Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dirty Dog Day

Those who are following my saga know that my husband Fred has Alzheimer's Disease and moved to a care home almost two weeks ago. We have no children together, just our dogs Chico and Annie, who turned one year old last Monday. It's a pretty lonely house these days.

Yesterday, it got even lonelier when Chico and Annie escaped out a gate I had left unsecure. After visiting Fred, I was just turning onto our street when my cell phone rang. My neighbor Carol wanted to tell me the dogs were out. She couldn't catch them, she said, but she left the gate open in case they wanted to go back into the yard. Uh, no.

I parked, grabbed two leashes and a pocketful of dog treats from the house and started walking and calling. My old dog always used to come home on her own, but these guys are young and crazy. They haven't had a walk in weeks. I was all dressed up from my visit to Fred, wearing new shoes and no jacket. The temperature was in the 40s. I walked and walked and walked, moving so quickly I got shin splints and barely felt it. Calling, "Chico, Annie, come, I've got cookies," I felt that the whole neighborhood could hear me, but saw no dog of mine responding. I ran into the man who walks his basset hounds every evening before dinner. He hadn't seen my dogs.
I had heard other dogs barking, but now I knew they were barking at the bassets.

The visit to Fred had been very difficult. At lunch, he had cried and said he wanted to come home. If you've ever been through this, you know how much it hurts. Now I pictured life without my dogs. I know that all those dogs on the posters are rarely found. They're usually dead or lost forever. I pictured myself sitting in that house all alone and fought to keep my composure and keep calling.

It was cold and getting dark. I walked through a construction site, muddying my new shoes, aching for a glimpse of a black or tan dog. Even if I could have just one of them back . . . I couldn't care for my husband, and now I had failed at caring for my dogs.

At the end of the road, I turned back toward home, thinking I'd put on a jacket and get in the car and drive farther into the wilderness area to the east. But as I came up the driveway, weakly calling the dogs' names, I suddenly saw a yellow dog emerge from the across-the-street neighbor's yard, soon followed by a black one. They zoomed past me to the door, tongues out, panting, filthy with mud. I grabbed them, sobbing.

What does this have to do with being childless? Nothing directly, but it's my life because I don't have any other relatives close by to help me or keep me company and because these dogs are the only things I ever have or ever will raise from infancy. I'll get back to my childless research soon, but this is the life I lead right now, sitting on the deck in the dark, hugging my dirty dogs against me as they lick my face until I get up and feed them.

2 comments:

Jeanne Duncan said...

I just found your blog and am so glad I did. I'm 44 and divorced. My ex-husband and I tried to have kids, but he never really wanted to, and we ended up splitting up before exhausting all our options (I was a little obsessed with getting pregnant, which really threw his lack of interest into stark relief). So now I'm grappling with not having kids and what that means for the rest of my life. I too have two dogs, and I am sometimes self-conscious about how much I adore them and spoil them. I work at home so I'm with them all day long and I honestly fear the day something happens to them, which of course will eventually come. Whenever I find dogs loose in the neighborhood (surprisingly often), I take it upon myself to find the owner, and have given up many hours this way (also surprising: how many people don't put tags on their dogs or even register them with the county). I hope someone to do the same for me if, god forbid, these two ever got away. So of all the posts I've read that got me, this got me the most. I don't know that I'll ever be okay with not having kids, but I know I'll never not have dogs. Thanks for doing this -- I look forward to reading more (and your book).

Suelick said...

Oh Jeanne, thank you. We do have a lot in common. I don't know what I'd do without my pups. Bless you for trying to reunite lost dogs with their owners. It is shocking how many don't have name tags or licenses.
Thanks for writing.