Monday, October 24, 2005

A Hair Away from a Breakdown

After the end of a relationship or the death of a loved one, there’s almost always that moment where you uncover one oftheir belongings. A t-shirt found in the bottom of the laundry hamper. A book wedged into the back of the bookcase. An old bottle opener left in the junk drawer.

The reaction to finding such an item is visceral. You remember the person wearing the shirt or you recall giving him the book as a gift. Depending on the relationship, your memory might be happy or sad, silly or angry. Finding the item is a surprise that churns up the memories and emotions, whether you want them or not.

In Chicago, we had a house full of pets. When it was time to move to Dublin, we had to find new homes for 2 cats and 2 dogs. Due to quarantine laws and the uncertainty of our living situation, taking them with us was just not an option. These animals were my child-substitutes and giving them up was like giving away a chunk of my heart.

The cats, Paddy and Jeeves, were difficult to place because no one wants adult cats, no matter how cute and loving they are. Everyone wants kittens. Paddy is a fussy calico who wants love and affection, but only on her own terms and schedule. Jeeves is a long-haired black and white tuxedo cat who is a veritable dishrag of love.

After a lengthy and fruitless search for new homes for our favourite felines, we had to take them to an animal shelter. It was a horrible, awful experience for all of us. But I’d volunteered at this shelter for 5 years and had a contact whom I could trust to ease the cats through the adoption process.

Finding a home for our younger dog was a lot easier. Caper, a three-year old blue heeler mix, is an attractive, loving and playful companion. We had no doubt that he would get snapped right up. A friend of Peter’s sister Ciara fell in love with Caper’s picture and description and arranged to fly him out to California. (I’ve never even been to California but now our former dog is living the good life outside of San Francisco.) Caper is truly a highly loved and pampered lucky dog.

If I thought finding homes for two adult cats would be difficult, I knew that finding a home for an eight-year old, nearly 100-lb. Great Dane-lab mix with hip and knee problems would be nearly impossible. Kodiak was my first dog and he and I were pretty much attached at the hip. We adopted him when we moved into a house. We’d been searching the shelters for weeks, looking for a laid-back, large, older dog, when I saw an ad for him in the newspaper. He was the perfect dog for us. He spent his days following me from room to room and he lived for Peter’s trips out of town, when he would get to sleep next to me in the guest bed.

I contacted Great Dane rescue groups, posted a pitiful plea on a Yahoo mailing list for injured dogs, and asked around at the barn where I volunteered, but all the softies out there were full-up on their quota of animals. We thought we’d found a home for him, but it fell through. We were running out of options. Peter was gently preparing me for Kodiak’s demise when my mother jumped in and saved the day. She broke out the doe eyes and asked my dad to adopt the mutt.

So now, here I am in Ireland, pet-free for the first time in eight years. As far as I can tell, there are only two benefits to being pet-free: 1.) not having to empty litter boxes, pick up poop or clean up vomit and 2.) our clothes are no longer full of animal hair.

Every once in a while, particularly when I take out clothes that I haven’t worn since our move, I find a cat whisker or a dog hair. Finding one of these cast-offs is like finding my grandmother’s favourite sweater. It brings back all of the memories and a deep ache of loss and longing. A normal person might grab the lint brush, maybe even feel a stab of annoyance. I have to fight back the tears as I remember the happy times we had with our dogs and cats.


At 25 October 2005 at 00:57, Blogger Career Guy said...

Not to rub it in, but your dog has been doing that head thing all evening. I played with him a little, but he keeps coming back for more, nuzzling under my arm as I type.

At 25 October 2005 at 17:56, Blogger Shane said...

Dad sometimes comes by our place and rings our door bell while on walkies with Kodiak. Max sees Kodiak at the door first. So he is convinced that Kodiak rings the bell himself. Which endlessly entertains him. Kodiak seems to tolerate Max's hugs and Max doesn't mind kisses from the dog's giant doggy face. So he is getting love and attention.

And of course you'll get to see him since you're coming for Christmas! ya!

At 25 October 2005 at 21:11, Blogger Arbusto said...

Man...what is with everyone posting stuff about pets recently? I can't have pets at my apartment and am very jealous of everybody.


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