Nash: a Dog’s Life

 

We killed our dog today. I know it’s politically correct to say “put to sleep”, or “put him down” but that’s how it feels: we killed him.


He was old and crippled. Osteoarthritis had destroyed his left hip, just as it had mine, but hip replacement was not an option for him. And not an option I would have considered, remembering the godawful ten days following my surgery. He now lay against the back door in constant seizure and a spreading viscous smear of his own feces, too gone to notice or care. We knew this day would come, but it was not a test for which we could study, and had shoved it out of our collective consciousness.


We carried him through the house and to the car, and drove the ten miles to the vet. Now, unable to look away, we watched the needle enter into his leg and the hypodermic push. His convulsions slowly subsided along with his breathing, and then he was still.



Part of me died.

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Long ago, Mary was teaching summer school at Finnegan Elementary in Mayport. One Friday, as we prepared to drive to Atlanta and visit old friends, she came home brimming with excitement. She told me of a shepherd puppy they had found at school that morning, soaking wet and shivering - we could only imagine how long he had been wandering the beaches and Hannah Park - and he would forever be terrified of thunderstorms. Mary told the school we would adopt him if nobody claimed him by Monday, when we returned.


We spent six hours driving from Jacksonville Beach to Atlanta playing ping pong with dog names: Greek and Roman gods were big for a while, and he could have been Mercury or Zeus. Literary names were channeled and exhausted: he could have been Aragorn or Boo, Penrod or Wilbur. Huckleberry was just too silly, even for us (Hound? Finn?). Somewhere south of Macon and the monsoon rain that seems to dog that town we began a musical genre: Lenny, Macca or Ringo were possibilities - Harry was just too obvious - or Gershwin or Boss or Hendrix.


Croz!” I suddenly exclaimed.


No, he doesn’t look like a ‘Croz’,” objected Mary. “No stupid mustache.” As it turned out, he did develop a mustache in his later years, but more a French clipped style that turned up at the end, so we began to call him Pierre. (see above ^)


What about Nash?


We had a winner.


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His name could well have been spelled Gnash, which is what our teeth did after his toilet training, protracted beyond any previously believable limits. He was a committee dog: some shepherd, some Rottweiler, possibly untold others in his family forest. We have pictures of him and Mel - who is part cocker with maybe some dachshund thrown into the mix - where Mel is larger than Nash. Always the more outwardly affectionate of the two, Nash is gawky and gangly in this picture with big, sad brown eyes: the Nicholas Cage of dogs.


I will not let this become the story of his death, because I struggle to remember him as he lived and we loved him: rolling in abandon on the floor, covering me with dog saliva/kisses, his tail wagging him in an unappeasable ecstasy of love - one of his traits that discomfited many - licking my face. Jumping up in a frenzy of anticipation when
I’d call “Wanna go for a SURF CHECK?” - he would gladly allow me to pull his head completely off before I could drag him foot deep in the water; suddenly possessed by the ghosts of Houdini and Hercules when we would attempt to curtail his freakishly long toenails.


I’ve been sobbing intermittently for four days now, expecting to see him waiting for me when I come in from work; hear his nails on the tile at night when he wants to go out; standing on the back deck, gazing expectantly at the window for me to let him inside. But none of those things are going to happen, because he is only alive deep in our hearts where nothing can frighten or harm him, and I will fight for his life till my last breath. As he always would for us.


Goodbye, sweet boy.


We love you.


I feel - even though I know better - there is no purpose to my life.

  

This is a snippet I don’t even remember writing:


Slowly, excruciatingly, I edged to the side of the bed. The storm in the Gulf throbbed like a spike in my petroleum byproduct hip, and I held on to the rails and shuffled down the wide ramp Kevin and Matt had fashioned till I could maneuver the walker in front of me. Placing no weight at all on my left hip, I agonizingly moved to the door of the bedroom, opened it and emerged into the sudden glare of day. Without my contact lenses in I saw a crimson puddle - rapidly spreading into a lake, surrounding an amorphous brown blob at the base of the CD case that separated the living room from the dining room. The brown blob moved, and revealed itself to be Nash, blood gushing like a faucet from his nether quarters. “Oh, shit,” I mumbled, becoming instantaneously awake. “Mom?” I queried, searching myopically for Mary’s mother.


Together we somehow managed to bundle him into the back of Mary’s Mazda 626, in the process transforming her backseat into a startling facsimile of the car that carried Bonnie and Clyde to their vitamin-splattered end. Mary had my Pathfinder to travel to the northside in her first vacation day away from me after my surgery: that was lucky because of the lessened height of the Mazda, not nearly so fortunate for Mary’s car. There is no way I could have lifted that big dog into the higher vehicle. Contorting myself into the driver seat was an epic of pain, and there is no rational explanation for why my acetabulum was not unseated in the process.


The vet is ten miles away: it felt like forty. That Dr. Nickolay Nickolaous will still speak to me is a testament to his quality as a human being, because Nash drenched the building in vitamin packed gore.


No idea where I was going with this... 



 













 
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