He’s Your Dog, All Right

Honey –

When I set out to write to you as a form of therapy, I expected to write, and for people to read, about the feelings I was dealing with, of the memories of the two of us (or the three of us – let’s not forget Daniel, and the fact that we did so much as a family) as we dealt with our many adventures – and misadventures – over the years.

I did not expect I would practically start things off by complaining about our (well, let’s face it, your) dog. But here we are.

And Chompers was your dog, you know. You always seemed to know what he needed, and were always willing to give it to him. Well, apart from food – you did keep him on a strict diet and set feeding schedule, but that was for his own good, and very much still what he needed. Not necessarily what he wanted, to be sure, but that was how things were.

We’re so much like him in that way, aren’t we? No real alignment between what we want as opposed to what we truly need.

Anyway, last evening, after the funeral, and the luncheon with the family, Kerstin brought Chompers back from having tended to him for the past thirty or so hours. She even kept that appointment you had made with Splash Dog last Friday for his second water therapy session.

Do you know, that was the first thing running through my mind as I watched the first responders and EMTs surrounding you at the bottom of the hill: How am I gonna get the dog to those therapy sessions while you’re recovering in hospital? I don’t know where the place is, or whether you’d actually scheduled a regular time for him to attend, or if it was just a ten-session whenever-you-can-make-it kind of thing.

The things, the trivial things that clutter your mind in an emergency.

Thank heaven you’d been working with Kerstin on this already. She knew what was up, where it was, and made sure he made it there on schedule (and yes, apparently there was a schedule. But you knew that – I didn’t).

When she brought him back at 5pm, she said he’d been ‘real good’ all night, although – and I guess I really should have paid more attention to her at this point – he was whimpering and barking late into the night.

Don’t know whether to pin that on you, honey. You and Daniel always did stay up late, after all, so I get the he’d be used to being put out at around 1 or 2 in the morning for a last pee before bedtime. But then, when I set him up in the bedroom for the night, he just. keeps. whimpering. Like he still needs something, but I can’t tell what. I’ve narrowed it down to a few things, though, after which it’s trial and error (mostly error):

  • I’m huuuungry! But he knows when he’s allowed to eat – and when he’s not.
  • I’m thirrrrsty! Kinda like a little kid asking his parents for a glass of water before settling down to bed. Okay, and it works, but it leads to…
  • I gotta go pee/poop! Which I just brought him in from, and after last night’s snow, it’s a mess out there. I really don’t want to have to deal with this, but I know it’s gotta be done.
  • I’m not comfortable! Which, at his age, is more like that old commercial for LifeAlert: I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! All I can do is prop him up, steady is back end (and uncross his legs – they almost refuse to do so), and walk him into a position where he apparently feels more comfortable, and drops down into a sitting position. At which point, I pet him, leave his/your side of the bedroom, go though the laundry room and past the bathroom to my side of the bedroom and get myself snuggled into bed, at which point, he resumes his whimpering again, and I have to go back around, get him up, move him into place, and so forth. Lather, rinse, repeat for several times or until I’m so exhausted I don’t bother responding to him.

And I have been just so exhausted, honey. I often told you how I never understood how you got by on so little sleep. I wish you had revealed your secret to me before…

…before you left us. Before you were taken.

It would be one thing if it was just a matter of being tired. Any other day of the week, I could just sleep in after being kept up by the dog. Thanks to you, my new boss is an absolute pushover, and I can go to ‘work’ (or not, even) any time I feel like.

But this is Sunday, and those slides don’t run themselves. I’ve got to be at church by 7:30, and 7 o’clock would be even better (I don’t like being the last one there, as you well know). And it’s going to be a nightmare already, digging the car out of yet another four inches of snow on top of the four that I already had to clear so that Chompers could take his wee-hours steps outside.

And understand this. Yesterday, so many people were coming up to me, praising you for being the quiet servant you were. Never mind for a moment all the ways Daniel and I miss and need you – it would seem that the Bridge needs a whole host of volunteers just to take care of what you used to do all by yourself. You would not have let me write off a Sunday just because there was eight inches of snow on the ground. Indeed, you would be out there helping me shovel (and yes, we have that secondhand snow blower, but you know as well as I that we haven’t had that thing tuned up since we got it late in 2019. Besides, I don’t know the first thing about how to run it at the moment. And, as my doctor has made abundantly clear to me, I need the exercise anyway), and we’d get it done in so much less time.

I miss you, honey. And… while I haven’t said it, it should be clear that Chompers misses you, too.

And that’s the other possibility that he might be whimpering about. He’s not the brightest crayon in the box, but I think he’s aware that he’s not getting the loving from you that he used to (and he’s used to). And I think he’s a little weirded out that the ‘friendbeast’ and ‘the boy’ are paying so much attention to him relative to our past behavior toward him, and ‘Mistress’ is nowhere to be found. I wonder how much of his whimpering is really where is Mistress? I want her here!

Yeah, old man. So do I.

You remember when you first brought him home, after his ‘Mommy Kim’ had been told by her landlord that she could NOT keep a third dog at her apartment, and she told Kerstin, and Kerstin told us, that she needed to find a home for him quickly, or she would have to turn him over to a shelter, where he would most likely be destroyed – after all, who wants an eight-year-old dog with an attitude? When you first held him, I forget who asked you if he was a male or a female, and you tried to turn him over to check.

He did NOT appreciate having his belly exposed, and he promptly bit you. Guess the name should have been a tip-off. It was at this point that I asked you, “Are you sure you want to do this? Look at what he just did to you.”

And even as you went to bandage your wound, you responded, “Are you kidding? This is why he needs me. No one else would take him like this.”

No, probably not. You really and truly rescued that dog. Just like you did for so many people who, let’s just say, needed a little extra grace to deal with. Grace that I, and most of us, never had.

I don’t know how you did it, honey.

But I’ll try to manage that little extra grace for him, for your sake.

With all my love,

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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