Thursday, August 9, 2012

Oh, sweet Scouters, my little Miss Moo. This is the one where I get mushy about my dog, whom I miss.

I don't know if all writers are like this, but it often takes me quite a bit of time and distance to process important events and issues through writing.  Fine when you're a poet, and you take the time to shape and craft the exact words and lines that will express emotion and experience.

In the land of blog, the days come and go so quickly when you don't post.  You feel like you have something to say, but not time or attention to give to a moment in your life you'd like to pause and reflect upon, you can get to a paralyzing place and a big long gap in your posting history.

Such is the case with myself, ever since we had to put our sweet dog Scout to sleep three months ago. I am really not sure how others manage to get through the difficult moments in their lives and post so eloquently about them.  I seem frozen, paralyzed by not being able to choose the right words, pay enough homage to the moments of my life.  Before I know it, they are gone, and not even mentioned in a superficial or sloppy way.

I'm not going to say it's the only reason I haven't posted.  There have been other issues that I've been working through behind the scenes.  Add to that, all three children home and mostly awake all day, up until late at night, and simply, there is not enough time in the day.

However, there was a sense that I needed to pay tribute to the loss of a member of our family, even if it was of the canine persuasion, before moving too blithely on with the day to day craziness around here.

It's been three months, and still.  I miss her, every day. I miss there being a dog in our house, and I miss her particular spirit.

My necklace jangles at my neck and I swiftly turn, thinking for a moment I'm hearing her collar announce her arrival in the next room.

I come in the house through the garage and am reminded again that I don't need to go find her, make sure she's still breathing, doesn't need help up and outside.
Happy to deal with the mess of the Small World.

I look around when I'm outside with the kids, sure I'll see her sunning herself out on the grass by the wall.

I went for a walk by myself one evening.  Though she hadn't been able to come with me on the leash for months, it still felt strange not having something to do with my arms as I strolled.

There are crumbs.  A staggering number of crumbs.  Shredded cheese, hardened cereal.  Banana sludge.  Goldfish bits.  Toast, muffin, waffle and bagel bits.  Every single one that I have to sweep up into the dustpan seems an affront, a reminder of the ways I took my dear dog for granted while she was here.  Climbing under the high chair even when her back legs were too unsteady to keep her vertical on the slippery hardwood for the best morsels of baby leftovers.  Hoovering up the remains of lunch even when I thought she couldn't see or hear enough to know that we were done eating.

I'll admit, I don't miss cleaning up pee spots, or dealing with the loss of bowel functions.  I am glad I don't have to feel sad for her arthritic joints and her mournful eyes.  Old age is not for the faint of heart, for sure.

For fifteen years, nearly all of my adult life, I cared for her.  For fifteen years, she was my true friend, who moved with me and lived with me and companioned me in six different homes.  She amiably accepted husbands separate but definitely not equal, then three children, lived off and on with three other dogs.  Not long before Scout passed away, when things were getting bad for her and I was struggling to know what was the right thing to do, a friend who's known both dog and me for a long time said, with tears in her eyes:  "She saved your life. She was your best friend all that time, through your worst stuff." And that is truer than true.

My best girls.
She never walked well on a leash, never stuck around home when she was supposed to.  In fact, was a Houdini at heart.  The apartment I shared with my brother had a ramshackle pieced together fence made of loose boards and bits.  Scout used to use her paw to push one aside, slide through, and be gone halfway down the street before I knew it.

Sometimes more cat than dog, she spent good stretches of the day by herself, sprawled belly up in the grass or upstairs on her pillow.  But she knew when her company was needed, sidling up alongside me to nose elbow up so I could give her butt a scratch, then she'd lie right down next to the couch where you sat, to stay for as long as I needed.

Even as a puppy, she did mostly what she pleased.  In obedience class, she did fine with sit, and stay, and lie down, but steadfastly refused to come.  The instructor told me this would not be a dog we'd easily bribe with a treat.  And it was true, for a dog, she was not so much eager to do what we pleased as she was willing to do what she thought might please us.  Her only tricks involved "telling stories" in to form of repeated growly yowling noises in the back of her throat, and sneezing on demand.  Her favored greeting was a growl of excitement while stretching luxuriantly.

O.'s first buddy, staunchest watchdog.
She was the kind of dog you could almost forget at times, until she barked loudly to announce the UPS man's arrival, or scratched insistently at the back door to be let outside.  Our kids, who mostly knew her as an old dog, love to hear the stories about her as a younger dog.  About how she was born in a barn with sheep, and that the day I went to go meet her, she peeked her head out the barn door and came trotting over just to me, as if to say: "Oh hello.  There you are.  I've been waiting for you to arrive."  Or how she and O. would wrestle when he was a toddler, her mouth open in joy and mock viciousness.  O. used to pat her a little too roughly, so that one of his first two syllable words was "gentle."  Only he thought that word's definition was "hit the dog."

Because our house feels so much less like a home without a dog, we have cautiously decided we are going to open our family to another dog this weekend.  Maybe it's too soon.  We're not sure. However, we do think our kids should have a dog around.  We have kind of been enjoying not having to let a dog out last thing at night when you just want to fall into bed, not stand around encouraging pee in the wet grass.  But, we are willing to stand around some in the cold and rain, in exchange for some warm fur to pet.  And the crumbs.  Seriously, the crumbs.

Scout, cutest puppy there ever was.
Also, we remember the pleasant times of having a younger, sprightlier dog.  We remember Scout, who high stepped through grass like a princess, so as not to get too muddy, but never passed up a chance to rub her entire neck and chin in a pile of cat poop or something dead.  Who, with her little bobbed stump of tail, wagged her entire hind end with joy, joy, joy anytime you came home, or talked to her in happy tones.  Who chased squirrels the entire lengths of every yard we ever lived in, throwing her back legs out to the side as brakes to avoid running into the brick walls at their borders.  We remember the days when we'd call her up on our high antique bed, and she would leap through the air to turn in happy circles in the sheets.  She loved popcorn, American cheese, and raisins from my father.  She hated water, cats, and being rushed while eating.
Beautiful girl.  Good dog.

We're hoping this sweet dog we're adopting, 9 months to a year old, will already have a few manners, because we're really not up to another newborn in this house.  We'd love it if she'd actually return a ball after chasing it.  So while we understand, and even hope, that this dog will be different than our last, we're still maintaining that this little one has got some mighty big pawprints to fill.

Last picture ever taken of my old gal.  I think I knew it when I took it, but wasn't quite willing to admit it,
and that's why I included her in the edge of this shot of O's birthday