I’ve been feeling a bit gloomy for the last few days, experiencing a sense of dread about this upcoming 4th of July weekend that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign. One more assignment to finish, and I’m ready to settle in to work on Getting Naked for Money without interruption.
Also: I found a terrific new vet for Madeleine earlier in the week. I’d been a bit worried. I didn’t much care for the vet I took Madeleine to for her free post-adoption exam and, though I adored Frankie’s former vet, I was afraid he was going to retire soon and I didn’t like the other two vets in the practice: One had called Frankie “weird,” and the other dubbed him “a bad patient.” This new vet, an engaging, thoughtful man, is not only closer to my home, but is younger (no retirement soon) and has x-ray dental equipment. After interviewing several veterinary dentists for an article, I realized that I would never have my own teeth extracted without having x-rays taken first, yet had been willing to do that for a beloved dog.
So why the gloom?
In preparation for getting serious about writing my book, I decided to do a little house cleaning–emphasis on “little.” Overdoing it until I became too tired to write would defeat the purpose. As I was going through my kitchen drawers, sorting through hundreds of discount coupons for Bed Bath & Beyond, I discovered some of Frankie’s things that I couldn’t bear to throw away: My diary of his blood sugar readings; a bottle of diabetic test strips; a hypodermic needle.
A bottle with a little Vetsulin remained in the refrigerator.
Seeing those items, I was hit by a sudden wave of sadness, remembering a routine that was at once difficult and precious. And then I suddenly realized the source of my low-key anxiety: The 4th of July was Frankie’s designated birthday. I never knew the real day and he was my Frankie Doodle Dandy.
There’s a certain irony to that. Not only was he terrified of fireworks, as many dogs are. Frankie was pretty much terrified of people, too.
I remember taking him to a Fourth of July political event early on. Even though it took place nearly nine months after I adopted him, I guess I still didn’t get the extent to which he hated crowds. I don’t think I knew the term “socialize” at the time but I probably thought that the more he experienced new situations, the more comfortable with them he would get.
Now, Frankie was an adorable dog. Based on neoteny, or puppy-like features, he was cuter in some ways than Madeleine, who looks more conventionally “doggy.” No surprise, then, that the political candidate wanted to have her picture taken with him. Frankie tolerated it, because I was nearby. But he wasn’t at all happy.
He was a one woman dog, totally devoted to me.
I wrote about my ambivalence about his dependence on me, his fearful personality in a story titled Great Expectations: A Tale of Two Dogs. It ends this way:
Chastened, I lifted my little dog into my lap…. At least I had one source of solace: As long as I gave him a loving home, Frankie would never know I was an asshole.
A Guilt-Free — But Not a Pain-Free — Zone
I realize now: You can find a new vet so you don’t have to face the pain of going to the old one without your departed dog.
You can go to that vet with the type of dog you used to fantasize your departed dog would become, one that every veterinarian would be likely to love. No one would even be tempted to call Madeleine weird or a bad patient. She cuddles up to everyone, doesn’t object to shots or even thermometers in her rectum, but she’s also frisky and a bit mischievous, a small dog even macho guys could like.
But that won’t lessen the pain of your loss. In this case, it made it worse. I feel bad that I enjoyed Madeleine’s popularity so much.
Earlier, before I started analyzing why I was feeling gloomy, I’d thought about dressing Madeleine in 4th of July regalia. But not only is she not a dress-up type of dog (see neoteny/lack thereof, above); doing that would be trying to make her into Frankie, just as I’d tried to make Frankie into another type of dog before I knew better.
So this 4th of July post is devoted to Frankie, in honor of his designated birthday, and on “his” blog, the one I created to detail his adventures, not on Edie Jarolim.com as I’d originally planned. Madeleine? She may or may not get half a hot dog. The new vet said she wasn’t really fat, but “comfortable,” and then amended that to say, “You know, like Marilyn Monroe.”
Madeleine, the curvy femme fatale of the canine world.
Frankie was more of a surfer dude.
Laughing and crying at the same time, I know now too: Sometimes the pain of loss is going to blindside you. Getting another dog, no matter how great, won’t stop that from happening, though time might. Or not. Frankie will always be my first dog. That’s not ever going to change
What do you do with that hurt, then? You acknowledge it, you experience it. You remember, you regret, you grab a box of Kleenex.
And if you’re a writer, you try to put it into words so others will know that it’s okay to love two dogs, one present, one departed, at the same time.