she’s fine,” I told him.
The second the words were out of my mouth, Triscuit fell in, pulling me down the
embankment, squatting, sliding on my Danskos.
I started to giggle. Jonathan thought I was laughing at him and took off back to the house while I tried pulling Triscuit by her leash out of the water.
Even as she pulled me closer and closer to the water, I couldn’t stop laughing. And I wasn’t laughing at Jonathan but at myself. And at Triscuit and her very bad timing. She made a total liar out of me.
So Triscuit and the Danskos made me think of Jonathan today.
Probably a carryover from last night when I ran into a former neighbor of mine. She told me she’d seen Jonathan in the yard in just his pajama bottoms and then her words kind of faded.
“I wanted to say ‘hi,’ or something,” she said. “I mean… He’s our neighbor.”
I nodded to show I understood. I’d always been the frontman (frontperson?) in the relationship. People make Jonathan nervous, so I always took over that role.
And I couldn’t help but wonder, as I was talking to my former neighbor, if someone was taking that role over now. Someone like that personal assistant.
And later as I was trying to fall asleep I started thinking about her, the woman who’s driving my Neon these days. The woman I’d once considered a friend. And the more I thought about her, the less sleepy and more upset I became, so I called the dogs: Rocky, Beaker, Triscuit. Patted the bed, invited them up.
Rocky and Triscuit jumped up no problem, joined me on that too-small, double bed, licked my face: “Oh boy oh boy oh boy, we get to sleep with Mom,” they seemed to be saying, but not Beaker.
Beaker was still on the floor next to the bed; she nuzzled my hand. I brought my face to hers: “You gettin’ old, girl? Is that the problem?”
She cocked her head as if agreeing.
I got out of bed, lifted her up next to me, then crawled back in — Beaker on one side of me, Triscuit and Rocky on the other. We were wedged in pretty tightly. The lightest of the three is Rocky, and he weighs 50 pounds.
But the thing about being wedged in so tightly like that — feeling their hearts beating against mine, feeling their breath on my face — is I felt safe, loved.
And for half a second, I could forget Jonathan and his personal assistant, forget the hurt I felt and fall asleep.