Everything is Better with a Dog — Even Grieving
He Sits With Me When I Look Through My ‘Mom Drawer’ and Licks My Ankle When I Cry
I took Brodie to the vet today. I waited in the car for the tech to come get him so he could get his shots and his flea pill. I tried to show him how to jump down from the floor of the car, not the seat, because he is thirteen and his back hips hurt. Brodie got out, tail wagging and went inside. He’s a good boy. When he came out, I gave him a little help with his back legs and we drove home.
Then I sat outside to write. As I was writing, I noticed Brodie lying on his side, his cheek and his whole left side splayed out against the warm, brick walkway. Brodie is 59.5 pounds now the form from the vet said. He used to be 65 pounds. But he is thirteen now. He needs help to get those hind legs up into the car. He has arthritis. He doesn’t hike with us anymore. But he is still the best boy.
When I looked at my dog, I thought about how the years had marched on for him, too. I thought about how he used to curl up on the living room rug on top of my mom’s feet while she sat on our turquoise, velvet couch. She called him “dog-a-nusm” and he was the only dog she ever liked. My mom is gone now. It is almost two months. But my Brodie boy is still here. When I glanced over at him, asleep on the walkway, I felt fear in my heart, What if my dog died? I could not take losing my mom and my dog in the same year.
I know I don’t have control of everything, or anything really: of whether or not my daughter goes back to college in Connecticut, of whether or not my son’s surf lessons happen next week, of whether or not my youngest rides Brownie or Dazzle at the stable tomorrow. I didn’t have control over whether my mom died or not, and I won’t have control over my dog’s life either. But when I look at him, so beloved and so integral to this family and so much wanting a doggie treat, I feel like I couldn’t handle it if he wasn’t here.
I never had a pet before Brodie. He is my first dog and my first love, too. He and I bonded since he was a rescue and I needed rescue from my three wild children. He came into the family and immediately became The Quiet One, The Obedient One, The Good One. Okay. there was that time when he ate a plate of banana muffins, and that time when he chomped on my favorite beige clogs, and that time when he chewed up all the pillows on our outdoor furniture, but he was two then, and that’s all water under the bowl now.
I, who had never loved an animal before, fell in love with this dog because he had lonely eyes, a freakishly longue tongue, the softest fur which sheds in clumps all over the place, and the kindest disposition. Yes, he barks at mail carriers and Amazon deliverers and other dogs that pee on our front lawn, but he is all love and all heart and all compassion and he sleeps on the floor next to my bed and he is a good dog.
I never knew what pet love was all about until I met Brodie. It wasn’t love at first sight. He was skittish and, when the trainer told us he was half pit bull, I almost gave him back — but he is all heart, all 59.5 pounds of him. I look at him and see my puppy even though I know he is thirteen and I have heard that that is old for dogs.
Brodie is like my blanket and he loved Grandma Vicki, too. He sits with me when I look through her sweat suits in my Mom Drawer, and he licks my ankle when I cry, and he cuddles with me in the morning after my husband leaves for work, and when I don’t feel like I can talk to anybody, I can talk to Brodie because he doesn’t judge and he doesn’t have need for words, anyway. It’s all a comfort, though. Beneath his fur is his beating heart and it soothes my sore heart.
So I took Brodie to the vet and he got his shots and his flea pill. Then I took him home and gave him like six treats. And now he snoozes on the walkway near me while I type. I know he won’t live forever. My mom didn’t. Neither will I. But for now, I rub between his ears and he lifts his head and dog-smiles at me with a flip of his tail. He’s a good boy. The best boy. My dog-a-nusm.