Monday, August 2, 2010

The Dog Thing

(This poem introduced my first blog, 
which I established in 2005 in an attempt to 
process the 2004 death of Scattercreek Miracle.

We Have A Secret

We have a secret, you and I
that no one else shall know,
for who but I can see you lie
each night in fire glow?
And who but I can reach my hand
before we go to bed
and feel the living warmth of you
and touch your silken head?
And only I walk woodland paths
and see ahead of me,
your small form racing with the wind
so young again, and free.
And only I can see you swim
in every brook I pass
and when I call, no one but I
can see the bending grass.

Author Unknown)

Here's the thing about dogs—I love them. I love meeting them, I love reading about them, I love identifying them, I love thinking about them, and I love imagining having them in my own family.

There was a time when I felt it was my Spaghetti-monster-given right to have as many dogs as I pleased, and when the idea of turning down a proffered dog was about as foreign to me as Mandarin Chinese. As a 19 year-old college sophomore, I had four dogs of my own and another four as roommates. My mini-dachshund, Irish wolfhound, Australian cattle dog, and corgi-mix were as important to me as anything else in my life at that time, and finding dog-friendly housing was my constant quest. When I couldn't, I spent weeks at a time living in my car (getting out, of course, for frequent dog walks).

Scattercreek Miracle
11 years ago, pregnant and between apartments, I found that four dogs were too many. I turned at age 20 to relatives and friends. The corgi mix,  whom I'd taken in months before as a neglect case, was placed in the best of all possible homes with my best friend's parents, and remains there today as an indulged senior citizen. The dachshund had bonded more to my ex-boyfriend than to me and went to him, then to his mother, and eventually to my own mom in a series of in-family handoffs. The Wolfhound, whom I'd had since middle school, lived out her remaining life on my mom's farm. My Australian cattle dog, Mirri, flew to the other side of the country with me, working as my assistant-au-pair and mother's helper.

That dog saw me through middle school, high-school, college, marriage, and the birth of two children. She died and left me heartbroken. I still had Paisley, a deaf Australian shepherd whom I'd taken in three years earlier, but I'd catalogued him as "my husband's dog" and discounted the value of his companionship. My grief was atypical. I was not OK.
Mirri and toddler M in Newton, Massachusetts

When Mirri died, I think I experienced more emotional distress and trauma than was normal or healthy. Having had Mirri for well over half my life and having had her euthanized (after struggling with her  degenerative myelopathy, partial paralysis, and cancer) just two months after the birth of a very colicky infant. I had nightmares of Mirri scrabbling at the suffocating earth of her grave; I hallucinated, seeing her out of the corner of my eye. I heard the clicking of her front claws, her hind feet dragging behind her in her typical end-of-life gait. Days and weeks later, I would awaken in the night to feed my baby and be unable to get back to sleep—fighting insane thoughts, I would lie awake and considered digging Mirri up to see if she was still dead. I scared my husband with my obsessive guilt, and I spent hours with counselors and friends, on the phone and online, trying to process my grief. I was tired, I was hormonal, I was stressed, and I was lonely.

My solution? I went to the animal shelter and got another dog.

 . . . to be continued . . .

1 comment:

  1. Whew. Your umbilical connectedness with Mirri is understood...


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