I cried a bit after she was gone. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect to miss her at all, let alone so intensely. The place seems much emptier than it did four days ago. You wouldn’t think a long weekend would be enough to form such a strong bond.
But dogs are simpler than people and much more honest and open. You always know how a dog feels about you, and the dog is never two-faced or a hypocrite. And I think Rosie brought me back to Samantha (I even called her “Sam” a couple of times).
Monday night I found myself wandering aimlessly around a place that seemed too empty.
Agreeing to dog sit my buddy’s dog may ultimately have been a melancholy choice for the same reason having drinks with my ex-wife is: Great at the time, everyone enjoys the event, but the echos after the fact are painful. It’s a reminder of what used to be, of what has passed.
All last evening I found myself looking up expecting to see a sleeping dog somewhere. I kept thinking I needed to keep an eye on her in case she needed to “go outside?”
Owning a dog, of course, puts another clock in your life. You have the morning schedule, going out, walking, feeding. You have the evening schedule (more of the same).
For four days, I was suddenly ‘back on the clock,’ which was a mild shock after almost two months of intensely dedicated post-retirement goofing off.
While writing the above paragraph, I happened to glance at the couch, on which sits a dark blanket in a mound, and for an instant my mind registered it as a dog! They’re always a little bit on your mind. They create a shape in your life.
And when they’re gone, they leave a hole. Sometimes it’s a big hole. Sam left a huge hole in my life.
I’m not entirely sure it’s a hole I want to fill (so spare me the urgings to get another dog—that’s a complicated topic on a number of levels).
The crux of things is the push-pull of all relationships, the cost/benefit equation that almost everyone juggles almost all of their lives. And with dogs, the short life-span breaks your heart repeatedly. Four days with Rosie was enough to break my heart a little; I’m clearly in no shape for more.
Having a living, breathing being in my life the last few days was a transcendental joy beyond words. It was also (a little bit of) a pain in the ass. Dealing with dog shit is just one cost. There is a host of behaviors to practice when owning a dog, and there is the constant concern for these “idiot permanent children.” As one example, I emptied and then stopped using the various trashcans I have about the place, because Rosie is a known garbage digger.
A really big one is to never leave food where they can get at it. Never let it enter their one-track minds that food can be found on counter and table tops!
On a more long-term level, you invest in a child that never grows up and who depends on you for food, water, shelter and health. The required diligence is daunting, the concerns and fears unending.
[I used to worry sometimes about what would happen to my dog if I was in a bad car crash while commuting. The thought of waking up from a week-long coma and realizing my dog had likely starved to death was a black ball of bile in the pit of my stomach.]
So the point is that relationships are a mixed bag of wonder and difficulty, of joy and pain, of giving and taking. There is something to the idea of sacrifice for another. The cost can be high, but so can be the fulfillment. (I can see how single moms manage to get through it — they have their kids!)
I just bought the eighth season DVD of House, M.D. (which if you’ve followed this blog you know is one of my Fave Five TV Series of All Time). As I’ve mentioned before, I identify with Greg House on many levels. I find that there are many places where I want to slug him and return his signature line, “You IDIOT!!”
There is an interesting contrast to House’s (and my) selfishness in terms of our own lives. We guard our domain, protecting the self, because people have so frequently disappointed us (specifically and in general). I re-watched all of season seven before watching season eight, and then watched a bit of season one.
(It’s fun to see how the actors have aged during the life of the series. (For a major case of that, watch the first and last Harry Potter movies!))
In any event, I think I’ve gotten past my love of the character to the point of being able to see his flaws (and he is so hugely flawed). I’ve always been aware House has “flaws,” but I’m not sure I ever agreed he has flaws (if you follow my meaning). I’d recently reached a similar epiphany with Robert Parker‘s Spenser character, someone I spent a long time thinking of as a “damn near perfect” male role model. (Both of those are topics for a future post.)
On the topic of couches, I decided early on that Rosie could sleep on my bed, but I figured to keep her off my leather couch (only fearing what her nails might do).
You can amuse yourselves trying to guess how long that rule lasted. When it comes to dogs, I can be a bit of a soft touch!
[Did you guess, less than 24 hours? If so, award yourself 10 points.]
Also on the topic of sleeping dogs and where they lie, Rosie treated me to an experience I’ve heard about from other pet owners (mainly cat owners), but never experienced from my own dogs. One morning my wake up call was a cold nose poking my face! That was quite something to wake up to… a dog face inches away! Which beats a cat’s asshole hands down — I’ve heard about waking up to those!
One thing about Rosie: she may be nine (about 70 in human terms), but she’s still got a lot of puppy in her. It was hard to get decent pictures of her; most were blurred. I was only able to get really good ones when she was snoozing or very relaxed and settled down. (Click on any photo for a bigger version.)
It’s Wednesday morning now, and thoughts and feelings have returned to what passes for normal in these parts. There’s no longer the sensation of something missing, something absent. The rhythm and pace of things is back to what it was (very, very slow these days).
Whether it was due to reopening the hole Sam left, or just due to having Rosie around the house for those days, it was a joyful time, with a bit of a bitter finish.
It was odd how, in the late afternoon on Monday I was wondering when my buddy would come by to pick up Rosie. I was a little anxious to return to my “normal” life and be free of my dog sitting responsibilities.
But within minutes of the pickup, I was suddenly — very unexpectedly — feeling very lonely! My place was feeling strangely empty.
So I cried a bit after she left.