Four Days of the Dog

Rosie

Rosie The Dog

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.

Rosie

Keeping a careful eye on those guys cutting the grass!

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.

Rosie

Hoping for a walk!

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!

Rosie

There’s a happy dog getting her neck scratched!

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!!”

Rosie

This dog comes equipped with laser beam eyes!

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.)

Rosie

I looked up from the computer and what did I see…

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.)

Rosie

Got her eye on a treat!

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.

Rosie

Did you just write a post about me?

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

28 responses to “Four Days of the Dog

  • heysugarsugar

    no words necessary my friend. hugs C xxxxx

  • dianasschwenk

    I had a dog, a shepherd/wolf cross. He was amazing. It’s been 22 years since we walked together and I still sometimes think of him. I would say I don’t want a dog now. I live in the city and I don’t think it’s fair. Everyone’s got these little dogs now, designer dogs – I’m not a huge fan. But yesterday I was in a park when a woman walked by with a German Shepherd pup who came right for me. I found myself petting him and WANTING him! Dogs, as you say, don’t judge us – I get the whole man’s best friend thing…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I think that if you’re (A) a “dog person” and (2) spend any time with a dog, it’s almost impossible not to get attached. They’ve learned that dogs evolved (from grey wolves) specifically to be man’s best friend — interacting with us they use parts of their brain they don’t use otherwise. The bond was forged a long, long time ago, and we respond powerfully to it now.

      Shepherds are great dogs! I knew one, Otis, back in my college days. I believe they’re considered one of the smartest of the breeds. I understand they’re great family dogs.

      A wolf-cross must have been interesting; wolves definitely aren’t just ‘dogs that happen to live in the wild.’ Dogs evolved away from wolf behaviors. (I’ve always wanted to meet a wolf-cross or even a tame wolf; it’d be fascinating to see the differences.)

  • Lady from Manila

    If you’ve noticed, your blog posts about your previous dog Sam are the only ones I haven’t clicked open yet. I can’t bear reading stories from pet owners who lost their beloved four-footed friends. So heartbreaking, and they never fail to make me cry. Half of my life I’ve loved and taken care of dogs you can just imagine how I felt when they slipped away for good. I swore I’d leave my dog-loving era behind; yet just a month ago, I found myself throwing bits of food to save an aging dalmatian left tied outside by a neglectful neighbor. I had wished many times I weren’t this sensitive about animals. Nobody else in my clan is truly an animal lover and I come from a country where people are known to consume dog meat. I know, it’s terrible.

    “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.” I find that unthinkable as well.

    That’s a very cute photo of Rosie lying down. 🙂

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Well, the story I linked to about Sam is about a very good day, but I know what you mean. If you’re a dog person, I don’t think you ever can leave that behind. The short life span does suck; there are quite a few in my past, although Sam was the key dog for me.

      There are some cultures, still, where humans eat each other, so I’ve never been too squeamish about what people eat. Still, yeah, it’s pretty horrible eating “man’s best friend!”

      I took a lot of snapshots of Rosie and did manage to get a few that are pretty cute. I do especially like that last one! 🙂

      • Lady from Manila

        I see, so maybe I should start reading your posts about Sam.
        The last photo of Rosie lying down is my favorite, too.

        “There are some cultures, still, where humans eat each other.” How gross. I wonder where…

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I probably won’t write the story of her passing; it’s quite ordinary (she got cancer and I had to do right by her). But Sam was a pretty cool dog, and I did write about a “Perfect Day” we had early on, and I will likely write other stories of our life together.

        Actually, I think the only tribe still practicing cannibalism as a cultural norm is the Korowai in Papua. It does sometimes crop up under extreme circumstances. (“Donnor“… paging “Donnor” party of 81,… no, make that 45…)

  • Snoring Dog Studio

    What a beautiful post. Heart wrenching, but affirming. Dogs do fill a space in our lives that no human can. Though you admonished against it, I can’t help but urge you to adopt a rescue dog. The rewards will greatly outnumber the loss of freedom and spontaneity. You might not have room in your heart for a new human mate, but I bet there’s space there for an animal friend. And the heartbreak of loss? It reminds us that we are, after all, compassionate humans.

    My best to you.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thank you!

      I have considered a rescue dog, and very likely would go that route if I do choose to get another dog. A key issue is that I’ve taken a lot of heavy emotional hits in the last 15 years (marriage, divorce, beloved dog death, two job losses and hirings, several moves, buying a place, folks aging and failing, taking early retirement), and I’m kind of an exhausted, emotional wreck. Having Rosie leave after just four days took me apart for the remainder of that day; I shudder to think what would happen losing a dog I owned and had come to love and know. I really don’t want to find out.

      Still,… Well, time will tell. A less perilous path might be volunteering at local dog shelters. That way I could get a dog fix without having to invest so much in a single dog.

      Nice to see you dropping by; I hope all is well with you!

  • bronxboy55

    “They create a shape in your life. And when they’re gone, they leave a hole.” That’s a perfect description of all relationships. But I have a feeling your dog days aren’t quite over.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I’d like to think that’s true, although at the moment it’s… complicated. As I just mentioned to Jean, one option I’m considering is volunteering at a dog shelter. That might be less heart-breaking.

  • cultivatingsunshine

    Borrowing a dog sounds like a safe way to explore the emotions of having another being in your space; you got to experience the treat of companionship and its responsibilities, in the end returning Rosie and return to your normal patterns. It sounds like it was just right 🙂 (Congrats on the retirement!)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It would definitely be a good way to test the waters if you’d never experienced it before!

      Although, it might also turn someone away if the experience went badly. I know that, even though I had co-owned a lot of dogs previously, when I owned my first dog, I was ready to quit after the first week. That wasn’t an option, I stuck it out, and we ended up having a great relationship, but it’s an interesting insight into what really makes relationships tick. One can appreciate that arranged marriages can work out well (unless there are significant problems).

      • cultivatingsunshine

        I love dogs, I have the best dog in the world named Leo. He has been with me for three years and seen me through all kinds of moves and men hahaha. I think dog ownership is for some people and probably not for others.

        Hhmmm, arranged marriages, I can see your point. If you don’t feel like you have a choice, then you do the best you can, and maybe that is what creates a happy relationship; knowing that you both have faults and loving each other anyway, maybe even more so because of them. But, who am I to say? I have not successfully had a relationship that lasted. Except for Leo :-).

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oh, yeah, I’m totally a dog person! (In fact, I’ve recently decided to own up to the fact that I don’t actually really like cats. They’re kind of interesting to watch, but I wouldn’t want one for a pet. I consider them feral, plus there are all those sharp, pointy bits.) But many people are really into cats, and more power to’m! I completely agree that some people probably shouldn’t have pets at all!

        I guess we’re in the same boat relationship-wise. I, too, have never had one (with a human, I mean) last longer than a few years (even my marriage only lasted four!). It’s possible I’m just not relationship material, but it’s also possible I never met the right person. I really do believe that, absent serious incompatibilities or issues (abuse, for example, is always immediate grounds for permanent relationship termination), relationships are largely a matter of choosing to be in that relationship. When both make that choice, the relationship tends to work.

        Dogs are (sometimes literally) a walk in the park compared to humans!!

  • reocochran

    Yes, great at the time, enjoyed while there, but the effects are very serious and that is hard to take. I am so sorry about the effects of the dogsitting. I can imagine it speaks to being (horrors, I know you will disagree with this next thought!) alone again. I am sure that most days it doesn’t matter a bit. I am alone almost every evening, most times grateful for the quiet after the busy ness of life and the chaos at work, at times. But it does hit me like a ton of bricks at times. Seeing an ex, had a picnic with his family, bad idea. I left driving down the road crying. Can feel your pain.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Oh, I don’t disagree at all. Remembering when you weren’t alone just naturally leads to the realization that you are alone now. Exactly as you say, most of the time, or much of the time, that’s okay, but every once in a while it can really get to you. Be thankful for the family connections you have!

      And as we’ve learned, social + exes isn’t a great idea!

  • Lisa

    Glad you enjoyed your time with Rosie. I hope you do follow through and volunteer at a shelter, they always need help. Fostering might be an option too, but wouldn’t fit your new life as well. You could also be a dog sitter or dog walker, lots of people with dogs could use a little help now and then. Now that days are getting cooler maybe we could all go for a long walk.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Thanks for dropping by, I hope you liked the pictures! Yeah, I’ve been giving that volunteer thing some thought. My ex- was doing that (don’t know if she still is). Apparently they do make you go through some training. IIRC, there might even be some rabies shots involved? Not sure about that. I’ve also thought about rescuing a dog (is that what you mean by fostering, or is that yet another option?). Adult dogs have some advantages, but puppies are so much fun (even if they can be a bit of a trial)!

      I dunno, time will tell. Right now I’m enjoying the complete freedom of retirement, and I’m not at all ready for any kind of tie-down.

  • rung2diotimasladder

    I don’t know if this is possible for you, but could you borrow someone else’s dog to go on walks or to hang out from time to time? You get all the benefits without the responsibility. I have a friend who lives in my neighborhood just down the street and she takes Geordie for walks sometimes. She greatly appreciates it and I appreciate it even more (yes, it is a pain in the ass, and to be relieved of this duty and from the guilt from not walking him long enough is something I’m grateful for.)

    Geordie is unbelievable. I can’t begin to understand how I got such a good dog. I can actually leave food on the table within his reach, and he won’t go after it even though he very much wants to. He also knows that some couches he’s allowed to jump on, others not. This applies to other people’s homes, since he’s allowed everywhere here. Yeah, I caved in within 24 hours on that too. 🙂

    And I’m starting to think his memory is not as short as I thought, though it’s selective. Today we started out on our walk and one of our neighbors (we’ll call her the treat lady) jumped out of her car on her way to work and gave him a treat. She always has treats. They’re huge treats and he usually can’t eat them right there on the spot, so he holds it in his mouth until I reach my hand down and he drops it into my palm, knowing I’ll give it to him when we get home. I find that amazing in itself. But the point: She drove off to go to work. We walked by her house and he didn’t pull to go to her door. This is unusual because he generally tries to get to her house every time we set out for a walk. As in ALWAYS. This time he wanted to cross the street to walk in front of her house, and I let him lead the way to see what he’d do, but instead of instantly charging up her driveway, he merely glanced at it and continued on. I wonder if he remembered that she’d just given him a treat and had been in her car, and if he noticed her car pointing in the direction of the neighborhood exit? Could he have such sophisticated thought processes? I know he knows her name to some degree, because one time I was talking about someone else with a very similar sounding name, and he got very excited. And I wasn’t even talking to him.

    Sometimes, when Treat lady’s not there, he’ll let me take him just to the gate of her front patio to see for himself that she’s not there, then I’ll say she “go bye-bye” (I wave at the door as I do when I leave the house and say bye-bye to him) and then he immediately turns away to continue our walk. If she is there and I try to lie, he calls me out by digging in, pulling, pulling, jumping on the gate to make it perfectly clear I’m wrong. Eventually I either have to yank him pretty hard and drag him down the driveway—and I swear to God he scowls at me—or open the gate and ring her doorbell. Luckily she’s used to dog owners inviting themselves over.

    Anyways, dogs are amazing. And yes, I know exactly what you mean about how they change your schedule, they create an outline for your day. This can be so irritating…here I have to wake up very early in the summertime to get him out for his walk before the sun turns the pavement into a skillet. It’s very annoying, I lose sleep, but all in all it’s worth it. I don’t think I’d get any exercise without him. And though I hate having to walk him, I find myself enjoying the walk once I’m out there. Besides, he putters and stops frequently, which is just fine by me. Plus he’s pretty good about not barking at other dogs so long as they’re far enough away, even if those dogs are barking at him, and I get to walk on by and feel like a superior dog owner even though I had nothing to do with it. 🙂

    Man did I get a good egg. I’m so lucky.

    Oh, and the thought of what would happen if you got in a car crash…I’ve had that one. Mine is slightly altered since I have my husband to watch over Geordie should anything happen to me when G-Bear’s not with me, but I’ve had thoughts of getting bitten by a rattlesnake while out on a walk and having someone steal Geordie, or he runs away in terror and gets eaten by a coyote, etc. Really insane thoughts, totally improbable, but I do think about such scenarios. Then there’s the inevitable death, which I can’t stand to think about. I get teary-eyed just writing those words. In movies when a dog gets shot, I get totally outraged about the dog, even if people are dying left and right. The people don’t matter as much as the dog. And battle scenes with horses getting killed also pisses me off. They shouldn’t be involved in our stupid wars!

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “…could you borrow someone else’s dog to go on walks or to hang out from time to time?”

      Hard to imagine.

      “And I’m starting to think his memory is not as short as I thought,”

      Sam used to blow me away in that regard, too. We’d meet a new dog in some yard we’d passed before but never seen a dog in before. After several days of not passing that way (’cause I like variety in my walks) we’d go past again, and she’d be looking for that dog.

      And I came to believe she had a pretty good map of our walking territory (which we covered thoroughly; no unexplored paths!).

      “It’s very annoying, I lose sleep, but all in all it’s worth it.”

      Yeah, at this point I’m getting almost dysfunctional due to sleep disruption. Over time, my schedule would shift and be fine, but right now I’m having to wake up at times not terribly long after frequent going-to-bed times. (I’ve always been night owl.)

      “Man did I get a good egg. I’m so lucky.”

      It does sound like you got an unusually great dog!

      “I get totally outraged about the dog, even if people are dying left and right.”

      Likewise. As a kid I couldn’t watch Lassie because I was afraid something would happen to her. The hell with Timmy and his well or mine problems; I cared about the dog!

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