Gus's Last Day
Everywhere I went today and yesterday, people told me I didn't look right, they asked me what was wrong, they said I looked tired, or sad. After the fifth or sixth time that this happened, I started to worry? Was I sick? Was my heart giving out? Was my pneumonia back.
Maria pleaded with me to rest, she said I needed to take it easy. Why, I wondered, were people seeing things in me I did not see in myself? Isn't that
Yesterday, my friend Ali, who sees me often and talks to me almost daily, she I didn't look right."You're not yourself, man," he said. So who was I?
This morning, a message from Esther, a respected reader of the blog. "I don't think you realized how much little Gus took out of you," she wrote. "It's amazing what happens to a person once that stress is relieved and you start to feel the void. ..I wish for you quiet time to recover physically and mentally. Gus was an awesome little fellow and he always made me smile to see his photos. The last few he didn't look as happy as a month ago, he looked almost like he was troubled…."
Hmmm, it has often been the case that readers of my book or the blog know me better than I know myself I remember after I got divorced and went on a book tour, in almost every city someone came up to me and said "what took you so long? You were so obviously alone."
I have always survived trouble and danger by sucking it up and hiding what I was feeling.
In my life, I had to play dead all the time. I had to hide every feeling I ever had.
When face-to-face with real people, I do a turtle, I just take myself out of reach.
I know it's not the healthiest way to deal with emotions, but it is how I survived, and survive still, and probably, always.
Maria is quite the opposite, her emotions are right on the surface, they survived her ordeals, she protected them until she could be herself. She releases them and feels them easily and openly.
In my world, there was nothing more dangerous than showing emotions, it attracted all the wrong people for all he wrong reasons. Much safer to tuck it inside and hide it until it was safe. Maria didn't hide hers, she built a wall around them until they could one day emerge.
I will never understand how people knew what I am feeling, but how foolish of me, if I am writing well and truthfully, it will be obvious. Isn't that the job of a good writer. I see that I am truly and visibly sad and drained. The truth is more in the middle for me, somewhere in between closing up and opening, , but I still have things to learn about myself.
I will not be mourning Gus for months and years. But a few weeks or months are all fine, yes?
Gus's illness was traumatic and exhausting, and we did not get the happy ending, it was not a Disney story. People did love Gus, I only got three or four pieces of hate mail out of thousands of messages.
What we have enjoyed we can never lose, wrote Helen Keller, all that we love deeply, becomes a part of us.
We tried to give Gus a perfect day on his last day. We took his muzzle off and let him eat all the disgusting things he wanted. We knew he would throw up all day and he did. We let him say goodbye to his many local people friends and admirers, everybody loved Gus. We gave him as many treats as he wanted, and free rain of the grass and pasture.
We hugged him and played with him and talked to him. I didn't see what Esther saw in Gus's photos until a week or so ago. He had lost his puppy look, his bright eyes. He was looking tired, just like me, he was, looking thin and gaunt. He had aged far beyond his 10 months.
Although he was still full of life, he did look discouraged towards the end, he was losing his spirit.
Looking at him last weekend, I could feel the cold hand of death creeping up on him. It was no longer if, but when,. It was over, really, a question of how much suffering to inflict up on him. He did not deserve to suffer, my job to keep that from happening.
We brought him up to bed that last night, and he got sick a few time- we came him treats, something that was forbidden. We cleaned a lot of sheets. Finally, he went to sleep, but he was much more restless than usual. He had bad dreams. When he woke up, he looked like people are telling me I look right now. I didn't ask him if he was okay, or what was wrong. I knew, of course. In the morning, he slept for hours in my study, on Lenore's sofa, just a few feet from me.
The Gus we know was fading, right before my eyes, sometimes when you're too close, it's hard to see. I try not to show fear or sadness around the dogs, because they can sense emotions so easily, and he didn't need mine.
In the afternoon, he brought me one of his stuffed animals and tried to tease me into throwing it. He succeeded, as usual, but his heart wasn't in it. He let go too easily and gave up, which he never did, walked over to his bed in front of the tire and lay down. The reign of the Little King i over, I thought.
We were so lucky to have a vet like Dr. Suzanne Fariello and her quite wonderful crew – Cassandra, Nicole, and Lisa. They only seem to employ empathetic and loving and competent people there. I would everyone could have a vet like this, and a staff like this, and I wish every dog could leave the world as peacefully and lovingly as Gus did.
I couldn't cure his disease, but I could speak for him at the end, and permit him to leave the world in dignity an without suffering; That is what I could do.
It would have been so much harder without Dr. Fariello and her crew.
I think of Gus a lot still, i know he is in a freezer somewhere, waiting: here in the country we can't bury loved ones in the winter, the ground will take a few weeks to thaw, and Gus will come home where he belongs.
Thanks to other people, I think I know now that it is true that I am spent also, and obviously look like hell. Perhaps I am not dying myself.
Thanks Esther, I appreciate hearing the truth even when I don't like it. I don't want people to look at me any more and ask me if I'm all right. I intend to look in the mirror and grasp just where I am and heal in the ways I have learned to do.
I realize that I never quite let go of Gus, I just rushed past it, and death is not like that. Grief makes up its own mind about when to leave, and I better respect it, or it will chase me down the road and bit me in the ass.