Monday, October 05, 2009

The Club

CRISTINA: "There's a club. The Dead [dogs] Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it...I'm really sorry you had to join the club."
GEORGE: "I... I don't know how to exist in a world where my [dog] doesn't."
CRISTINA: "Yeah, that never really changes."

OK, so I modified it a bit. And it might be slightly hyperbolic but it's still true. You can tell when you walk into a room with someone whose had a dog die. I'm learning a lot.

On the day that I found out Emily had terminal neurological issues I got klutzy. I think it's important to say here upfront that I am frequently klutzy even when I'm not sad. It happens regularly so do not interpret this observation as a cry for help. A cry for a good supply of band aids perhaps but not the other thing. I was cooking for the dog, she needed protein and I had put a couple of chicken breasts in a pie dish covered with foil and ovened them up for a few minutes. Somehow when I took it out to check on it I completely flubbed the foil removal and wound up sticking my forefinger right in that first rush of steam. Man, they do not lie when they say that a steam burn is the worst kind. Really is. Later I was opening a package, you know the kind with that stiff plastic that, should you return the product, you need to pay a restocking fee because there's no way to get into it without completely destroying that packaging. It's awkward and ugly and nearly impossible. You better want that fucking electric toothbrush because it's like the freaking Olympics, if you don't really want it you won't win. It's also relatively dangerous and I worked hard to keep my fingers away from the scissors as they jerked all over the place. In so doing I managed to slide my finger (different finger from the burn) along one of the recently cut, razor sharp plastic edges. I even went one better and slid it directly along the thin opening of a paper cut I'd gotten without noticing (see above re: constantly a little klutzy) earlier that day. Wow, I knew right away it was bad and managed just to wrestle product from plastic before I had to staunch the bleeding.

That night I had this moment of clarity about why kids (and adults) cut themselves for emotional release. Well, more specifically I saw why they cut instead of burn or some other kind of mutilation. The burn is a slow kind of pain and it's endless. I was once told that the reason you have to ice or put cold water on a burn immediately is because if you don't cool it down your skin just "keeps cooking" deeper and deeper inside you. It's the kind of pain that makes you screw up your lips tight so you can hiss long, slow streams of air out of them. You hold yourself very tight while it's going on. The cut, though? It was like someone cut a valve in my air hose. All of a sudden, whoosh, the satisfaction of vomiting out an armful of worry and fear in one cleansing sigh. Then I bled and had to find a band aid and it was clear that something had occurred and clear how to fix it so I did. It was satisfying.

As much as I accepted and was operating under the assumption that Emily was going to die soon I still got surprised. I kept hedging that she might go that night and she might be around for months because it was true, because I didn't want to be an alarmist or a wolf-crier in the event that she, steel girl that she was, hung on in good spirits for a long time. So it's still kind of unbelievable to me that my girl is gone. Sometimes I'm hungry but then sometimes I want to vomit. It's really hard to leave the house but then again it's almost impossible to come back. She's not asleep and blocking the door, she's not standing by the table, she's simply not. It's a combination of her dependence on me and the basic muscle memory of how days go when you have a dog, so many more hours in the day now that have to be filled. I am alternately unable to move and jumping out of my skin. I feel somehow frightened to live in this new world which is hilarious if you think about it too long considering how fearful my dog could be.

Yesterday I figured out something else. I went out to meet Kath and Alex and walk through a street fair and as I hit the fresh air I suddenly understood why people run. Not treadmill running but those people who insist on running out in the open no matter the weather or their health or any other dictate of sanity to keep one inside. I felt as though I should start running, I don't run, ever, I hate it passionately, but as I thought about the fact that I was already outside and the inescapable conclusion to that would be having to go back inside, inside a house with no dog, my body wanted to run. In my head, or perhaps in my adrenal gland, it felt as though I needed to put some distance on the pedometer but quickly, that if I ran hard enough and fast enough and far enough I could miraculously put enough space between me and this terribly feeling that I could safely enter my apartment without getting that cliched punch to the gut. I didn't run, I walked and I talked with people who knew and I ate a little and felt a little nauseous and eventually I came home.

We always joked that Emily was a dog of very little brain but the thing is, she taught me a whole lot. And I guess that isn't going to stop any time soon.


  1. ~annie10:21 AM

    You're right, even when you "know" it is still surprising when "being" is suddenly "not." Thinking of you...

  2. Baby steps. We're here if you need us.


  3. This is one of those entries we were talking about during the "to comment or not to comment" conversation.

    I've nothing profound to offer. I can, however, send you peace and that's what I'll do.

  4. Yeah, that's exactly what it's like. You really do have to adjust to an "after" world; a world where everything LOOKS the same, but decidedly ISN'T.

    I get it.

  5. Miflohny12:39 AM

    I, likewise, have nothing substantive to offer to your eloquence. You speak the truth. Hang in there sweetie.