Oh, Peedee. I can’t believe it’s been thirteen years since we met. I wish I could say that I remember it like it was yesterday, but I’m getting on in years and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Plus, there’s the hazy cloud of grief that’s been hanging over my head … since your death, and those of Ralphie and Kaylee. Some days it makes it impossible to think. Like swimming through dark molasses, half blind and sluggishly slow.
So no, not like yesterday. But clear enough. I still remember the moment a volunteer (your foster mom?) placed you in my lap. You were so silly and squirmy and full of crazy puppy energy. We went to the adoption event looking for a slightly older companion for Ralphie. But the second I wrapped my arms around you, I knew you were coming home with us.
It still hurts my heart, all these years later, to think that we ever considered giving you back. Ralphie got sick of your antics about a week in, remember? And us being the young and (somewhat) inexperienced dog people we were, we kind of panicked. But things got better. So, so much better. You and Ralphie ended up besties.
(Ralphie and Peedee and Rennie – I’ll always think of you guys as the original three. Even though there was less time separating Kaylee and Jayne’s adoption from Rennie’s than between, say, you and Ralphie or you and Rennie, you three stick together like glue in my mind. Maybe it’s because you three all got on so well. Kaylee mostly fit in, except that Ralphie all but ignored her. Like he thought two friends was enough and refused to acknowledge the later adoptees. And then the same thing happened with Mags and Finnick: Mags integrated rather quickly, while Finnick is still fighting to, much like Jayne. Three and five and seven, that’s how you all appear in my mind. You all reference each other, in a weird way, and maybe that makes each loss hurt all the more.)
The sense of shame and regret lingers, though, especially now that you’re gone. To think that we almost never got to know you – it’s too much to bear. Even with the cancer. I’d go through it all a million times over; you’re worth that, and so much more.
It’s been nearly four months since we lost you, and it’s hasn’t gotten much easier. Take this post, for example: I meant to write it months ago, but kept dragging my heels. It all feels so final, you know? Talking about it. Admitting that you’re really, truly gone. That those last six months went by just as quickly as I feared they would.
I’ve been holding a lot in, so this is bound to be long and rambly. Then again, you always were the best listener. Humor your old mom, okay?
I thought I’d handle your death better than I did. Not that I thought it would be easy, not by a long shot. But we had so much time to prepare for the idea, you know? Lots of time to spoil you and say our goodbyes.
I think that may have been part of the problem, though; by the time you passed, I’d been grieving you full-time for six months. And as difficult as that was, the pretending was infinitely worse. I wanted to keep my shit together for you. I didn’t want to pass my stress or unhappiness on to you, so I did my best to bury it all. But I think it ate away at me from the inside.
When you died, I was burned out. Exhausted. Empty. I occupied myself with busy work; things that were difficult enough to keep my brain busy, but not so hard that I’d fuck them up in my fugue-like state. (Organizing, mostly. Surprise, surprise!) I vegged out in front of the tv and binge-watched The Closer while shoveling potato chips into my maw, hand over fist. I got lax with my Invisalign trays and that stupid problem tooth shifted a little. I may have gained five or even ten pounds. (It’s hard to tell, since I stopped counting when you fell ill.) Some days I slept ’till noon. Others I considered not getting up at all. (Luckily, Mags and O-Ren had other ideas.)
And now I kind of hate myself, because I fear that I didn’t mourn you properly.
You deserve more than four months of avoidance and emotional withdrawal. You deserve ballads and stories and hymns of devotion. You were the best best friend a girl could ask for, and how do I celebrate that? By letting details slip away, like water through a sieve, while I try to avoid memories of you, and the pain that they always bring.
Shane thinks that I’m experiencing survivor’s guilt. Maybe he’s right.
I just know that I miss you, that it feels like you slipped through my fingers like sand, and I’ll never be able to hold onto you the way that I want, not ever again.
You took a piece of my heart when you left, just like Kaylee and Ralphie before. Sometimes I think that, by the time I’m 95 and have loved and lost several pack’s worth of dogs, there won’t be enough left to keep beating. That’s okay, though. I can think of worse ways to go.
Also not terribly helpful, vis-à-vis grieving you: our current foster dog, who we’ve had for two months and counting. We’ll call him Snuffaluffagus, on account of he’s huge. Ginormous. He makes foster pony look like a wimp. Now, I know we said no more big dogs, but he’s fourteen years young and has arthritis, so he doesn’t move so fast. Plus he’s totes chill and really good with the small dogs. So this isn’t another foster pony situation. Snuffy’s been pretty great.
Not great: he has heartworm, which his family has decided not to treat. Not that I can blame them, at his advanced age; even without the the heartworm, his time on this earth is probably limited.
But the heartworm? Well, that kind of assures it, you know? And though his health is pretty good now (between the regular exercise and glucosamine, he’s even moving better!), I can’t help but think that this dog is dying and we should treat every day as if it was his last and Snuffy deserves to have the crap spoiled out of him. Sound familiar?
So yeah, it’s like the universe won’t let us get off this treadmill that is death and suffering and futility. Like I’m reliving those last six months with you, in shadow form at least. (I love Snuffy, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t have twelve years of memories binding us together.) I hope his family finds housing, and soon. I want them to have as much time together as possible. Also, selfishly, I don’t want to be there when things go bad.
Speaking of foster dogs, I think Ice Cream Star’s departure (or rather the timing thereof) made things worse too. It’s almost always difficult to bid farewell to our temporary furkids (even foster pony hurt a little, under the overwhelming sense of relief), but Ice Cream was different. It was like a preview of what was to come.
Plus he occupied such an intimate place in our lives. With the exception of the drive-in, he became the fourth member of the Terrible Trio, exploring trails new and old. When I think of you in those last few months, Ice Cream Star’s face is always in the frame. He too contains a piece of you, which made it all the more difficult to let go.
After you died, I asked Z. to tell Ice Cream Star’s mom how much we enjoyed having him stay with us. How it warmed my heart to see you make one last friend before … well, you know. How ridiculously cute you were together (even if he was no Loverboy). I had my doubts about fostering while you were still around, but I’m so glad Ice Cream Star came into our lives when he did. He was a little dose of sunshine and rainbows, just when we needed it.
But enough with the sadness and tears, okay? This is your adoption day, and it just wouldn’t do to mope through this entire post.
There’s so much that I’m thankful for. So many other reasons I thought I’d deal better. As far as cancer goes, yours wasn’t so bad. (Remembering Bucky and Cap makes my stomach churn, twenty-five years on.) You were healthy and active and in great spirits for most of those six months – not to mention the year before that. (I still can’t believe how quickly you bounced back from the surgery! I would have been moping and milking it for months. You dogs are seriously badass.) Even at the end, I don’t think you were in any pain. Uncomfortable, yes, but also content. You seemed absolutely blissful when I stroked your ears and face. I hoped it comforted you even just half as much as it did me.
And you outlived the oncologist’s best-case estimate by three to four months – that’s nothing to sniff at! Shane called her with an update after you passed, and she was so impressed that she wanted to schedule a call to ask about what we did for you. (This was all through her assistant, mind you.) I’m pretty sure it was the CBD oil. My only regret is that we didn’t start you on it from the outset, when you were first diagnosed with cancer. My mom says that I shouldn’t blame myself, but here’s the thing: I don’t. How was I to know that you could buy it (semi-)legally in a non-medical marijuana state? Nope, I’m angry at the government, and its policies borne of racism and scientific ignorance.
It is kind of amazing that I only harbor one regret. I’m usually much too anxious and self-loathing to limit it to just one. So that’s something else to be thankful for. I feel like we did right by you, those last six months. We did everything we could to keep you happy and healthy. I wish there had been more, but it is what it is.
We created so many wonderful memories – not just during the Summer of Peedee, but throughout all of your thirteen years. I’m so happy you were able to go to the drive-in with us! If I’d known you’d behave so well, I would have given you a second chance years ago. (Okay, two regrets.) The 2016 season opens this weekend, and I can’t wait. Not because I enjoy it – though I do – but because I know it will leave me thinking of you. Maybe the first visit will even start you dancing around in my heart. Kaylee sure could use a dance partner.
Your last night on earth with us, Shane and I stayed up and told you stories: stories about you and me and us. Memories and funny anecdotes about our lives together. Do you remember that? It was so terribly sad (the waterworks!), but I also kind of loved it. I had long since forgotten, but Shane recounted how, back when we lived in Stilwell and you and Ralphie were a pack of two, you used to go into the living room and pretend to bark at an intruder in the bay window. When Ralphie ran in to provide backup, you’d sneak into the office onto my (now-empty) lap.
You were so fucking smart, Peedee. I don’t think I’ll ever know a dog with your uncanny intelligence ever again.
I suspect that’s the reason you were so empathetic, too. You always seemed to know when I was feeling down and in need of a friend. Sometimes my heaving sobs scared you, I think, but still you creeped over to me, ducked your head under my hand, and invited me to give you a good pet. You let me cry on your shoulder, and were quick to lick the tears from my face.
Rennie and Mags love me too, I know, and they’re both sweet in their own ways. But neither of them are as good at comforting me as you were. It’s ironic (in the loosest sense of the word, though I’ve no doubt that you’d use it correctly 100% of the time, if only you spoke human); never have I ever needed comforting so badly as I do now, and you’re not here to give it.
It’s funny, the things you don’t fully appreciate until they’re gone. I used to love the way you spooned with me at night. Of all the dogs, you were always the best snuggler. You nestled your little body up to mine, fitting yourself right into the curve of my stomach, or the sharp angles of my legs. At night you went in and out, in and out of the covers, like clockwork. Musical chairs, but a much cozier version of it.
Some time during the summer you stopped cuddling with me, preferring instead to lay directly under the ceiling fan. This wasn’t unusual for the hotter months; but when September rolled around, you stayed firmly put under the fan. I think the air felt good; maybe it helped you to breathe a little easier. Whatever the reason, you never returned to my side. I didn’t really notice until after you died, and it became apparent that you never would.
The feel of your thick, soft fur; the arch of your back; your silly little belly with the sparse hair and that one fatty lump. The body that’s perfectly sized for snuggies. I miss you so much, Peedee. (Mags tries to snuggle, sometimes, but she just doesn’t cut it. All sharp angles and bared teefies.)
I miss your kisses, which became few and far between with age. You last licked my face the night before you died: you were perched on the back of the couch, and I was turned toward you, stroking your weary face in that way you so liked. You leaned forward, not without effort, and gave me one little lick. I cried and thanked you profusely. That kiss meant a lot, my little monster.
I miss sunbathing out in the yard with you (and Mags and Rennie and Ralphie and Kaylee). But that longing started before you were gone: like Ralphie, you weren’t so hot on hanging around outside with nothing to do once you got older. I’m pretty sure that didn’t start until after your relapse, though: I have plenty of pics of you chasing Loverboy around the yard circa 2014. Or maybe he was just adequate incentive?
I miss chasing you around the house to slip your harness on; how you played hard to get even as you barked with excitement at the prospect of a walk.
I miss watching your perky little behind as you raced ahead of us all on walks, insisting on being the leader, the scout, the head of the whole damn operation. (You pulling on your leash? Not so much.)
I miss you and Ralphie, together: how you insisted on “helping” him dig a hole under the fence, whether he wanted it or not; impossible wrestling moves; barking in unison; grabbing onto his face and never letting go, even when it stretched so far it seemed his face would snap in two.
I miss you and Rennie, running all over the house like lunatics; amplifying each other’s crazy puppy energy; chasing balls and competing over Loverboy; using each other’s bodies like pillows.
I miss you and Kaylee, racing and chasing each other all over the yard.
I miss you and Mags, or rather how uncharacteristically restrained you seemed to be when in the vicinity of our ten-pound diva/dictator.
I miss your joy at licking dishes, once Kaylee passed away and left you the senior member of the household. She was always much more polite about it than you, but that’s okay. I kind of loved your bossiness.
I miss your gangly fawn legs, splayed out and hanging over my lap as I worked at the desk.
I miss dressing you up in silly clothes and taking pictures. I miss having a dog who loved playing dressup with me. You were the daughter I’ll never have.
I miss my honorary lady. Now my girl gang is down to just two.
I miss the way you threw your paws at me whenever the treats came out, as if “shake” was always a sure thing.
I miss your little trust falls into my arms. I kind of love that you only let me pick you up those last few days.
The day before you died, I wrote this in my journal: “Peedee will only let me pick him up now. Every time Shane tries, Peedee barks and growls. Probably it’s my technique – I hit the sweet spot right behind his legs and barely even touch his chest; I literally sweep him off his feet; all I have to do is hold out my arms and say ‘mama’s gotcha,’ and he stands up and falls back for me – but I’d also like to think it’s preference, because he’s a big ole mama’s boy. Who knows, maybe a heaping helping of both.”
Mommy’s always gotcha, Peedee. Don’t you ever forget it.
I even miss you and Ralphie, crammed on top of me while I napped on the couch – even though that wrecked my back, and you haven’t really done that since we upgraded from a couch to a sectional.
I don’t miss the stress and anticipatory grief of those last six months – but I’d happily live it all over again, in an endless loop, if it meant I could see you again. Even that 10th circle of hell is preferable to living without you.
It’s funny, I became so accustomed to your rapid, shallow breathing those final weeks and days that for a long time after the other dogs’ normal breathes seemed wrong. It’s like the meme – you walk into a room where your dog’s asleep, and your heart stops until he takes his next breathe – but worse. Worry and sorrow and regrets became our new normal, for a while, and now I’m having trouble finding my way back.
Your sisters and brother are due for their semi-annual physicals, and I worry about what the vet might find. I worry all the time now. If it was my default setting before, it’s become a permanent state of being now.
Ugh. But this isn’t the note I wanted to end on! (The third paragraph back would have made a great ending, but of course I found more to tack on at the last minute. I warned you I might ramble!)
You guys are all so wrapped up in each other, especially in my mind, that to lose one of you feels a little like losing all of you. And it kills me to think that one day I’ll live with a whole new pack of dogs, dogs who don’t know and have never met you. I’ll look at this new dog, and she’ll carry no connection to you. That’s so inexplicably scary. I wish I could keep you with me forever. In flesh and bone, not just spirit.
But of course I can’t, and at the end of the day, that’s a good thing, I guess. Because where would you be if you outlived dad and I? And with your passing, we’re free to help another dog out. When we’re ready.
I gave Ralphie and Kaylee’s deaths meaning by fostering, in their memory. I’m not ready to adopt yet (even though the house feels so terribly empty without you), but I think I might volunteer to foster a servicemember’s animal in addition to our work with RBC. They only need us sporadically, and I think a long-term foster dog would be pretty cool: kind of like a member of the family, but without all the heartache. I don’t know. We’re still mulling it over.
There was this dog, Aikman. He had mange, looked like an insane vampire bat, and lived in Texas. I mooned over him for months. If he was closer, I might have adopted him. His Petfinder listing came down a few weeks ago, a discovery that made me unreasonably sad. (I mean, good for him, right?)
It speaks volumes that I was already fantasizing about a new dog, just weeks after losing you. Despite all the pain and heartache, you guys are worth it. Take another little piece of my heart, as they say.
And on that note: I love you, Peeds. Now and forever. I’ll keep you alive in my heart, as best as I’m able. I hope it’s enough. It kind of has to be.
P.S. It might interest you to know that Lemmy is officially Out of Control. I think it’s because he acquired a taste for Finnick’s blood during those four days they spent locked up together, but Shane is sure that it’s because you’re no longer here to keep him in line. Mostly he terrorizes Finnick, though, so I’m not sure where you’d come down on that, knowing how you feel about them both.
P.P.S. Every time I see a winter sunset, I think of you: laying out in the sunroom, peeing out the back window. I wonder what you were thinking as you watched the world pass you by? I hope it was nothing but warm and fuzzy thoughts. I hope I was able to shoulder most of the burden for you.