reverie v. reality

where does the good go?

content warning: pet death (old age)

We had to say goodbye to our family dog on Thursday.

It was a hard couple of days leading up to the morning he left, but I was able to call out of work for a few hours and be there with the rest of my family. As completely fucking awful as the experience always is, I was thankful for those moments at the end. He was a wonderful dog, and he lived a long and very fulfilled life.1 Still, it was hard, to say the least. He was tired and didn't seem quite like himself anymore...but even knowing that, it's still so, so difficult to let go.

• • • •

About two hours afterwards, as I was sitting in my office 2, I got a call from my mom.

I'd been worried when I'd left earlier; our other family members had scattered back to their daily routines, so mom was going to be alone for a moment. Our sweet dog was definitely her buddy, more than anyone else. He absolutely adored her, and she him. I didn't want her to sit alone in the house & spiral. So - as you might imagine - when I picked up the phone, I expected her to be needing a little bit of a pep talk or, maybe, just some time to cry with someone.

Instead, she - sounding incredibly frazzled - said, "Eve, you will not believe this, but I opened the front door and a bird flew in!"

I started laughing immediately. I told her, "Mom, if you've ever needed a distraction, it's now. This bird has great timing." She was huffing as she ran around after it, but conceded, "I guess! But I wish it had stopped in while you were still home. (Oh, shit!!! It's in the laundry room, what do I do?!?!)"

I tried to meet her at her level of distressed bird-wrangling, but honestly I was so damn grateful to the bird in the moment, for knowing when to cause a scene. I stayed on the phone with her for the next fifteen minutes as she chased the bird upstairs & downstairs, and opened windows, and flapped towels, and generally rattled about. I had to hang up before the conclusion of the chaos (mom yelling, "He's pooping all over the place!!!" had me utterly howling in my office), but she filled me in later: eventually, the bird wore itself out and she caught it gently in the towel and took it outside, where it rested for a few minutes and then took off.

• • • •

I told a friend this story later and she said, "Well, it was your dog, of course. He's letting you know he's still around!"

Funnily enough, this hadn't even crossed my mind. I suppose I'm not a big believer of ghosts, though (I guess, hypocritically) I've been known to dabble in the search for signs & meanings from beyond. In my mind, the bird wasn't Otto. Instead, it was just a kind interference from the universe - something to pull my mom's mind away from her sudden loss and the quiet that came after.

People do that, you know? Create a meaning. It's wonderful. Do I buy into all of them? Well...I guess not. I've never been sold on an afterlife.

Even now, I'm still not sure I think the bird was Otto, coming to tell my mom he was still around. But I'd like him to come back. Of course I would. I'd like to know that the good in the world doesn't leave forever. That those we love come back, even in the spaces between: in a bird, or a song, or a ray of light.

I'd like to think Otto was already off and running - so much faster and farther than he could in the last few years; perhaps joined by my childhood dog, Milo, who taught him all of the tricks of the dog-life trade. I imagine he has cool, gentle creek beds to trample through and a warm, sunny field to nap in.

• • • •

Willow3 is sitting beside me right now and she is purring up a storm. I've been driving her and Algernon up the wall this weekend via smothering them with affection. I get scared, sometimes, thinking about how it will feel to lose them. They're five this year and, if life is good, that means I could have another ten years with them. It still feels too short. It's not fair, really, that they must leave so soon, when they mean so much. We have such a short time with our pets, in the long run. And yet, they take up so much space in our lives and in our hearts.

• • • •

A few words on Otto, before I go: he was sweet, and funny, and often a little ridiculous. He was 'my brother's dog', but he bonded so strongly with my mom that it ended up being a running joke that she'd stolen him intentionally. (Hilarious, because she thought he was the devil at first - he had so much energy when he was little and was incredibly scrappy, but he mellowed out and they became deeply attached.) If you said, "Otto, where's your lady?" he would hop up and go find her. When you arrived home, he would grin at you with his tiny little teeth. (Some people thought he looked scary when he did this, but he was trying so hard to be friendly.) His whole body wiggled violently with joy when he greeted you. He only knew five tricks, but he did them with great dignity (even "dance") and he would get soooooo mad and huff and do a little pissed-off bark if you made him do more than one trick in a row without giving him a treat. (Like, his entire lower lip would shake and my younger brother would go, "Dude, you really gotta chill out!" and he would huff again and then settle down.) He was gentle and curious with my cats, and they would touch noses in the most adorable way. He wanted nothing more than to join you out on the porch for the evening and sit quietly next to you.

He was a good boy. It sounds so reductive, but he really was.

Otto, I love you very much. Rest well, my friend. You are so loved.

• • • • • • • •

  1. We live out in the country and he could roam pretty freely and was something of a celebrity within our neighborhood, so he often joined the other families on walks if they called him down. (I should note that he only joined the families that liked his company, so there were never any complaints about his presence. He had a knack for knowing where he was wanted.)

  2. Wish I had just called out the rest of the day. I was absolutely useless. I ended up shutting my office door so I could cry on and off in peace.

  3. My tortie cat.

#personal #ramblings #reveries