Sunday, July 14, 2013

Love is a Dog

How do we all cope with the passing of a loved one? In this case, a beloved pet. When my husband (then boyfriend) and I took Chubbs home, I was ecstatic with the little bundle sleeping in a ConAgra box in the backseat of the coupe. Yes, a coupe. Those were pre-Shorty days and we didn't worry about how we were going to get a car seat in and out of a car. I relished the first trip into a pet store shopping for the perfect bed, 2 dog bowls, a kennel, and the collar. Like any mother, I was nesting or denning, since this was a puppy (okay, it's not a word.) Amidst all the warm fuzzies however, I morbidly thought about how I was going to cope once this puppy was old and ready to check out. I wondered what was worse and what was easier for me to handle. Was it finding him somewhere and burying him under a tree in the backyard with a paw print cast on the mound like they always do in the movies? I found that picture to be maudlin. Or would it be taking him to the vet and helping him along in the process, ending his discomfort and pain? The latter was entirely strange and unnatural to me. Growing up in the Philippines, dogs ate our leftovers, there were no trips to the vet, and we certainly let life take its course. Euthanasia seemed too practical and indifferent. So, I decided I was just nuts and I was going to cross that bridge when I get there.

Fifteen and a half years later, I still didn't have the answer as I struggled with vet costs, doggie diapers more expensive than Shorty's, and the messy job of mopping floors clean of dog urine. Pretty soon, Chubbs hung out in the backyard. I think those last days helped his snuggle-hog of a brother Deuce, a 9 year-old Boston Terrier, detach from the pug's company. So did Shorty, but not me. Not yet.

When we picked him out from the litter of puppies, we kept losing him in a pack of ten pot-bellied puglets. He would crawl into the extra large kibble bag and eat to his heart's content. Years later, no matter how old and slow he was, he promptly and faithfully came to his bowl (a white one, so he could see it on the dark patio floor) for his senior-grade kibble.
He would do anything for that kibble. He sat, shook your hand, rolled over, and played dead (Pretend to shoot him with your forefinger and say 'Bang!', he'll wail and fall on his side and lay still.) All that for kibble, not even a treat, just plain old kibble. Silly dog.

Chubbs hated the leash. Years of pulling away made him walk sideways, even off-leash. We added 'Hey Sidewinder!' to his many nicknames. He also made it his life goal to catch that curled-up tail and yes, he did catch that tail. Once. Then, he made it his next life goal to catch it twice. Life goals are for humans aren't they? But then the pug thought he was human, taking up a spot on the bed and insisting (with seemingly pointless barking), to be on the same side of the door as you were. Let him out and he'll yelp to come inside with you. Leave him inside while you're out, and he'll whine to come outdoors with you. He also did the mother of all doggie don'ts. He ate a whole bar of Toblerone - box, foil and all. The only telltale sign we found was the little triangle piece at the end of the box. He lived through it and just passed something that very much resembled chocolate. Stubborn dog.

Chubbs was now completely blind, deaf, and very slow to walk as his spine was contorted to a drastic curve, raising his hip. He and I would "walk" the yard together and he would navigate by keeping his side against my leg. Where I went, he went. He sure knew how to communicate. Ever since a pup, he would bark at a faucet, any faucet, when his water bowl was empty. Smart dog.

When he stopped doing all of the above, the hubby and Shorty were ready to let him go, but I wasn't. Not the way they were thinking anyway. We had family talks and it still ended in a stale mate, even when I was outnumbered. So I told Chubbs, "Buddy, I'm ready, but you decide when you want to go because I sure as hell am not going to make that decision for you." So he did. He turned up his nose on his kibble for four days (that was shocking) and on the last day, he stopped drinking, settling down in spots in the yard that were not his favorite. I lifted him up to wash him and he was light as a feather. I took it as a sign he was checking out. I had a decision. We took him to the vet where we properly said our goodbyes, got a paw print cast (which I did not request, but ended up appreciating), and we took him home in a little cardboard box and buried him under a flowering tree in the backyard. I got both scenarios. I am content, but sad. How do we cope? With time. That's all.

The family was sad and asked how Shorty was taking it. Ask her and she'll tell you, "Time to get a new puppy!" She was however, overly emotional that week and would burst into tears because of a hangnail or because I separated her twin cherry popsicle. She has since claimed Deuce as her own. 'MY dog,' she'll tell me. One of my nieces cried when she heard about the sad news, meanwhile I am still crying at random points of the day (and as we speak.) The Boston Terrier has taken to looking and waiting at doors that lead outside. Once, I asked him lightly, "Deuce, you waiting for Chubbs?" He perked up and promptly ran towards the backyard staring out for a minute. I think we all miss him. Chubbs was a fixture in the family, having been around for fifteen years. He predated all the kids and family pets combined.

Later, Chubbs. You silly dog, stubborn dog, smart dog. Good dog.