The Weight Deadens on Your Shoulders

Image: The Pooch, 12/26/2006-09/04/2017

[Image: The Pooch (12/26/2006-09/04/2017). Photo taken 8/21/2017. She was an unwilling photographic subject: if you held up a smartphone or camera in her direction — which you always wanted to do, you couldn’t help it — she’d turn her head aside, as here, while keeping a gimlet eye trained on you. She was a cute dog, often involved in cute activities, but the only way to document them was to shoot a bazillion shots and just pray that one would be suitable.]

No whiskey river Friday this week; I just cannot work up the enthusiasm.

The Pooch (that is to say, Sophie) died this past Monday morning, towards the tail end of a long weekend for all three of us. She was all right, and then she wasn’t.

Okay, true: she wasn’t “all right” healthwise — but then again, she never had been. Small dogs often have breathing problems of one sort or another. In The Pooch’s case, she had an issue called “collapsing trachea”: the windpipe over time slackens, just at a point where it bends. Eventually, it slackens enough to close up completely, with the expected results. One of the chief early symptoms of a collapsing trachea is occasional coughing, often in the form of so-called “reverse coughing”: it sounds sorta like a cough, sorta like a sneeze, and often has hints of a goose’s honk. So we knew, early on, that eventually the problem would take her.

(It’s not “treatable,” by the way. Oh, you can administer cover-ups like cough suppressants. Surgically, a couple of things can be done, to strengthen the trachea artificially. They all come with potential side-effects and, in some cases, the side-effects can be much, much worse than the condition itself. Even so, surgical options were out of the question for The Pooch: she was so small, and the risks bloomed proportionately.)

But knowing that something awful will happen seldom seems to fully prepare you for its, well, happening. The Missus and I have spent the week in a fog of crying jags triggered by nothing in particular except the weight of a new, awful, sudden vacancy. (I think today was the first time I’ve ever broken down while taking a shower, surrounded by nothing at all to remind me of her except, yes, that very vacancy.) We’ve lost other pets. And yes, we’ll come out of this grief eventually — but boy, this one has hit us hard.

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Real-Life Dialogue (Midday Meal Edition)

[Setting: a small automobile in a mid-sized city in northern Florida, USA. It is early morning. She is driving today; He occupies the passenger seat. The car pulls up to a curb. He opens his door and prepares to exit; in the midst of the usual love-yous, good-byes, and have-a-good-days, He suddenly remembers a specific item about which He meant to wish Her well.]

He: You’re going to lunch with The Stepdaughter today, aren’t you?

She: Yes.

He: Oh, well, have a good lunch then!

She: You have a good lunch, too. Did you bring tuna today?

He: No. Chicken salad.

She: You didn’t bring some of that beautiful tuna salad you made?

He: What tuna salad? I didn’t make any tuna salad.

She: That whole bowl of it in the refrigerator—

He: That’s not tuna salad. It’s homemade dog food for The Pooch — dog food you made!

She: (laughing) Oh.

The car drives away. There is no traffic, but He remains standing there for another moment or so — standing, and collecting his wits.

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