Before you go on, this is going to be a blunt and emotionally gripping, and there will be some language to contend with.
From what you know of me, you don’t know me. I’m usually overly poised and emotionally stoic.
I think I get it from my grandfather. He’s 94 now and in the final months or days of his life – which we’ve been thinking for hundreds of days now. My brother, Paul (Ha, yes, I have a sibling. Told you.) and I have always called him Grandpop, but unexpressive might be more descriptive of my Dad’s father. That’s not a criticism of David W., just a fact. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Grandpop smile. In a way, especially in a time like this, I envy his utterly dispassionate demeanor.
Even when his wife, Gertrude, Grammy W. died nearly 6 years ago, I don’t recall him in any heartache, at least not outwardly.
Grammy W. was completely unalike Grandpop. She was as kind and warm-hearted an individual as you could encounter. She cared more for my brother and I possibly more than our parents did.
It’s a good thing my Dad got some of Gertrude’s peppy DNA or else who knows how icy a human being he would’ve grown into.
My Dad, as strong as he is, isn’t as emotionally unflappable as his father is, but he’s certainly his father’s son. Just as I am.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen my Dad cry. Not even when his mom died in 2008. When it’s expected, as her passing was, it’s far less jarring. Plus, paramount to my Dad was/is quality of someone’s life. It was time for Grammy W. to go.
My other grandmother, Grammy B., my mom’s mom died in the first summer I’d moved back after having been away for over seven years. This was July of 2007. We’d become somewhat distant because of the indignation each of showed by expecting the other one to call the other. My mom was rapt with sadness when Harriet died, as I suppose most would be with the passing of a parent.
I’ve always had a small-ish family. My immediate family, at its ‘peak,’ consisted of my Mom, Dad, Brother, two uncles and three grandparents. No aunts, no cousins, and a grandfather who passed away before I could remember.
This may sound callous, but when each of my grandmother’s died I wasn’t touched by sadness.
I stood under the reasoning that old people die. Both of them were in their mid-80s and had lived rich lives, so far as I knew.
I suppose I’m fortunate to have lived as long as I have and to have never grieved a day in my life. I think I can thank the objective and somewhat emotionally detached strands of DNA that are woven through me from my Grandfather and Dad. If there are times I should be grieving, perhaps the genes I’ve been blessed with have acted as safeguards from sorrow.
That hereditary shielding while protecting me from gloom, and prevented from making irreparable life decisions, doesn’t come without an austere cost.
I’ll let one of my former psychologists detail that price.
‘You lack intimacy in your life.’
Immediately, you think I need a girlfriend.
Her statement was much more abundantly universal than just a life partner.
Outside of my dad, I’d say I don’t have a best friend. At least not someone who could be normally defined with those qualities. Nor is there a friendship where I actively participate in as the role of best friend.
My interests are unyieldingly narrow. There are things I like, but little seizes my inner most feelings.
The most straightforward way of explaining this general ambivalence I live in goes like this; you know I’m an avid sports fan. Though I use the word fan loosely, as I’m far too objective and impartial to meet the criteria of being a ‘fan’ in the traditional sense. If baseball were taken away from me and I could never watch it, follow it, or talk about it ever again, much like with my the passings of my grandmothers, I’d likely give it little more than a shoulder shrug. Without that fully engrossed intimacy, I can calmly move along to another interest.
Some have asked me, after I’ve listed the nearly ten places I’ve resided, ‘how do you do that?’ When I was less intuitively refined my answer was ‘I dunno, I knew that was part of the deal when I got into radio.’
As I’ve gotten older I realized I was able to commit to the career that often creates vagabonds because of my inability to truly connect anywhere. That dispassion makes it convenient to skip around life, not only geographically and occupationally, but mentally and emotionally as well.
Holy siht! This is 725 words and I haven’t gotten to the somber fountainhead behind this post!
Ya know that new dog I adopted barely over a month ago?
She’s dead now.
For the first time in my life I succumbed to grief, and my glacial heart encountered a form of emotional global warming that it could not instinctually defend itself from.
In the shadowy remoteness of my emotions, I guess I do have an intimacy for dogs.
Fcuk. Diddy, and adopting him at my Dad’s suggestion, possibly saved me from some serious self harm due to my bout with the un-fun part of being bipolar; depression. Heavy, depression.
On Sunday February 8th, late in the afternoon I saw a 13 ABC Facebook post about Spot (that wasn’t the name, but isn’t that what we call random dogs?), a Whippet – which was a dog I was familiar with because my family had one – needing adoption! ‘Spot’ wasn’t quite the type of dog I’d consider but the general idea of a dog needing a home pricked my heart.
Having all the space I have now, I’d occasionally pondered the thought of having a second dog. Most of my life, I’ve had a dog around, but usually there’s been two of them! Tequila and Licorice, Licorice and Tootsie, Tootsie and Sweety, Tootsie, Sweety AND Jasmine, and Sweety and Jasmine.
The immediate urges were saying no, no, no, no BAD IDEA.
I have room now, but what if I move? It’s difficult enough finding a place to live that takes ONE dog, let alone two.
That alone was a thought-stopper. But I also feared, with a laugh, there’s NO WAY I get lucky enough to find another dog like Diddy, who has NEVER peed or shit in the house OR chewed anything. Diddy’s only drawbacks, and they’re barely that, are that he’s got some barky separation anxiety when I leave the house and his hyper demeanor can put some people off. I despise using the word blessed, so much so that I NEVER use it, but I’ll make an exception here. I’m blessed to have trusted my senses when they said ‘take this one,’ when I was looking for a dog in June of 2012.
Oh? The Toledo dog warden, which I’d passed dozens of times without ever thinking more than ‘damn, they kill dogs there’ needed families for dogs AND they’d even renamed themselves the much less menacing LUCAS COUNTY CANINE CONTROL.
Me even half considering a second dog, then going to where there are easily adoptable pets is like Alcoholics Anonymous planting a keg in the middle of the room.
OF COURSE there was a medium sized dog available for adoption, who unlike the other extremely vocal canines just sat quietly in her crate.
Demure and shy, you’re the one.
The requirements for a family addition were the same criteria I sought the first time around. Medium sized, independent, between the ages of 2+ and 4ish, a relatively calm demeanor.
I knew Diddy was the one when I walked him at Pet-A-Palooza at the Palace of Auburn Hills when we stopped for a minute and two 70+ lb dogs when nose to nose and Diddy just stood there nearly between them and didn’t move a muscle.
After soliciting lots of advice from friends, family and neigbors, on Monday the 10th I decided to adopt Aloma, soon to be Isley. I could bring her home Friday after she was spayed.
By midday Tuesday I began to waver on my decision. I went to bed that night thinking I made the wrong one. I would tell the shelter they could keep the adoption fee, but I couldn’t take Aloma Isley home.
The next day as I was going to the gym I saw an older woman walking two dogs outside of my place. If SHE can handle two dogs, so can I. I was back on board! An hour later at the gym, I convinced myself once again two was a bad idea. How the hell do I clean up one dogs shit, while the other one’s yanking me away. Oy vey, as my Grammy’s would both lament.
Another hour later the shelter called and said she’d been fixed, so come pick her up.
Buyer’s remorse was silenced and I couldn’t say no. Isley was coming home.
She tried to siht in the house that evening, but luckily she held out long enough for me to get her outside. My senses were on the mark again, as Isley didn’t need to be in her crate while I was gone any longer than five days or so it took to crate train her. She was responsible. Get a dog of that age like I did, twice, if you’re worried about total house destruction.
Friday the 14th Isley went to Total Pet Care. The shelter just isn’t as medically thorough as a normal veterinary clinic. As expected, she did indeed have kennel cough, but other than that she was in decent shape considering she’d been in a shelter for a month, and who knows where before then.
The medications Dr. Pisle gave Isley quickly cleared up the symptoms but Isley began vomiting in the coming days.
She’d gone trash digging one night while I was asleep. Perhaps the current and worsening impending stomach troubles came from the remnants of uncooked chicken she discovered in the trash.
Isley, even since I first brought her home, wasn’t as enthusiastic, coming from where she did, as you’d expect for a giant bowl of food. She ate, but never finished. Fine, all have friends who just pick at their food.
The night of March 5th, Isley had thrown up something I’d never seen before. Dogs puke yellow bile up. It happens. But this time the yellow substance was encompassed by a pool of transparent liquid. Picture what it looks like when you crack an egg into a pan. I was deeply concerned.
Back to the vet the next day. No fever, no outrageously abnormal blood work and nothing threatening in a chest x-ray. Isley’s troubles were diagnosed as ‘something she ate caused her to be fickle and upset.’ Vague. But I was cautioned to watch her closely. She was also switched over to a more stomach friendly wet dog food, and she was given was I’d say was akin to an IV shot to re-energize her.
By the weekend, there was no more vomiting, but strangely Isley had once again starting eating less and less. This was a dog that was underweight and I couldn’t get her to eat, yet she’d drink water like she had gills.
I needed to get her back to the vet before the storm on Wednesday. We made it Tuesday morning. A stool sample I’d dropped off earlier in the morning came back with no concern, but this time Isley had a fever. Over 103. And this time her white blood cells were up and of concern. Like in humans, white bloods fight infection, so when they’re up, there’s a reason to disturbed. However, Dr. Hoffman was confident the it was an infection and the antibiotic called Baytril, commonly used to treat dogs and cats, would finally get Isley back to some normalcy. Something I haven’t been able to enjoy much of with her.
Thursday at lunchtime, just before I gave her the third pill, the vet called to check in on Isley and I shared that I was beginning to get very unnerved. Her conditioned had worsened. The laborious breathing Dr. Hoffman noticed on Tuesday had become more of a worry. Isley, who I couldn’t sit within a foot of and not have her paw-ing me with both paws to be affectionate towards her, was lethargic. She reciprocated no affection. This dog, who was a wordsmith with her paws, wouldn’t or couldn’t touch me. When we’d go outside, she struggle to climb the stairs back up, and I’d have to slow my pace even walking back down the hallway to the apartment.
As unfamiliar with it as I was previously, I know what death looks like. There was lifelessness in her eyes. There were tears in mine.
I had to get Isley back to the vet the as soon as possible the next morning.
The last few days, when I’d woken up in the middle of the night, as I frequently do, I noticed Isley wasn’t sleeping. Same thing on this Thursday night. Earlier in the evening she couldn’t comfortably lay down in any position besides on all fours, sometimes barely being able to briefly put her head down in between her front paws. She was positioned like the Sphinx with a palpably loud and disturbing breathing pattern.
I’d done my sobbing earlier knowing what could be, so now all I was going to do was try to comfort her. I picked her up and put her in bed next to me. Her struggles to breathe kept me awake for a while, but I was determined to fall asleep with her formerly adoring paw in my hand. Her paw was cold, but my spine was chilled.
Friday morning after I got ready for work she tried to pee in a spot she’d had an accident on earlier in the week. Without being overly vocal, knowing she was sick, I stopped her. But moments later she couldn’t hold it. This completely obedient dog created a puddle of urine at my feet in the bathroom. I thought of an elderly person not being able to control their bladder.
We made it to the vet around noon.
Dr. Pisle once again examined her.
Even without a demonstrative movement, I saw the doctor’s grimness.
She said she couldn’t hear anything in Isley’s lower lungs, and her liver was extraordinarily enlarged. This wasn’t something she noticed on previous examinations.
Whatever was wrong with Isley, she was so sick that the doctor didn’t try to persuade me to even consider extreme measures to discover what was wrong and then to treat Isley.
I had to put her to sleep.
The paperwork was signed. Rachel, the vet tech, asked me if I wanted her collar and leash. I’d morbidly been tentative about it since the night prior, but I took it, and she said take as much time as I needed.
Isley could barely acknowledge me. She couldn’t give me a paw goodbye. For all intents and purposes I’d lost this treasure that penetrated my heart the night before.
The last time she listened to me say her name.
I’d been sitting on the floor with her, but for both our sakes, I needed to rise and leave the room quickly. I’d gotten up and opened the door to leave and I felt Isley try to follow but I hastily darted out and nodded with thanks for the apologies from the people at the front desk.
It’d been nearly thirty five years, but for the first time in my life I’d met this nearly inexorable foe named grief.
Not that I thought she could’ve been saved but I paid the extra money to have a post mortem necropsy done. I wanted closure.
A few hours, and a lifetime reservoir of tears later Dr. Pisle called.
Isley had lymphoma. I didn’t need her to tell me just how viciously it’d spread throughout Isley’s body. I’d never seen deterioration in any living thing like the three days after Isley was treated for an infection that Tuesday.
The relentless cancer had devoured her body…and my soul. Bravely, to Isley’s credit, the doctor said she hid the disease well. The shelter couldn’t see it, nor could three visits to the more highly trained professionals. I’d like to think the Isley’s unending devotion and affectionate nature shielded her from the insidiousness of the cancer until the final days.
Chillingly, the vet said Isley had only a few days left to live.
I didn’t feel guilty for putting her down. I didn’t feel like I wasted nearly a thousand dollars for all the costs of Isley’s month with Diddy and I. I didn’t feel like there was more I could’ve done to rescue her.
If there was any remorse…it’s that I had cheated personal grief, which is inescapable as a human, for so long.
I know this unfamiliar agony won’t last forever. I’ll likely even get adopt another dog in short time. And even though I knew this animal for just thirty days, I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to experience intimacy as most do…though this emotional odyssey has proven to me that as apathetic as I believe I am, I, like you, cannot evade the emotional anguish known as grief.
I lost control of my emotions at the end of The Dark Knight Rises. At it’s conclusion, I was losing one of the few things I HAVE emotionally immersed myself in during recent years.
The funeral scene for Bruce Wayne saw Jim Gordon reciting an amending verse from the end of Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities. I (foolishly) never thought I’d ever be able to apply those words to my own life, with my own modification.
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that she goes to that she has ever known.
Thank you to my neighbors Chris and Therese who empowered me to rush to the shelter that Monday to get ‘Aloma’ before someone else did.
Thank you to Diddy for not being an a$$hole for Dad bringing home another dog.
Thank you to everyone at Total Pet Care in Toledo on Glendale who never made Isley’s well being and health anything but paramount.
Thank you to everyone who posted something on this superficially heartless person’s Facebook. And for the texts as well.
Thank you to my family. Especially my Dad who said who he’d give me back some of the money I put out. To that I sobbingly said ‘I just want my dog back.’
Thanks to my compassionate employers at Clear Channel for letting me vanish for a clump of hours to see for Isley.
Fcuk you to you if you were Isley’s previous owner and you knew she was in someway sick and instead of trying to treat her, you just let her run. Fcuk you.
Thank you to Isley.