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June 2014
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August 2014

Carmelita 2002 - 2014. She was the goodest.

I just looked back in the archives to see how much I told you about Carmi when we got her. Surprisingly little. Actually, not that surprising, because that post is four days before my first date with Clay. I didn't have much time for blogging, what with all late night phone talking going on. How sly am I, with my "I'm in love" declaration? Heh.

Well, the background on Carmi is that my mom found her online. She was at a shelter across town, and we'd been searching for the right dog for awhile, so we headed over to see her. It was nearly closing time when we got there, but when the staff heard we wanted to see Carmelita, they hustled us off to meet her. It seems she'd been listed as a pit bull cross, and so she'd lingered there for nine months, and her time was almost up. They were really hoping she would find a home in time. A patient shelter, but not a no-kill shelter, you see.

Having been locked up so long, Carmi was a little stunned. We took her out to an open space to try to get a sense of her. She stood and stared at us, not seeming to understand what we wanted. I had to take Raphael in for a trip to the bathroom, leaving the other boys and my mom outside with Carmi. When I came back, Max had managed to make contact with her, and he was throwing a ball for her to fetch. 

We took her home (obviously), and she loved us completely and irrevocably. At first, she was awfully nervous whenever we left the house. She would sneak into the van in the chaos as I was loading the boys in. More than once I glanced in the rear view mirror, preparing to back out of the garage, to see her sitting there, trying hard to look like one of the kids. And looking guilty. She always looked sorry.

I'd haul her out of the car and into the house and she'd leap up into the front window and watch us drive away, quivering with anxiety. And looking sorry. For a few weeks, I was worried that she'd never really know that she was finally safe.

It took a long time for her to believe that she was home for good. She fell into the midst of the boys like she was created for them. Whenever they barrelled through the house, racing from point A to point B, she would leap to her feet and run after them. And even though she was clearly a herding dog, and tending to her pack of boys, she never nipped at them, but tapped them gently on the sides of their legs with her nose. 

She was love. Pure love, in a cloud of dog hair. 

But of course "safe" isn't a permanent condition, and love doesn't stop the years from stealing what they will. Carmi got more and more stiff with arthritis, and her wonky liver meant the vet couldn't prescribe her the good drugs for the pain. She became more and more confused, wandering aimlessly through the same rooms for hours, in and out the door, looking lost. Lost and sorry. She ate less and less, and her bones pressed at her skin. Sometimes she just fell down, and sometimes she couldn't get back up without help. She pooped in the house every day, and didn't even know she was doing it.

How do you decide to let a good dog go? I agonized, sought advice, and cried for days. My sister-in-law suggested we ask ourselves if Carmi could still do her five best things ever, and if she would recover and be able to again. And obviously, no. She couldn't go on walks, or fetch balls, or chase squirrels. She couldn't even sit comfortably enough to rest her chin on a friendly knee. Clay pointed out that she didn't even wag her tail anymore, so fragile was her balance. 

She was so tired.


I will never, ever again underestimate how difficult a decision it is to put your animal to sleep. I am not exaggerating when I say that I cried for days. But on Monday Carmi's vet came to the house. Raphael waited upstairs, not ready to see something so hard. Sophia went to the park with Amma. And Clay, Tre, Max, and I huddled around Carmi and said goodbye. It was a transcendentally sad moment. 

I don't question if it was the right choice, I just wish we didn't have to make it. I wish I could hear her shake her head and jangle her collar again. I miss her every day. Every dog picture I see on Facebook makes me cry.

But I think about her there, surrounded by her people. Each of us had a hand on her, and she gazed up at us, grinning (don't even try to tell me dogs don't smile, just don't). She trusted us, completely, and we did our solid best to live up to that trust. We loved her. 

And she didn't look sorry.

For what it's worth, it was worth all the while

Last weekend I drove down to New Mexico to pick up Raphael from camp. Thank God, camp is over for another year, and everyone is home now. That trip is brutal, especially when you drive there and back in one day, like I usually do. 

On this last trip, Tre came along to help me with the driving and to see his friends at camp. It was really nice having him along, even though he plays music at entirely unreasonable decibels. At one point I was silently weathering all the noise in the passenger seat when a song I actually know came on. I perked up and listened for a moment to the lyrics.

Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go

"Is this Green Day?" I asked. He nodded, mildly impressed. Psssht. Song's nearly as old as he is. Good Riddence, I think it's called. Doesn't sound to me like an unaffectionate sendoff.

So make the best of this test, and don't ask why
It's not a question, but a lesson learned in time

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right.
I hope you had the time of your life.

So take the photographs, and still frames in your mind
Hang it on a shelf of good health and good time
Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it's worth it was worth all the while

It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right. 
I hope you had the time of your life. 

Of course this is exactly where my mind is these days. Tre is not going to Turkey this year, it turns out, but he is off to Arizona in just a few weeks. Today is his 19th birthday, a number that takes my breath away. 

I keep remembering when I was pregnant with him. He unexpected blessing, and I was terrified. I remember coming home from my baby shower, sitting in my living room and staring at my new baby swing. This is really happening, I thought, this baby is really coming to live here. And it's bringing FURNITURE. 

And then I cried some more.

I'm glad I didn't know then how fast it would go. It's for the best that I didn't realize how soon I would be loading furniture into a van and driving him to his new home. If I'd realized how soon these years would be over and how much I would miss him, well. I don't think I would have ever stopped crying.

Last week the kids and I went to the zoo. We have always gone to the zoo, and I could hardly see the exhibits before me, for the layered scenes of years past. Here's the prehistoric looking turtle, floating in murky water. I believe that for each of the past 19 years at least one of my children has left a handprint on that glass, leaned in to watch it propel itself lazily past. Here's the gorilla statue that all of my children have climbed on as babies. I swear I can see all of them, shadows hanging off the bronze gorilla, like some multi-species version of a storyteller doll.

When that song came on in the car, on the way to New Mexico, it didn't take very many lines to start me crying. Tre glanced at me, then shook his head.

"Are you crying? REALLY?"

Ah, my boy. Some things change...

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...while some things never do.



So. That happened.

Between sickness (Sophia is now on her THIRD antibiotic, shoot me please) and trips to New Mexico to take the kids to camp (Max is now home and Raphi is now gone), I have never slept ever. I am made entirely of sleep deprivation. When my head hits a pillow, I get so excited I almost can't sleep.

That's not true. I sleep. 

Last night, that's exactly what I was doing. I had gotten myself to bed at a lovely hour, and fully intended to stay there until the morning had lost its sting. That third antibiotic seems to have been the charm for Sophia, and she doesn't cough that much anymore at night and almost never throws up, so I planned to actually sleep right through. It was going to be gooooood. My mouth sort of watered as I shoved my feet between the cool, lovely sheets. 

About four in the morning I heard our cat Melody thundering around the room, leaping and running and scrabbling across the floor. She has this stuffed blue monkey that she attacks in a fierce routine that Max calls Monkey Death Battle, and that's what I figured she was doing. That's fine, as long as she doesn't bring it onto the bed, and she was rampaging around on the floor. I relaxed back toward sleep. 

Then Melody jumped up on the foot of my bed. And then she started scrabbling around by my feet. She was so active that I lifted my head to glare at her. When I looked at her, she looked back at me.

When she looked back at me, she lost hold of the mouse she was fighting with.

And in a flash, a strobe light length of time, an unbelievably quick moment, that mouse scurried away from my cat, the killing machine. It ran away from her and up the length of the bed and over my shoulder. 

My own, personal shoulder. 

I clapped my hand to my shoulder in an automatic reaction, and for just a moment its soft, warm body wriggled between my palm and the very top of my shoulder. And then it scrabbled free and slipped over the top of the mattress and was gone. 

Except not gone. Under my bed.

I leapt to my feet and shrieked helpfully at Clay, "IT WAS A MOUSE IT WAS A MOUSE IT WAS A MOUSE SHE HAD A MOOOOOOOOOOUUUUUUSEEEE."

He jumped out of bed too, because that's just what you do when your beloved is gibbering in the dark at 4 AM. I told him the story (a couple of times, because of the "dead sleep"/"alert and concerned" transition time). He peered over the top of the mattress, moved the curtains around a little, then looked at me.

"Are you sure. Did you SEE the mouse?"

And friends, it is a testimony to my deep and abiding love for that man that I did not kill him where he stood. Deep love. Very deep.

After it was determined that there was no longer a mouse in our bed, we returned to sleeping. Actually, Clay returned to sleep. I lay rigid and still, listening for mouse-like sounds. When his alarm went off at 5:30, he glanced over to find me staring at him, wide-eyed. He was surpised to see that I was letting Melody sleep on my chest, but I figured that she seemed to CATCH the mice and the take them ELSEWHERE, so damn straight I was sleeping with the cat. That was the only safe place to be.

Somewhat predictably, I was so tired today that when I put the sheets in the washer (because OF COURSE I put the sheets in the washer. My washer has a "sanitize setting. DUH.), I accidentally put my pillow in too. I am a sparkling conversationalist today. And a pretty pretty princess.

And I'm sleeping under my dumb cat tonight, too.