Tag Archives: memories

Open Letter to Sasha, My Dog

Happy 13th birthday, Sasha!   

 

 

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I know you’re disappointed that I took the day off to be with you today because you hate it when I’m all over you.  But I’m a selfish person, and I don’t know if this is the last time I’ll be able to put a party hat on you.   So when the Doodle was sent last week to schedule a meeting, and today was the day when everyone else could make it, I said, fuck it, no.  

Because you’re not ‘just a dog’ to me.  

From the moment I held you, and you nibbled my ear, I was in love.  I had read that puppies that struggle when you hold them will grow up to be stubborn and dominant, and that they are likely to give you grief.   You struggled.  But it was too late.  I got your Ex-Daddy (henceforth: Mindf*cker) to call the landlord to see if he could make an exception on the lease, so that I could bring you home.  That was on Friday, June 11th, 2004.   We waited and waited and waited, and finally, we had to go home.  Because, at that point, we were technically loitering.

The landlord finally got back to him late in the night, and I could hear Mindf*cker say, “listen, Brian… if you don’t let her get this puppy, she’s going to start talking about babies….”  I could have taken that as an insult, but I didn’t care…. as long as that lame joke between men meant that Brian would waive the no-pets clause in the lease.  

It worked.

Saturday morning, I was up bright and early and made the coffee.  I was giving Mindf*cker the evil eye because he was being sloth-like (but not cute), and told him to hustle it.  We arrived early and my heart soared when I saw that you were still there, that nobody had taken you home already.  You were loose and following one of the guys around as he prepared to open up, and it was as if time had slowed down.  But you were there, and I would soon be bringing you home, so all was well with the world at that moment.  

When we got you home, you were a little explorer, into everything.  I remember the sun shining through onto the hardwood floors, and you just lay down and fell asleep.  So I lay down next to you for a cuddle.  And then you got up and moved away.   I was crushed.  That was the first indicator of just how independent you were.  

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First week at home

You were my first little girl; all my other dogs had been boys.   I naively thought that we would somehow be even closer because of it, but you had your own personality and your own ideas.  Mindf*cker cruelly exploited this, knowing how much I loved you, teasing me by saying that you liked him more than me, knowing that would hurt me.  He said that maybe if I tied a porkchop around my neck, you’d come to me.  Jerk.  He was the more ‘fun’ human (mostly because I’m pretty sure he had ADHD), I get that.  

Soon, I learned to respect your space and let you come to me.  And when I would scold you for being naughty, I’d threaten to hug and kiss you if you didn’t stop.  You were so naughty!  Despite telling Mindf*cker not to leave important things lying around on low surfaces, he did.  And then he’d lose his shit because you chewed it.  Like the $150 SD card (when SD cards were the new, revolutionary technology), the arm on his glasses, etc….  What I hadn’t counted on was that you’d chew the corners of walls. :/   Hiding that from the landlord was trickier than when you peed on the floor just as he was walking into the flat to check on something – that fleece toy I bought you really came in handy that day.  

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The Toy That Soaked The Pee

For a couple of months, after you were able to jump on the bed, you would try to wake me up by nudging my head with your wet nose, and, when that didn’t work, you’d sit on my face.  On.  My.  Face.    It was quite a surprise at first, but it soon turned out to be my favourite way of waking up – because you made me laugh.   As you started to get bigger and heavier, it suddenly stopped – maybe you instinctively knew not to smother the face of the hand that feeds you.  

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After you were ‘fixed’ – despite being the responsible thing to do, you would have been an amazing mother

The mischief you got into!

There was the time we were moving into a new flat so that you could have a yard and you bolted up the back stairs into the landlady’s open kitchen, eating the hamburger out of the pan and  the guest soaps in her bathroom.  You stole her tomatoes and ran off with an adolescent pumpkin, small enough for you to run off with, yet heavy enough that it meant you were dragging it as you ran.  You stole an entire quiche off the kitchen counter as it was cooling off… which resulted in having to clean projectile diarrhea at the end of the day.  When we brought you to a lake in Magog to let you experience swimming, you went after the ball, dropped it at our feet, then bolted into someone’s cabin, stealing freshly made cookies off the counter – the wife found it funny, the husband… not so much.  

And how can we forget the time that I thought you had escaped out the yard when the absent-minded landlady left the gate open, and I ran through the entire neighbourhood in tears, shaking a bag of baby carrots, shouting, “Bunny Luv! Sasha, come get your Bunny Luv!”… because that was the brand, and that’s what you usually responded to… only to come back, exhausted and red-eyed, to find that you had been hiding in the landlady’s compost box the entire time, eating fermented crap… which resulted in more projectile diarrhea.  

There was one time when I let you down.  We were invited to Mindf*cker’s father’s farm to see his dog’s new puppies.  We only found out after getting there, that his dad said you couldn’t come into the house because his dog might see you as a threat to her pups and get aggressive.  So Mindf*cker tied you outside.  And then it started to rain.  There was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing you sitting in the rain and having a house full of people say you were fine, that Labs are made for water.  Eventually, Mindf*cker saw that I was really upset and he put you into the barn/garage to appease me.  What I should have done was grab his car keys, and sit in the car with you until it was time to go.   But I knew the grief I’d get for doing that – because he cared more about what his family would think, than about how I felt.  So, I didn’t make a fuss… but the guilt of not having stood by you that day has stayed with me all these years.   

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A rare, precious cuddle

Despite the fact that you’re not exceptionally cuddly with me, you’ve always been there for me when I’m upset.  Always.  While Henry runs away, uncomfortable (men, am I right?), you make a beeline towards me.   You won’t necessarily let me hold you around your shoulders, but you will direct your bum towards me and let me cuddle and/or cry on it.  A lot of tears have been shed on your bum, haven’t they little girl?  

Even when you had your cancerous tumours removed, two years in a row, and you came back all stapled up, like Frankenpuppy, it was you who comforted me because the shock of seeing you like that made me weep.  While Mindf*cker was freaking out about the vet bill, we were busy taking care of each other.  And this time, I stood by you when Mindf*cker tried to bully me into going upstairs to bed, knowing full well that you’d try to follow despite the surgeon saying you shouldn’t climb or try to jump for a while.   So we slept on the floor together – at a comfortable distance for you.  And when he dumped me on the love seat, two days later, two days before Valentine’s Day, 2012, my first thought was:  is he going to try to take the dogs away from me?  That was mixed in with a lot of other toxic emotions that had built up over the nine years we were together, but the thought of losing you and Henry scared me (he never cared about the cat, so I knew I’d be keeping him).    He ended up leaving to stay at a friend’s before he moved his stuff out because things were just really awkward.  Once the agreement to transfer the deed of the house completely to me had been signed, and the cheque I cut to him to get him the fuck out was handed over… I was safe.  I could fight back.  

And then the conversation about you and Henry came up.  He wanted shared custody.  He wanted you on the weekends.  Except for when he wanted to go away or something came up, then I could keep you.  So, you know, he wanted you… when it suited him.  I refused.  He said he’d sue me.  I called my notary and he said that because animals in this province were (at that time) still considered property, by leaving the dwelling, he abandoned his ‘property’, so he had no legal claim.  And, legally,  I could also throw all of his belongings to the curb, since that was now considered abandoned property as well.  When I told him to go ahead and sue me for his ‘abandoned property’, he realized that maybe he hadn’t been dealing with a dumb woman all along, that maybe he just treated me like one.  So you were mine.  All mine.  Still, the day he and his friends came to collect his things (I didn’t toss them, as much as he deserved it),  I boarded you at the veterinarian’s – that’s how scared I was that he would just take you.  Not because he really wanted you, but because he knew that that would be the one thing that would devastate me, one last kick while I was already down.  

And the last five years we have spent, just the four of us, have been amazing.  You’ve been there when I started dating again and making mistakes, you were there for me when mum died and I had to take care of everything myself because my sister is a self-absorbed, lazy coward.  You’ve helped me to keep my shit together and, more importantly, you’ve helped me to FEEL something on those days when I sometimes feel dead inside.  

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Is there anything cuter than a puppy’s belly?

You’ve made me laugh so much over the years, and you’ve recalibrated my priorities and my perspective in life.  Because of you, I’m less selfish.  Because of you, I have more courage. Because of you, my darling little scavenger, I see how much garbage people toss on the ground.   And I’m writing this today because I know there will come a day when I won’t have you in my life- and I want to preserve this now, because I might not be able to later.  I can never adequately express what you mean to me, and, there are so many more stories that I’ll remember later on that I wish I would have mentioned here. 

When I think about not seeing your sweet face and wiggly bum when I come home from work, I feel a hollowness inside that echoes with sorrow.  So I try not to think about it.  Maybe I’ll wake up one morning and find you cold; maybe it will be when I come home from work.  I’m hoping you’ll go on your own terms, peacefully.  But I’m prepared to do the right thing by you if I have to, at home, where you can be in your familiar surroundings.  Where Henry and Harley can also say good-bye.  Where I can wail freely, and loudly.  I’ll stay with you until the end, just as you’ve stayed with me all these years.  You won’t be able to see me because of your failing eyesight, but you’ll sense me.  And I hope that, as you drift away, you’ll somehow know that you were the first greatest joy of my adult life, that you have made my life so much better because you were in it.  

 

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Love you forever, my beautiful girl….

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Mama Mia

Two years ago this morning, Canada Day, July 1st, my mum said, ‘fuck this shite!’ and left this earthly plane for places unknown.  The day before, I had been told that she might only have a week left.  I got up early that morning, let the dogs out and was getting ready to dress and go to see her when I saw that there was a message on my voicemail.  I knew before I even listened.  

When I got to her residence about half an hour later, I was numb.  And when I opened the door to her room, I felt the stillness and loneliness of her body as she lay there in the early morning heat.  As I held on to the doorway, I could hear the nurse’s aides running to the room and quietly shut the door behind me to give me privacy.  

She looked so small in that bed.  And younger.  All the worry and/or pain that lined her face while her blood still coursed through her veins was gone.  Her skin was, there’s no other way to describe it, beautiful.  She was still warm, having died only about an hour before.  But her beautiful blue eyes, eyes that so many said were the bluest they’d ever seen, had turned a milky blue.  That’s what happens.  Nobody had thought to close them, or to close her mouth.  I wasn’t upset by it, it was real, it’s what happens, it’s natural.

I had brought my father’s rosaries with me and wrapped them around her hands, which were placed on her abdomen.  And I held her lifeless hand, so small in mine.  I didn’t have time to call a priest to give her her last rites – I regret not being able to do that for her.  For the life of me, I couldn’t remember the Our Father and Hail Mary, so the educator, a Jewish girl, printed them out for me so that I could recite them properly.  Over and over again.  For hours.  It’s amazing how your own personal beliefs can be set aside for the benefit of a loved one’s – it’s not about you, it’s about her, or him.

I sat with her body for six hours.  The cemetery she had pre-arranged her funeral with were apologetic, but, truth be told, I was glad of the extra time I had with her.  As rigor mortis set it, her hand tightened around mind, and it was comforting.  It was as if she were acknowledging me… even though I knew it was just a physical reaction.  Her skin became firm, her abdomen hard.  I joked with her – you finally have those firm abs you always wanted.  I also told my dad, who had died 23 years before, that he’d better stop chasing skirts in heaven because she was on her way and she would NOT be happy!  Those were meaningful hours.  Important hours. 

It was a humbling experience.  To see someone who raised you, who wiped the sick from your face when you had the flu, who dried your tears when your dog was put down… to see that person lifeless before you was surreal.   At the same time, I thought it was fitting that she ‘chose’ this day to die.  See, she never wanted to move to Canada.  She was a Scottish gal, Ayrshire born and bred.  And she was in love with a boy named Jackie Martin.  But her parents forced her to immigrate to Canada with them.  And realizing this, decades later, helped me to understand the pain she suffered, as well as the pain she suffered upon us. 

She died from complications from Alzheimer’s.  So many people describe Alzheimer’s as a horrible disease… I’m here to say that, for me, it was a gift.  My mother was a difficult woman.  She had demons.  She tried to drink them away.  It was painful – literally and figuratively.  But Alzheimer’s brought her back to how she was before life ruined her.  She was sweet and cheeky and swore like a sailor!  When she’d get upset, I’d tell her I would get her a sailor’s outfit to wear, and when she’d ask why, I’d say because she was swearing like one – and she’d laugh.  She laughed with me.  I loved her.  Despite the harsh, cruel memories, I loved her.  And I’m grateful for the last two years I had with her.  

There are so many things I remember about her, some bad, some good, some funny.  I’ll share with y’all the good and the funny and spare both you and myself the bad.

My mum’s family immigrated to Canada in the early ‘50s from Scotland. She didn’t want to move here – because of aforementioned young man.  But my grandparents were heartless assholes and forced her to come here anyway.

In the late ‘50s, they welcomed a visit from her father’s brother, Uncle John. He was tired from travelling so she told him to rest up, have a bite to eat, and that she would run him a bath. He wasn’t in the bathroom for more than a minute when he came out into the kitchen and told her father with a look of the utmost seriousness, “Hey, Barney, there’s something wrong with your water!” Turned out my mum put in some bubble bath soap and this was a completely new concept to him.

This very same Uncle came back to Canada to collect her father’s ashes in the 70s and bring them back ‘hame’. My Auntie Winnie and her husband were waiting for him at the airport – I think it was Gatwick. When the airplane pulled in, they saw someone start to sway down the steps of the staircase that was hooked up to the plane. And then they saw something fall out of his arms, bounce down the stairs, and then start to roll on the tarmac. He started to chase this rolling thing and two police officers were off in hot pursuit. When they got a hold of him, they asked him, “What is that?” And he replied, in a sobbing drunken stupor, “That’s ma brother!” To this day, nobody knows where my papa is buried. Sad, but simultaneously funny.

Anyone who knew my mum knew that she was quite uptight and ‘proper’. So the fact that she exposed herself to the neighbourhood sometime in the 70s is just funny to think about. My father was stationed in Colombia and the house we lived in was below street level so that you had to walk up stairs to get anywhere. One day, my primly attired mother was walking up those stairs when she felt something in her blouse. When she peeked inside, she saw a cockroach crawling on her – there were always creepy crawlies around there and, apparently, she put her blouse on so fast that she didn’t notice it. Well, half way up the stairs she starts screaming, running up and tearing her blouse and bra off, buttons flying everywhere… and when she got to the top, there were several locals laughing at the topless gringa…

My mum absolutely adored birds. She told me about how when she was a little girl, she sat on the curb of her street crying after reading a story about cock robin… “who killed cock robin? I, said the sparrow…” Great children’s literature. :/ Anyway, later on in life, what she started doing was cutting up little bits of yarn and tying them up with a little bow, also made of yarn. When I asked her what she was doing, she said she was making the bundles for the little birds to make their nests. And the funny thing was, I would occasionally see these bundles far away from where she lived. They must’ve been too heavy to carry the whole way. So she made them lighter.

My dad got my mum a little canary when I was about 14. This bird had all the accoutrements of the Rich and Feathered. His cage had an en suite bath that you’d hook outside the door so he could splash around. He had all kinds of things. She even had a vinyl record of birds singing to Mexican music to get him to learn to sing. I don’t know WHERE she got it, but I wish I had it now because I would play that at the office. But then one day, she let Sunshine out to fly around the room… and didn’t remove the new puppy. And Teddy barked and pawed at this little thing fluttering around on the floor. He didn’t hit it, but he freaked it out. So much so that my dad got a call at work that afternoon – “is it normal for a bird to be at the bottom of the cage on its side?” My dad, hearing the distress in my mum’s voice, lied to her. “Marie, he’z just zleeping. Put ze cover over his cage and let him rest.” He didn’t want her to be alone, upset about her dead bird. As we drove home (I’d go to his work after school and we’d drive home together since it was kinda far with the bus), he said, “Nanzie.. don’t laugh… but your mother’s bird iz dead.” “WHY would I think that’s funny?” I asked. Apparently, my sister thought it was kinda funny. When we got home, my mother brought my dad to the cage, and then he told her the sad truth. Fortunately, this happened during warm weather, because he bought a yellow rose bush for my mum, and there was a mini-burial for Sunshine in the back yard, with the rose bush as his marker.

And now I’ll end with the funny: picture it, June 1988, and I’m getting ready for prom. I got a run in my stockings (because we wore them back then for some reason). So my mum dashes off to the local pharmacy to fetch some new ones. She came back completely flushed and upset. We finally found out what happened. She was at the cash and started picking out some handwipe packages out of a glass jar and said to the woman behind her, “these’ll come in handy for my daughter tonight, it’s her prom.” And the woman looked at her, horrified, and said, “and you CONDONE that sort of behaviour?!?!?” Confused, my mum said, “yes, I like my daughters to be clean.” Then the cashier pointed out they were condoms. I would have PAID to see that. She probably wanted to run home and take a long hot shower after handling those little packages. Of course, they would have come in handy for my date, though – as he apparently had sex with a girl I knew that night and then ruined the rest of my night by crying under a fire escape in an alley like baby. *Experiencing disappointments in boys since 1988*

There were so many stories.  I hope I remember them all.  If your mum or dad are telling you stories, listen to them.  When they’re gone, you’ll wish you had paid more attention.  The good, the bad, the ugly – all of these stories make us who we are today.  Flawed, vulnerable, insightful… embrace who you are and where and who you came from.  We are all imperfect souls trying to find our way in the world… if we can’t forgive those who have hurt us most in our life, we must try to at least forgive ourselves for not being able to let go.  At the very least, forgive yourself.  

The day of her cremation, I attended.  And I requested that certain things be included in her coffin.  I put a stone I had collected from a Scottish stone circle (something from her home), some of her favourite coffee, a cream and custard-filled mille feuille dessert (her favourite), a gold cross her mother had given me for my first communion, some stuffing from my first teddy bear that she and my father gave me for my first Christmas, a rampant lion flag.  And as if fate had led me to save this decades before, I laid her to rest in a beautiful blue outfit she wore in the late ’60s, as well as some nice underwear I bought for this occasion.  I wrote a few notes to her and added them as well.  To the cemetery’s credit, the funeral director complied with all of my requests.

And after a few minutes leaning on her coffin, tears flowing on the pine, I said my last good-byes before her coffin was led to the crematory oven.  And I stood there, watching her leave me, into the fire.  The sound of heat is palpable.  It roars.  When the door closed, I could see the sudden brightness as the fire caught the pine and set ablaze.  And try as I might, I couldn’t NOT imagine my mum, the woman who wiped the sick off of my chin, the woman who made me lunch, the woman who gave birth to me, disintegrate into ash.

It’s taken me two years to write this.  I was never ready.  I’m still not ready to talk about my father, who died almost 25 years ago.  If you have a good relationship with your parents,  tell them you love them.  But if you don’t, don’t feel badly.  I was lucky that Alzheimer’s redeemed the pain I grew up with.  I was able to erase the decades of pain and replace them with more sympathetic memories.  But if you don’t have this unfortunate luxury, let it go and live your life as you want it to be, as it should be.  I was lucky to have closure, but it’s not necessary.  We’re okay the way we are, warts and all.  We just have to forgive ourselves.  Whether it be for not being able to let go of the past, or for hating or being angry.

Wherever she is now, I hope she is at peace….

 

 

A Peony to Remember…

While I was walking the pups this evening, we came across beautiful bushes of fluffy peonies (or, as my dog Henry knows them: “PEE-ON-MEs”).  Magenta peonies, powder-pink peonies… and gorgeously fragrant white peonies.  

They reminded me of a childhood experiment involving a peony bud – I was alone a lot, but don’t feel sad… look how normal I turned out!   I clipped a peony bud from the bushes in my parents’ backyard, popped it in a bag, and put it in the basement freezer.  The answer to my question (“will it bloom when it thaws?”) would  provide me with first-hand, non-scientific data that would later make me go “pfft” when people started talking about cryonics.  

The bud did thaw.  It did actually bloom (and very quickly) in the glass of water.  But it also rotted at warp-speed.  So I’m thinking that if those cryonically frozen bodies/heads are ever thawed, they’ll be at room temperature just long enough for maggots to start reanimating them from within.  

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RIP: This peony bud was clipped from my front yard before its time so that I could relive a childhood memory.

I’ve labelled my baggie ‘pivoine’ to give it some elegance, and dated it.  It’s now in the freezer.  I expect that, just as with my initial experiment approximately 35 years ago, I will forget about it.  So I’m going to put a reminder on my phone to reanimate my peony at the end of August and watch it rot before my very eyes – which will be very apropos how I feel about the end of summer and the prospect of another 8-9 months of shit weather to come….    

I will document this for you so that you, too, can participate in what I consider to be a good time.   I’m sure this has nothing to do with why I’m single.