Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I was never going to love a dog

I have been trying to write this for a few days, and it just hasn't happened yet.
It is not that I am in a mess of tears or too sad to type--
I just want to use the right words, and they haven't come to me yet.

So I will do my best...
and instead of a blog-- expect a short story.
Or a novel...
Here goes.

Saturday morning, our sweet puppy Toby passed away.

I am not an animal person...
and I have a list of stories that made me that way...
But the main reason, is I hate to lose anything.
Including material things...
Or misplaced things...
People I love...
Marriages I am not even a part of...
fleeting thoughts...
Change in general.

I can't stand loss.

So at some point, I made up my mind that anything that's life span is less than a decade-- can love me more than I can love it-- and will cause hurt like the loss of a family member when it leaves us, I didn't want to be a part.
Subconsciously, I assume, I decided that animals aren't for me.

There have been a few specific incidences in my life that have marked me and made this way, I believe.
These are the things that would come out in a deep therapy session, had you spent the time and money to find out why you are the way you are today...

When I was probably 5 or so, my dad's dog had puppies.
I remember holding one and talking to it, and rubbing it and looking at its little eyes and thinking it was the cutest thing ever.
I was not watching where I was going, and tripped over a piece of concrete-- landing flat on my face while holding the puppy.
It's little nose was bleeding and I remember being so sad that I hurt it.
I think that most of that litter died-- and in hindsight, most of their animals got some nasty junk with their fur and probably died from it-- but I felt a lot of responsibility of its death.
And I never told my dad or step-mom that it happened, so for years I felt like a convict from America's Most Wanted, evading the truth.
I couldn't ever love a dog, I guess I wasn't worthy.

Flash forward a few years.
Weeder mowed a few yards all summer before his 3rd grade year and saved up for a dog.
He bought a full blood German Shepard and named him Bear.
He loved that dog and I can still remember the day he died and the way my brother cried.
It wasn't a cry... it was a wail that pulled him to the floor and physically pained his soul.
I had never seen him hurt like that.
And I never wanted to see it again.
I wasn't going to love a dog.

Then my Popa passed away.  He had a dog named Rosco that he treated like human.  As a matter of fact, when he had his heart attack, Rosco is who went for help.
He grieved his death with the rest of the family and though I am sure he helped Nana grieve too, I remember thinking that he was such a reminder to her as well, and I hated that.
My friend Mandy and I stayed the night at Nana's one night and we woke to the sound of Nana crying.
But not a sniffle as if she had found a memoir of him and pulled up her memory bank of sadness,
but an out-loud cry for help.
Rosco had been hit by a car and he was her piece of Popa.
He survived, but I remember praying that he would.
I knew Nana needed him, and could not handle another loss.
I never wanted a dog or anything, for that matter, that was too much to lose.  It was scary.

Then there were a few stories that we all laugh at now of our dogs growing up.
We lived way in the country with no neighbors so our place was a key place for dog dumping.
My parents would threaten my sister not to feed them, but her little Indian soul couldn't handle it and within a few days she'd have a collar on them and named.
We always had a mess of mut pups, with ticks and pitiful names and I wouldn't as much as look their way-- nor give them an ounce of love.

However, each time they would die, I would cry hysterically because I had so much guilt that I never pet them or said more than, "move" to them as I was trying to unlock the door or pull out of the driveway and I felt so guilty for it.

One dog, TJ, even came back after I had already mourned his apparent death, and that still wasn't even enough to pull me in.
I just wasn't an animal person.
I couldn't love a dog.

Then I started dating Lance.
He had a dog named Jake, a boxer, and he went everywhere with him in his jeep.
When Lance and I got an apartment together, Jake couldn't live there with us, and his dad became his guardian.
Jake got cancer and after multiple removal of masses, they put him down.
Lance held him while he took his last breath and he was a mess for days afterward.
I didn't get it.
I had never seen Lance like that, and it was scary to me.
He cried and cried about it-- and talked about him like he was a person.
I even found a letter that he wrote him...
And knowing a dog can't read, it just weirded me out.
I didn't love dogs.  So I didn't understand.

Within days of losing Jake, I bought Macy.
She was the runt of her litter of toy yorkies and the tiniest thing you have ever seen.
Lance would make fun of me because I honestly had no idea how to play with her.
I didn't put her down and when I did, I would just corral her back and forward not letting her walk more than a few feet.
She slept with us.
She was never fully potty trained.
She had outfits and life jackets and bows and special food.
And she lived the life of a diva.
Resting always on my arm.
She introduced me to the anxiety that parenting would bring... Karleigh's momma and my neighbor Kelly can attest to that.
I finally loved a dog.

And then we got pregnant.
And things changed.

A baby took her seat on the priority list and she lost her mind.
She started peeing and pooping on everything and refusing to eat.
She would nest on top of a bath toy, licking it like it was her own and she would scratch at the walls.
She went crazy, I think.
Mentally bonkers--
the same time I was baby bluesing and sure I was going to lose my human-baby to SIDS.

Maddox got bigger and wanted to play with her.
She shook when he came near, peed a little and showed her teeth.
She was miserable in her own home and Maddox was here to stay.

I posted a Facebook status and a friend said that her mom wanted her.

I cried the day I gave her away.
To her, I was her mom-- so I felt her fear and abandonment.
But I justified the move, because she was going to a kidless home where she could be loved how she deserved.
Still, I failed her.

Shortly after her arrival to her new home, she got away from them, and after a restless search and no luck--
a man found her.
He called me and said he had 2 teenage twin daughters and they were begging to keep her.
The new owner thought she'd be a better fit there, and I thought she would be happy with them too.
Maybe I hadn't entirely failed?

He called again a few months later and said the peeing and pooping everywhere was too much and they wanted to give her back.
We were Macy-free for a few months at this point and finally mourned her loss, removed the urine smell, and partially moved forward-- so I told him that we did not want her.
We couldn't do it again.

The weight of that reality, however, was overwhelming.
I failed again.

Every so often, I still get sad about her.
She lived a crappy life and it was my fault she did.
I have no idea where or if she is alive today and that's hard to admit.
But one thing I can say,
I didn't want to love another dog.

I wouldn't.

Toby was pushed on me when a family that Lance worked with couldn't take him to their new home.
He was already 6 or 7 years old so he was an easy transition into our home.
He rarely barked.
His temperament was like Lance's, reserved and observant.
He wasn't bothered by Maddox and he welcomed Beckham with tenderness.
He was easy.

We included him in some family actives...
but not a lot.
Beckham loved him.
Maddox was indifferent.
He loved his time at the farm house roaming free.
But he didn't complain about his little yard ether.
He let the kids dress him up in costumes, sit on him, play too rough and he never seemed to mind.
Lance didn't give him the attention that I thought he should and we spent a lot of time 'discussing' that.
I kept my distance.
But constantly badgering Lance, did you feed Toby yet?  Will it rain tomorrow?  Will it be too hot?  Too cold? ...constantly wanting the best for our family dog,
but keeping my hands clean of any responsibility.

I knew he would die.
I am not a dog person.

I woke up Saturday morning and noticed a half eaten bean burrito on my desk.
Maddox had gotten out of bed last night and found Lance eating Taco Bell after his softball game and decided he was hungry again as well.

I can still remember a night when I was little that I woke up to my mom eating a homemade icecream shake.  She made me one too and I felt so special that Weeder was sleeping (Al wasn't even born yet) and I got that treat.
My heart kind of smiled that Maddox had a similar memory as I scooped up the half eaten and now stale burrito and tossed it out the back door to Toby and made my way to get me some coffee.

Maddox was right behind me and Beckham too, wanting breakfast.

I made a quick mental note that Toby was sleeping under the trampoline, as he is usually in the opposite side of the yard at that time of the morning but didn't think much further than that.

I threw 2 waffles in the toaster, added my cream and sugar to my coffee and then took a seat with the boys.

Mom had sent me home with a bottle of sugar-free syrup that she had accidentally bought and asked if the boys would eat it.

They would not.

I asked Maddox to dump his waffle to Toby and I would make him another.

He said, "well, Toby is still sleeping.  I guess he will eat it later."
And I knew.

Anytime that Toby isn't where I think he should be sitting or takes longer to hear us and or doesn't react the way I assume he would, I fear that he has died.
He's 13 years old and over the last year, I bet I have told Lance that Toby might be dead 10 times.
At least.
I feared it.

Lance gave his usual you're-a-nut-job look, and opened the back door to prove me wrong.
No movement.
He grabbed his ball and started walking to the trampoline and then I saw his face.
I knew.

And all of the times I have claimed that I was ready to have a dogless and poop-free yard, that his hair was too much, that I hated buying dog food, that I told him to get off my blanket or out of Beckham's face---
came crashing down on me.

It was too much.

Lance was already walking out the door for work at this point and had little time to react at all.
"Don't let them play in the back yard, I'll take care of this when I get off."

Lance is a dog person.

I called my step dad in a crying fit and asked him to come help.
I knew Lance would take care of it when he got home...
but I didn't want him to.

Nor did I want his lifeless body laying under our trampoline for the next 7 hours.
Nor did I want to bust a jar of pickles all over my kitchen (unrelated but another reason to cry)...
Nor did I want to talk about Mamaw dying again with my 4 year old as it was his only reference to death.
Nor did I want Toby gone.

David pacified my request and made the 40 minute trip to pick up our dog.
He asked that I take the boys somewhere as he didn't want them to see him take him.

My neighbor Cody, came and helped me move the trampoline so David's job was a little easier.
And our neighbor, Buster, gave me a pep talk and stayed and helped lift Toby into Dave's truck.
Kelly helped me determine his cause-of-death over the phone.

We went to Lance's work to kill time and I could tell he had cried.
I didn't ask.
But I have seen tears from Lance only a handful of time in our 11 years.
I know the look.
I hate the look.

I was never going to love another dog...
I was mad at myself for breaking my own rule.
And even more mad that if I were going to love him-- why didn't I do a better job of it.
Lance loves dogs.
Grieving is difficult.

An empty yard is difficult.
No one to eat the crust off the PB&J is weird.
Change is hard.

Today Lance was off work.
We are always in a rush and running later than I would like when he is home.
Speeding out of the drive-way, in true Erwin fashion, Lance threw on the brakes.
"What the ____?"  His face was mute.  "Did you see that?  Did you see the porch?"
By his reaction, I was expecting a dead body on our porch but he threw it in reverse and revealed a full grown, yellow lab, (just like Toby) sleeping curled up on our welcome mat.

We were running behind so I didn't get to take a picture but I posted it to my community's Facebook page and a lady quickly emailed me.

Apparently a family had been searching all night for their 18 year old lab and he found his way to our home.

I told the lady about Toby and she was so emotional and sure that there was a correlation.

I am not so sure...
But then again I was never going to love another dog.

So what do I know?

Rest in peace little Toby Dog.
You will certainly be missed.


  1. So sorry for your family's loss * leslee

  2. :( This posts makes me want to let McCoy sleep in our bed. It's tough loving a dog, I know. I hope everyone is doing better now! I fear McCoy's last day like crazy--- I have to block it out of my mind. Because he IS a part of our family!

  3. Oh Holly this post made me cry. We had to put our dog down a few years back and it was so hard. I too did not want a dog and really did not have much to do with her for a long time but when she got sick I thought of all the times I had gotten upset with her. They really do become part of our family.
    Love all the sweet pictures.

  4. So sorry for your family's loss Holly. I feel very similiar to you that I have never wanted a dog...I'm just not an animal person. But, boy they sure can grow on you quickly...even when you try not to let them. It looks like Toby had a great life with you guys...love that you have so many pictures of him. Maybe you could make the boys a memory book of pictures so they will always remember him. Hugs.

  5. I love what you wrote at the beginning, and I'm so much the same way about loss...of any kind.
    HUGS to all of you. I know it's hard to see your husband so sad. SO very sorry about your sweet Toby. I wish I could say more to help. xo