Friday, December 23, 2016

Canine muscle memory

A day in the life
London, ON
November 2016
It's been a few days since we lost our pup, Frasier, and I still find myself falling into habits that had slowly sealed themselves into my brain over the course of almost a decade:
  • I automatically reach toward the end of our bed every time I walk past, half-expecting that he'll be there.
  • I watch the clock every evening, wondering when we'll have to grab the leash and head out for our meandering walk through the neighborhood. He was, as it turns out, a very precise timekeeper.
  • I open and close the cupboard below the kitchen sink - the one where we keep the garbage bin - and find it so empty without the baby lock on it. We had to babyproof the house because he was such a freaking garbage-picker. Now, it's an annoyance I strangely miss.
  • When I leave the house, I look back down the hall because that's where he would stand and stare at us as we prepared to leave. I'd often get out of the house late because I found it endlessly fun to try to talk him into walking over to me for one last hug before I left. He was pretty good at the staring thing, and I always wondered what he was thinking.
  • I look for his face in the front window when I arrive home, and wait for him to come charging down the front walk, body quivering as if he hasn't seem me in years.
I share these vignettes not because I find them depressing. Quite the contrary, memories like this make me glad we were able to experience them at all. He added incalculable joy to our lives and managed to help us become kinder, more empathetic people - and that doesn't just go away now that he's gone. I guess I'm writing this before the sun comes up in a silent home because I don't want to lose these seemingly routine memories to history, because I want to bundle them up somehow and carry them forward. Maybe it's a writer thing, but it makes me feel a little better.

I also share these moments not because I'm now immersed in some sort of endless, hopeless period of mourning, but because I feel I need to put this loss into some kind of broader perspective. I've seen folks who've lost pets prattle on endlessly, mostly in Facebook, about the ruins their lives have become now that Fido the dog (or Skittles the cat, or even Nemo the fish or Sparkles the rabbit) is gone (note to self: In 2017, spend less time reading my Facebook news feed.) I'm not going to tear my clothes to shreds and build a makeshift shrine of 242 candles in a room festooned with dog-eared prints of every picture we ever took of him. With apologies to other folks who've owned and lost pets: I lost my dad and my wife lost her mom. They're not in the same league.

But at the same time, we're still sad. We still find ourselves looking for him, listening for him, feeling for him in a dark room, only to realize he isn't there anymore. We still find the silence in the house somewhat jarring to the soul. We still look inwards with just a little self-doubt, hoping that everything we did for him was, in the end, enough. I'd like to think it was, and that if given another chance, we wouldn't change a thing.

Thanks for the indulgence.


Larry Cornies said...

At our house, the schnauzer has been gone for 29 months. She was mostly blind and deaf for the last year of her life. We still haven't bothered to paint the downstairs hallway. All along it, about a foot above the baseboard, are the nose prints that were left as she felt her way toward the kitchen and her bowls of food and water. Those dried, indelible prints are a mute testament to the best dog we ever had. In our upstairs hallway sits a concrete schnauzer -- the kitschy kind sold at outdoor shops, intended for a garden. My wife has painstakingly painted its eyes, nose and lips to resemble our departed friend. Around its neck is her black collar with her last set of tags. And in the garage, her walking leash still hangs in its rightful spot. The loss of a pet speaks a different language.

kerry said...

The spirit of gratefulness that is evident here seems to be proof that you did , in fact, do enough for your wonderpup. True, some folks travel the world with their dogs and teach them foreign languages and train them to be bomb sniffers, but that's not what a companion animal is about. Our buddies are just that, companions, and you have to know for sure that if they're happy to see you come home and they get to go on walks and are well fed, then it's probably enough.

At least I hope so, 'cuz that's about all we do for Wernstrom. :) It's good to have fond memories - and a place to put them.

Kalei's Best Friend said...

You are just saying what we all would do if in your place. I know I did the same. Don't u just love that stare? Our cairn gave me a look when she knew we were going to the vet for the final time. That look said it all. " well it took u long enough to figure this out!" I know I don't have to explain that comment to u.. ((hugs)). Once again your post touched a nerve and brought back memories

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

My condolences, Carmi.

I know that feeling, and I'm afraid we're going to have it again soon with our mutt, Theda.

21 Wits said...

Oh Carmi, I'm so very sorry to read this. I've come to be very fond of your posts sharing bits and pieces of your life together. God Bless you all during this time, especially for your children, as I'm thinking this may be their first loss of a beloved family pet? In any case, it's a deep sorrow for all.