Dearest Rachel –
I’m gonna nudge the fourth wall yet again tonight, as I wait for Chompers to fall asleep, I’m going to mention the fact that any time I talk about the old boy, I seem to get a lot more people actually reading my post. I don’t know why; this whole series of letters is supposed to be about me dealing with having lost you; why anyone would come looking at these letters because they’re dog fanciers is beyond me.
And I’ve also made it crystal clear that I’m not one of them, either. I never wanted a dog (particularly the responsibilities of having one) when I was a kid, and I appreciated the fact that the clutter you brought to the house pretty much precluded the idea of having one in our family.
Although I am forced to admit that having adopted a fairly old (read: well-trained) dog did allow us to have one that could work around the clutter without messing it up – for the most part. He would rarely dig into one of the many piles of stuff and wreck this or that item, and while he might bump into a pile and cause an item or two to fall off onto the floor, it was no worse than any of us might do as the piles narrowed the paths throughout the house. If anything, his small size allowed him to negotiate the place with greater efficiency and fewer balance issues that any of us, particularly in the wee small hours, when our balance and vision might be lacking a bit.
But I left his maintenance up to you, because you were the one who wanted him, and – apart from wanting me to come with you more often when you would walk him, which I now regret demurring on too many times (not that I remember many of our conversations during the majority of times when we did step out together) – were content with that responsibility. Thankfully, I wasn’t completely unaware of the things you did (although I didn’t realize just how much you had to do to keep him happy and healthy all the time – or has it just gotten this much worse as he’s approaching the end of his life?) so I could take over some of the routine pretty much out of the gate after Ellen brought him back Sunday night after everything went wrong.
And since then, I have found myself doing things I really never expected to. Ever.
Like just touching him, to be honest. It’s weird; you were never much for cuddling (at least, with regard to the two of us – although Erin tells me that you had one specific stuffed animal you would take with you on trips where you left me behind, and snuggled it as a substitute for me. I’m not sure what to make about the fact that that plushie got more snuggling than I did), but you would put your arm around that dog whenever he was upset, and it seemed to settle him down. For my part, I recall recoiling a bit even the first day of coming home to his presence, and already being aware of his smell. He was never particularly awful (at least, not then – we’ll get to that), but it was more than noticeable, and less than pleasant, at least in my opinion. And I really didn’t want that smell on my hands if I could help it.
I’m sure it’s part of the reason he probably figured out things were wrong once you left us. I had no choice but to handle him myself, including picking him up in order to take him outside all those times he needed to go (or at least needed something, and I figured that was what he wanted. I have yet to figure out what he wants when he goes into his discontented noise cycle, although I want to say that I’m getting better at it, for what that’s worth). The fact that the ‘friendbeast’ was even touching me, let alone carrying and otherwise holding him, had to have struck him as being seriously out of character, and a sign that all was not well. Add to that the fact that ‘mistress’ isn’t around anymore, and he probably has put two and two together, despite the fact that he’s not the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer.
But what else am I supposed to do? If I don’t do this or that for him, how’s he going to fare? So I’m picking him up, getting my hands dirty and smelly… and accordingly, washing them as many as five times in ten minutes. You should have seen how chapped they were back in February, with all the dry air and cold water (I mean, there’s no time for it to heat up when he might just start up complaining again even as I finish washing up – honestly, I probably was wasting time most of the times I was washing my hands, but hope sprang eternal in those days). When he’s out, I have to virtually hover over him as he’s doing his business, because he’ll either pee down his leg, or keep standing in the puddle as it grows to where his leg is…
…or, worst of all, he’ll take a step without me guiding him, his leg will fold up underneath him, and he will land – splat – right in the puddle he’s just created, soaking his entire right flank. And it is the most unpleasant smell.
I have, as you recall, wondered from time to time if this wasn’t somehow deliberate, as if in some canine way, this was actually something appealing. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s neutered, I’d probably still think that, in the corner of my mind.
As it is, I think he simply smells that way for the same reason that your less reputable nursing homes do. Oh, he’s still perfectly continent, thankfully, but if he’s going to fall into the mess he’s made, it really makes very little difference.
But I have figured out something that can… sort of… mitigate the situation. As part of the house cleanup process, Jan and I have been using lots of wet wipes – to scrub out kitchen and table surfaces, to remove (with… limited… success) years of dust from old VHS tapes and other media, and so forth. Turns out, I can use one of them to wipe the worst of the pee off his leg – disinfecting him in the process – and replacing it (somewhat) with a clean citrusy smell. It’s not a permanent, or even complete, solution, but it works fairly well, and it’s a darn sight (and smell) better than nothing. I don’t know if Shaun at the groomers will notice when I take him in next week, but I’m trying to assure myself that he won’t look too askance at me and Chompers when I bring him in for a real, honest-to-gosh bath and all that.
Well, that’s about it for now, honey. Again, I don’t know what the dog lovers that visit this site expect to find. Maybe they think I’ll somehow connect with your spirit through attempting to deal with the dog you left behind. Maybe they find amusement in the trials and tribulations of a decided non-dog lover having to deal with the demands of an aging (can’t say ‘dying,’ no matter how much I might appreciate alliteration – the old boy still eats too heartily to be considered to be a death’s door even now) dog. But at least this time out, they might benefit from a little bit of a trick that I’ve stumbled upon along the way to deal with both cleanup and smell, if only a little bit.
Talk to you later, honey. I’m off to get some sleep now. Love you. Goodnight.