The Puggle

We had a rough night because Bella – puggle extraordinaire – threw up all over the bed. Then I woke up a little later because she wet the bed. Our bed. When we scooped her out, we found out she couldn’t use her legs.

Long before Joe was sick, I used to get into bed and put my cold feet into the small of his back. He hated that. He’d grump at me and tell me to stop because it ruined his whole snuggle into bed routine. I informed him there would be a time in our lives where I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore and he’d be sad. He told me not to jinx our lives.

Clearly that went the wrong way.

I got Bella shortly after we moved into what I wanted to be our happy family home where I would raise the girls into successful, happy adults. Although she was Jay’s dog, she came to live with us before he did. I told people I got her used, and that’s why she had so many bad habits. One of which was sleeping in our bed. I’m about kennel training dogs.

Every night I’d scoop her into our bed, and she took up so much room. This 35-pound puggle easily took up a third of the bed. She would snuggle into my legs and really lean in. I disliked that. Many nights I couldn’t get comfortable because all of my leg space was occupied by an aging, emotionally needy puggle. Probably how Joe felt when I stuck my ice feet into his back when we got into bed.

Every time we took her to the vet, they told us to cut her food back. She was overweight. Which, she was a puggle and if you bread two dogs with obesity problems, you get a puggle. (Alex’s observation) Last fall, after she was diagnosed with kidney disease, we decided that she could eat whatever she wanted. We started giving her people food and turned her into a people food begging monster. She’d flip her food dish at us and we, naturally, filled it back up. The directive to keep her at a cup a day went out the window. She was allowed to be fat and happy.

Z named her princess-baby-cupcake. It’s what we called her, although my family teased by reissuing the name princess baby butterface. She didn’t care. Mostly because her grasp of the English language was rudimentary at best and she couldn’t understand the difference.

Although I got her used, she was truly my dog. She followed me everywhere, even when she struggled to get up the stairs, she would follow me up and down as I went back and forth between my office and the kitchen or living room. At night, I’d scoop her into our bed. Jay told me that when she was a puppy, she could make it up on her own. Those days long behind us.

This morning at the vet, the doctor told us that we could consider leaving her with them – they would do an MRI and try to treat whatever it is that’s keeping her legs from working. Jay and I declined. Like I said, her English is terrible and if we left, she wouldn’t know why. She’d feel abandoned when she needed comfort. I wouldn’t be able to explain that it was for treatment. I couldn’t leave her alone when she was most scared and in pain.

When PBC (Princess-Baby-Cupcake) first came to live with us, she was supposed to be Z’s dog. That’s was Z’s intention and certainly mine as well. I took Z to PetSmart and she declared that pink was her signature color (shout out to Steel Magnolias). Z picked out a pink and brown collar, a pink bowl that said princess, a pink food mat, and a new pink bed. We made a new tag for her collar with Z’s phone number, followed by Jay’s number, then mine.

When Z passed, I didn’t change the collar. First, I just couldn’t. It was her gift from Z and I wasn’t going to disturb the workings of the universe. Second, she was old – she wasn’t going to run away. She needed to stick by home, near me. It didn’t matter that Z’s phone number was listed, no one was going to call.

Last fall, when we went to Alabama for Thanksgiving, I got her two new beds. One for my office, one for under her perch in the kitchen. She loved her kitchen spot – it was where she could see everything. Her bed was broken in, but she wasn’t about to abandon it, so I just put the new bed under the old bed so she’d have more cushion. She liked that.

When she was younger, occasionally we’d come home from work to discover that she’d moved her bed from the kitchen to the sunlight in the family room. I always loved that, because although she was a little bit of a dummy, she knew what she liked. And she like sunning herself.

After we decided we weren’t going to further treat PBC, I snuggled her tight while the techs came into the room to place an IV. The doctor came in later. She’d mentioned Bella was the first dog the vet had ever spayed. We didn’t request this vet in particular when we made the appointment. That was just what the universe worked out for us. And, I suppose the vet too. We signed the paperwork for an individual cremation, and I held her little life in my arms while the medications were administered to put her to sleep and then to stop her heart. And even though I couldn’t explain what was going on, she did snuggle her head into the crook of my arm and lived her last in my love.

Zero Stars. Do not recommend.

I’m bad at things too

I am super good at having tragedy happen to me.  I’m very well versed in what to do and how to act and how to respond to people.

I can arrange a funeral like nobody’s business. You want to know about songs and readings?  I’ve got songs and readings.

But because I’ve become accustomed to all of this happening to me, my emotional growth and know-how is stunted when it happens to people I love.

What do I do?  What do I say?  I mean, I know what not to say, but I get so caught up in the detail that I totally forget how to behave as a grown-up adult that is witness to some else’s grief.  Sometimes the occasion calls for more than just three green-heart emojis on a Facebook page.

This is a weird and totally foreign position for me.

And then,  the further problem;  I get so engrossed in trying to figure out the right thing to say, the correct thing to do that I forget that time is passing and then I focus on that and I allow things to just get weird.

No one is good at these things – why should I be any different?  Because really, there are no expectations from anyone.  Everyone knows the other isn’t “good” at bad things.  But still, we hold ourselves accountable for action and grace and proper word choice.

Because I’ve pressured myself to be exactly right at all emotional cross-roads.  And that is just not a reasonable expectation.

But here we are.

I’ve done nothing for anyone, and I’ve sat with my own brain long enough that all the words fail.  When is it too late?   When do I cross the line into terrible friend?  HOW MUCH TIME DO I HAVE TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT?


This is the tricky part, for me.  With all of my dealings in the death business, it turns out that being gracious in life eludes me.

This is my admission for those of you that have ever looked at me and had all your words fail.  You’re in company.

Zero Stars.  Do not recommend.