Tag Archives: dog owner

Kaidance: Epilogue

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Three days after burying Kaidance we’re driving out of town on I-90, pointed for somewhere in Montana.  The van is quieter, cleaner and smells better but neither of us can shake the feeling that we’re abandoning our pet.  Logically, we know we’re not.  We understand life and we understand death but I think it’s the mourning that confuses everyone.  Driving away feels so… permanent.  Real life.

We hit a tourist attraction called 1880s town in South Dakota and stop for lunch.  I let Clementine out of the car and walk around the property with her, unleashed.  I sigh at the simplicity of the process.  Clementine runs up and jumps on a couple of strangers who immediately bend down and begin petting her.  Clementine, always the conversation starter.  She disappears under a dead train to chase a cat while I talk to this older couple about their adventures.  In case you’re wondering, they’re in their 60s, from Wyoming, headed to Washington and then back to Texas.  They have children all along the route.  They have a small camper they’re towing with them.  They’re living in it for the next three months.  I am jealous of their lives and secretly wish to be old.  To be retired.  To have the ability and freedom to run for three months without permission or consequence.

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We order a round of bacon cheeseburgers to go and hit the road.  I turn around and see Clementine staring out the window and suspect that she suspects that something is up.  I shout her name and pat my lap and she jumps into the driver’s seat and I quietly pet her for the next five hours until we arrive in Montana.  I’m fairly certain she’s depressed.

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A week later she’s eaten nothing more than a few scraps here and there.  She won’t touch her food and I’m not even certain she’s drinking water.  I hope it just has something to do with homesickness or carsickness or vacation overload; being around so many strangers and strange houses and strange dogs.  I shout her name and she doesn’t come.  I shout again.  Nothing.  Eventually I find her sleeping under a table in the dark.

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A week later we arrive back home just before midnight after an incredibly long eleven hour day on the road.  We drove from a campsite somewhere in Idaho back to The Valley.  Normally we wouldn’t do this but it just felt like everyone needed some space; cabin fever beginning to set in.

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I open the front door and am greeted with a blast of heat that my thermometer claims peaks around 105 degrees.  My house is not what one would call “insulated properly” so in the summer it’s an oven and in the winter it’s a freezer.  With no one around to open doors, turn on fans or, at the very least, try to battle the heat with the pathetic AC window unit, my home has turned into an Easy Bake Oven / Human Incinerator.  I gasp and fall to the floor, dragging myself, clawing myself over the hardwood and tile until I reach the backdoor and rip it open.  Cross breeze.  It’s incredible how wonderful 92 degrees feels after coming down from the triple digits.

Kaidance’s bed lies abandoned on the kitchen floor, a 2 x 3 ft genuine Orthopedic mattress.  She may have died of cancer / overdose of fatal poison but her back was in perfect condition.  The children still haven’t asked about her, which surprises me.  It surprises me that, even after seeing my brother-in-law’s Rhodesian Ridgeback, they didn’t at least inquire as to the whereabouts of their own dog.  With the proof of the empty mattress I’m certain the pieces are going to click… but they don’t.  Their lack of observation shocks me.

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I pull out Clementine’s dish to feed her for the evening, a task that Rory typically helps me with.  I fill it with salmon tasting nuggets that look like Peanut Butter Crunch and set it on the ground, feeling as though the chore is only half completed.  Rory looks at me and says, “Kadie wants to eat too,” and I say, “What’s that?”  I don’t know why I answer this way.  I heard him.  I heard his statement.  It’s just that, now that it’s here, I’m trying to figure out the best thing to say.  How honest should I be with a 2 year old?

He repeats himself.  “Kadie wants to eat too,” and I squat down and say, hesitantly, “Kadie doesn’t live with us anymore.  Kadie lives with Jesus,” and then, not certain if I should say it or not, I blurt out, “Kadie died.”  Rory repeats it, “Kadie died?” and I say, “Yes,” and he sits down and plays with his trains while I keep crying.  Stupid tears!

I pull out a broom and mop bucket and clean the floor of the last tracks of mud Kaidance will ever make.  With every swipe, I erase a little of her presence from the Earth until… she’s gone.

Six days later we’re still trying to get accustomed to life without a big dog; the baby gate has come down, Clementine roams the house and sleeps with us at night.  Our house and floors are eternally cleaner but there are more leftovers around.  After dinner, Jade jumps in the shower with Quinn, who asks to be picked up.  Jade complies.  Quinn asks for the bathroom window to be opened.  She says she wants to watch Kadie.  Jade sets her down and says, “Kadie is with Jesus,” and Quinn, without missing a beat, says, “I don’t want to live with Jesus.”

Jade strolls into the living room in her dead great-uncle’s housecoat that still smells like cigars, even after 45 years.  Quinn has a towel wrapped around her head and nothing else.  The towel is so heavy, her head tilts largely forward, forced to watch her feet as she walks.  We all lie on the couch together and feel The-Baby-In-Mommy’s-Tummy.  Rory places his hand ever so gently on her stomach and says, “Baby,” and it’s so sweet until he starts pushing so violently that I have to quickly restrain him and wonder if he didn’t purposefully lull us into a false sense of security.

Quinn turns to me and says, “Daddy, Kadie dead.”  I take two breaths and then nod.  This is the empire that I have built, the hole that I have dug.  “Yes, dear.  Kadie is dead.  She’s with Jesus now.”  The following conversation plays out like so…

Quinn: I don’t want to live with Jesus.
Jade: Well, you do… but not right now.
Quinn: I don’t want to live with Jesus right now.  I don’t want to die.
Jade: You don’t have to worry about dying, honey.  Not for a very, very long time.
Rory: I can’t die!
Jade: Uh…….well, honey… You can die…
Rory: I don’t want to die!!!!
Jade: Don’t worry, you probably won’t, not for a long time.
Rory: I can die.
Me: It’s okay, Rory.  You don’t have to worry.
Rory: I can die……but I don’t want to!
Me: Neither do I.
Quinn: I want to live with Jesus!
Jade: Well, yes… but not right now.  Right now… let’s just play with Baby.  Remember the baby in–
Rory: I DON’T WANT TO DIE!!!

Then, my daughter, who I legitimately suspect of being able to see into the spirit realm says, “Kadie does not want to go.  Kadie does not want to leave home,” and Jade says, “This conversation is over.”  We ultimately distract them with Skittles and beef jerky.

It’s been nearly a week since we’ve been home and Kaidance’s dog dish is still sitting on the counter and her bed is still sitting on the floor.  I know that it all has to go but I’m finding it difficult to corner a good chunk of time to walk it all out to the garbage can.

I still suspect Clementine of being depressed, although I think she might be coming out of it.  The Effexor I’ve been crushing up and placing in her food certainly seems to help, although I wish she wouldn’t drink so much.  She has escaped our yard twice from parts unknown since we’ve returned, has rolled in mud / poop once and has taken on a propensity for farting.  I believe there may be a strong possibility that Kaidance, in her last dying breath, expelled the Black Smoke Monster that had been living inside of her for so long and passed the torch to her smaller canine companion.

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This letter is to you Clementine.  I’m watching you.  I have my eyes on you.  I know your games.  I learned the rules from The Master.  Behave… because I know a guy that knows a guy… that knows a vet.

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Talking to Strangers: Jake

I like to set daily challenges for myself; something that betters me, in my opinion, as a person.  Sometimes that means trying to be extra kind to that co-worker that I’m not a fan of.  I force myself to go into work and, although my blood curdles when I’m in his or her vicinity, I smile and ask how their day is and hold the door open and they say, “Thank you,” but I can tell that they despise me as well because we’ve had several run-ins and we’re both being totally fake but it builds good character, I guess…

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Sometimes I’ll say, “Today I’m buying dinner for the car behind me in the drive-thru”.  This is one of those good deeds that is a gamble because you’re either going to get $4.16 worth of good karma or you’re going to get $62.34 worth of good karma.  You just kind of spin that wheel and cross your fingers.  And yes, I’ll admit that when I’m feeling generous, I will often glance into my rear view mirror and try to gage just how much generosity the car behind me could eat…

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Lately, however, I’ve been trying something a little different.  It started while I was standing inside of a Jimmy John’s sub sandwich shop and was staring at this sweaty teenager that was making my sandwich.  This specific incident happened just over a week ago so my dog was still alive but I knew that I had to dig a grave for her in the morning.  While I stood in this semi-empty restaurant, I stared at this scrawny little geek and I thought about myself when I used to work at Subway in high school.  I thought about how I had to dig this grave and put my dog to sleep and how I was pretty sad and about how I used to have cancer and boy, oh, boy, aren’t I just down on my luck and I bet every single person standing here has absolutely zero problems going on in their lives and then……… I realized how completely arrogant I was being.  Disgustingly, grotesquely, self-centered.

It’s so easy to picture the entire world revolving around your life story when you live inside your own head; everyone else just an extra in your movie.

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I took another look around and tried to imagine what was really happening in their lives.  Sick parents.  Dying siblings.  Welfare.  Ulcers.  Migraines.  Depression.  Most the kids behind the counter looked like they were about ready to graduate from high school.  I wondered what they were all planning to do now that “life” was starting.

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I suddenly, desperately (and weirdly) wanted to know what everyone was experiencing.  I knew all these people were just like me and I wanted to connect with them and tell them about my cancer and my children and here’s some advice and I wanted them to tell me something about my dog and help me put things into perspective.

Everyone has a story.  Not only that, everyone has a good story.  They’ve done something, they’ve been somewhere, they’ve seen something, they’ve been involved in some way.  There is something dynamic and interesting and fascinating and incredible about everyone but these things just float right under the radar and are forgotten because nobody asks.

So I’ve started asking.

Engaging.

This is my new challenge.

If I meet someone on the street, I push against every instinct that is inside of me to push the conversation past the standard, “Hello / how are you / thank you / that will be seven-twenty-five-please-pull-ahead-have-a-good-day-sir” into the meatier stuff… and it’s this stuff, these bizarre small stories that I’d like to share here in a scattered series.  Talking to Strangers.

I don’t always have all the details and the stories aren’t always long but the bits and pieces I hear are so rich, I think they’re worth passing along.

This first one is about a man named Jake from Montana.

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Jake is early 30s, white.  Tall.  Very tall.  The type of guy that sets his water on top of a refrigerator because it’s closer to his range than the kitchen table.  He’s got a red baseball cap on, a Miller High Life t-shirt and a Foster’s beer clutched in his hand; one of those enormous cans that really contain three “American” beers itself.  It might be his second one.  It might be his third.  His eyes are the same color as his cap.

We’re at a barbecue and I’ve just met this man a few hours previous but haven’t really spoken to him.  We’re sitting across from one another in a sloppy circle consisting of five people.

A dog slowly saunters through our group and Jake says, “How much does that dog weigh?” and my brother-in-law says, “80 pounds” and Jake says, “80 pounds?  Last time I weighed Bud, he was 120.”

I ask who Bud is and he says it’s his dog.  Something called a Chesapeake.  After a quick Google search I find that it’s not dissimilar to a variety of Retrievers.

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Then Jake says, mostly reminiscent to himself, “Getting that dog over the fence was not easy,” and I say, “Why were you lifting a dog over a fence?” and he says, “Because I stole him,” and I say, “What do you mean?” and he says, “The dog didn’t belong to me and I stole him.  I crawled over a fence, picked up the dog, and stole him.  My dog is a stolen dog.  Stole,” and me, still confused by standard definitions say, “This dog belonged to somebody and you took him?” and he says, “Yes.”

And then he goes on.

Bud was living in the country, on a farm, in someone’s backyard.  They had tied him to a tree with a small piece of rope, so short that he wasn’t able to move more than three or four feet away from the tree he’d spent his life at.  The rope was so tight around his neck that all of the fur from his shoulder blades to the backs of his ears had worn away, making him look like some kind of reverse mane-less lion.

His “owners” had set a piece of plywood up at a 45 degree angle so he had shade from the sun and Bud had taken it upon himself to dig a hole into the ground as far as he could, presumably because the Earth is cooler the deeper you go.

Well, some dogs get all the luck and one Fourth of July someone shot a firework at Bud and he panicked and ran down into his hole and got his leg tangled in his short length of rope and nobody ever noticed or cared and finally the leg sort of just fell off and it truly is a wonder that it didn’t become infected.

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ABOVE: A Chesapeake Retriever missing a leg carrying a duck missing a life.

So it’s at this point in time that Jake is working at a very popular sporting goods store in Montana and he gets wind about this three-legged dog from a friend of a friend and he decides to go out and investigate the situation.  Well, low and behold, there actually is a three legged dog in the middle of nowhere stuck to a tree.  He says, “It’s being fed, I guess, and it’s being watered, I guess, and it has shelter, I guess but………..” He takes a long drink from his Foster’s and grimaces.

Jake says he goes out there just to see the dog.  It sounded mostly like he was trying to size up the situation… could it be as bad as this girl was saying?  Could this be like one of those Animal Planet rescue shows?  He tells me that he didn’t plan to take the dog and he didn’t plan to keep the dog but rarely does life care about our plans.

He hops the fence, slowly approaches the growling yellow eyes coming from this earthy hole and befriends the lonely / angry / neglected canine with a few kind words.  In my mind he lures him out with beef jerky but he never actual said that so rest assured that it is me taking creative liberty.

Jake cuts the rope with his pocket knife, takes the nameless three-legged dog back to the fence and somehow (I never asked) hoisted him up and over.  He gets back to his car and calls his wife, telling her that he’s headed straight to the vet.

I asked if the vet had questions and he says, “Yes.”  I say, “Did you tell him the dog was stolen?” and he says, “Yes” and I ask, “What did the vet say?” and he just shrugs and instead of answering the question simply says, “$45 bucks for shots.  Dog loves my kids.”

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