Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Goodbye dear boy

I am slowly learning that everything for which I once expressed disdain, I will someday make manifest. Forty-year-old writers still plugging away at their less-than-lustrous careers? Present. People stupid enough to ride motorcycles? Married one. Women who talk about their children's eating habits. Uh oh.
And then today, we gave up our dog. They call it "surrendering," which is probably as good a word as there is for relinquishing your family pet, a dog that has lived in your house like family for seven years.

It took us two years to finally make this decision. It's been obvious since the day we brought our twins home more than three years ago that we were no longer up to the task of properly caring for Woody, but I just couldn't imagine becoming one of those people, someone who could find it in their hearts to turn out a loyal dog. But here I am.
I was finally convinced that giving him the chance to spend his remaining years with someone who could care for him and love him and lavish him with the attention he needs was in fact the compassionate thing to do (I am also well aware that the Humane Society could decide he is not adoptable and euthanize him). My guilt and shame were not reason enough to keep him.
It's been a very difficult day. Very sad. A sadness laced heavily with guilt and shame and tinged as well with relief.
More than anything, it's made me feel like a grown-up, for real. Grown-ups are the ones who have to make decisions like this, where neither choice feels exactly right, where both sides are apt to leave a scar. I am starting to think that that may be the very definition of adulthood: having to see the world as it really is and having to make decisions you would rather not.
I will probably never see Woody again, the dog I liked to call "the little mammal who lives in our house." I will miss him. A lot. He was a very good boy (you can see him in action here).

Here is a piece of a longer essay called "Puppy Love" I wrote about failing my dog back when I still couldn't image actually giving him up. It's just the part about how much I once loved him and how awesome it was to be his person.

There was a time when I could lie, spooned against Woody’s back, flipping the velvety tip of his ear against my lips for an hour just to feel his warmth and softness. I used to sneak him into bed. I have picked actual fights, with actual insults hurled at my poor husband, over whether or not Woody should sleep with us (me: yes, Pete: no). When I first adopted Woody from the stinking cement slab at the pound I lost ten pounds from our daily brisk beach walks. Watching him frolic on the sand, running madly after the mission-in-life tennis ball, was something I referred to as “the transference of joy.” It made me happy to see him happy.

I have hours of video documenting my dog’s athletic prowess. When he jumped for the ball, sometimes soaring 8 feet straight up and covering a distance of almost five yards (I measured) my heart would stretch with pride. Throwing a ball for Woody at the dog park actually boosted my self-esteem. I often did that thing where I pretended not to notice the admiring attention of strangers, all the while basking in it. What, my blank face said, doesn’t your dog do that? It was the “transference of achievement.” Woody’s abilities made me seem able. His existence made me a better person. I was friendlier, peppier, possibly even prettier back when I loved my dog.


CSchoech said...

Oh, Honey....this brought tears to my eyes. You ARE doing the right thing. Everyone will be happier because of this decision...not today, but soon. xoxo

HBW said...

no. i don't think you are doing the "right" thing, which doesn't mean that i think what you did was "wrong". i think that what you said about facing decisions when neither choice feels good is totally honest. this makes me very sad for a lot of reasons and i admire and love you even more than before for having owned up to all of it.
it sucks though. poor good old dog.

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