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Monday, April 19, 2010

Epitaph to a People, Part I

Brother, I Don't Cry, I Weep
I have never seen so much blood. The smell of it was everywhere. That clean, sharp, metallic smell. It was on the road. It was in the back of the Tahoe. Belle was unmoving, but breathing raggedly. She didn't whimper. I floored the V8 towards the 24 hour Vet Hospital. I ruthlessly cut two people off. Majesty gave me directions as I drove. I made her repeat them probably five times. I thought I lost FMB at a stoplight when I couldn't hear her breath.

Some incredibly kind folks got on the intercom and asked for a gurney to be brought. They were dog people, you could tell. A rickety old bed was wheeled up and we put her on it, her muzzle crammed against one of the aluminum side bars. Her eyes were glazed. I saw a dad quickly cover his daughter's eyes as we passed by. The look on his face was indescribable.

The sweet little lady at the counter set out some paperwork, and asked me if I'd like to clean up first, nodding to my hands. To my surprise, I looked down and saw them, brownish black and sticky. I started to say, "Yes" but only a croak escaped. She produced a box of Kleenex and told me where the Gents' was. I was embarrassed. I'm a (mostly) grown man. I numbly got myself in there and wept. No crying for me, ladies and gentlemen -- I don't cry. But I wept. I clutched my heart with my right hand and wept like my soul was falling out. I wept doubled over till the tears and spit pooled on the gray tile floor beneath me. I wept bitterly for the first time in my entire life. I had not understood the phrase until then. I wept till I was exhausted in my body and in my mind, choking on my own sorrow.

Of course, I never expected that not a half hour after I tossed Belle outside to potty that I'd be sitting under the unnaturally fluorescent lights of an emergency vet clinic, praying to GOD that my beloved dog would not die; would not suffer. I stared blankly at the blood on my goofy camo shorts. Felt the dog collar in my pocket. I considered myself lucky that I had grabbed my Red Sox cap before I left, so I could pull it down over my bloodshot, nuclear eyes. I looked completely mental.

I put Belle out the front door, as I usually do, by hoisting her by her recalcitrant tailfeathers and expelling her. She was expectantly stalking some imaginary cat or other. I think I muttered something like "Knucklehead" and rolled my eyes.

I was getting panicky as I called and whistled for her not 5 minutes later. She had evidently found a real cat and chased it a full two blocks south, and met her end in a speeding car by a big warehouse. They didn't bother to stop. Another man, bless his soul, stood with his wife in the road and waved cars around her until I could get there. He helped me lift her into the truck. Gave me directions to the pet hospital. Wished me well. Gave me her collar and tags with my phone number on them.

The wait in the dim little room was interminable. Every quarter hour or so, I couldn't take it any more and would return to the W.C. There was a large bench against the wall, awash in short animal fur. I thought of a plaintive line from Tolkien, "I wish none of this had happened." I wished that over and over again. The receptionist made me take a few orange Tootsie Pops. They helped.

The Dude Cometh
After a few hours, the vet came solemnly into the room, and I knew all that I needed to know. He was a portly version of The Dude from The Big Lebowski. He was frank but kind: She was alive, but her back was broken; two vertebrae were crushed. All that I feared from over 7 years of knowing her came upon me in that moment. The necessary was left unsaid. He would clean her up a bit and I could come back and visit.  I phoned Melanie.

I drew a big breath and walked back with The Dude. She lay on a metal grate, wet and still covered with blood, snout in an oxygen cup. She was mostly draped with a blackish gray fleece blanket. I held her head in my hands, and she tried weakly to get up. Her tongue was unnaturally protruding from her mouth and through my left middle and third fingers. But she was still in there. I saw her there. I talked to her. I wept over her. I kissed her and told her it would be okay, that she would run in GOD's meadow tonight. I nodded my head and The Dude took my friend. I thanked him for all he had done. He was sorry I lost my pet in such a horrible accident. "Pet" didn't seem enough.  The word didn't describe the relationship.

To Mark a Friend’s Remains These Stones Arise
I asked if it were possible to take her body with me that night. It was. I lifted the too-heavy box into the truck and drove her home. She lay next to her crate that night.

I drove with Majesty and Jack up to my parents' house the next day. They were gracious enough to let me bury her there. There was only one place for her.

Sweet man that he is, my dad helped me dig, he with a sharpshooter and then a post hole digger, I with a long-handled red shovel. It was a pristine day, and a little warm.  We lowered her down with a length of rope and he asked me if I wanted to put in the first shovelful. I sprinkled a handful over her.

She rests under a little bur oak in a patch of tall red clover. It's a place any dog would love to lie in, soaking up the sun. And it's a fitting place for Tallulah Belle. Requiescat in pace, my old puppy dog.

To be concluded.

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7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just can't stand it. I'm so sorry.

Kristen said...

Oh no.... no... I am so so so sorry.... I cannot stop crying. My heart breaks for you and for Belle.

Jennifer said...

That is truly awful. And a terrible way for things to end. I am really sorry.

ryan gentry said...

No words can lend a comforting hand. Belle was one of those that would automatically bring a smile to your face to see her. I am sorry my friend that you, Mel, and Jack had to experience this. Just know that Belle joins some mighty fine canines in that big meadow up there. Boo and Benny will show her around and take good care of her.
So sorry.

Jennifer Reinsch said...

I am so sorry for the loss of Belle. I know your hearts ache.

Jennifer said...

I'm weeping with you. What a beautiful tribute to such a sweet companion. I'm so sorry for your loss.

Cindy Deister said...

I missed this before in a week of birthdays and a weekend of family vacation. I'm so very sorry. My prayers are with you both as you go through this together.