July 02, 2003

To Write the Last Chapter

Writing the Last Chapter

Setting: Pathetic fallacy setting a pathetic stage, like today, when the northern band of tropical storm Bill spills somber, sodden low clouds and sheets of rain across pale monochrome fields of blue-green, and ghosts of fence posts and wet cattle disappear just beyond the nearest few.

Characters: You will write about only two. A man, and a dog. The man and dog are driving to town silent and joyless, along the same roads that just yesterday had made the man smile, smile because each bend offered familiarity and comfort and beauty. Today, he neither speaks, nor thinks, nor feels, but merely reacts to each curve and gust of wind and passing vehicle with it's faceless driver. He struggles between the need to keep his psychic shields up against what it is that he must do, and forcing himself to be there, to the end, for his closest companion of years.

The dog, listless, is energized by this unexpected trip. He knows he is going to 'puppy camp' since he only travels in the car when he's going to that place of exotic smells and pheromonic messages of canine familiarity and comfort and a kind of fellow-feeling he does not get from being with his humans, for all his love of them. For him, this is a good day, notwithstanding the terrible pain that is eased now only because of something his humans have been feeding him in a little fingerful of butter a few times daily for the past week. He doesn't understand all this, but it must be part of the Great Plan that he cannot fully know, only being four years old.

They arrive at their destination, and the dog tumbles awkwardly out of the back of the hatchback. He looks empty and frail, like an old man who has got off at the wrong bus stop and is unsettled, confused; and for some reason he is wearing the rumpled suit of a much larger and stronger man, seeming hollow, diminished, moving away as if in time he might simply disappear. But he is happy to be here now, in the rain, and busily scurries all about the vet office, reacquainting himself with the invisible presence of others of his kind, and he goes through the gate with the nice lady and disappears, forever.

Critical point: The man of steel feels nothing as he drives through the tropical storm mechanically. And yet, somehow it is easier now, having done this thing that begged to be ignored in the counterfeit hope that one day, miraculously, he would wake up, and this terrible thing would not be so, not be required of him. But now it is done, the decision has been made, right or wrong, and he is relieved, the lump subsides in his chest. He listens to the radio for solace, and sings loudly, as in a graveyard, with some old MoTown tunes that he never especially liked, but grasps at them now because they can be sung loud enough to drown out other voices. And this is helping to maintain the psychic numbness.

The next song begins its opening bars, and he is pleased to hear a familiar Harry Nillson tune that he can't quite name. And then the lyrics start. And then like a storm surge, the fog and rain are riven by anguished thunder inside that moving box on wet wheels; and his pretension ends, his stoney mask crumbles. He walks through the mist into an empty house and understands that loneliness is when there is no wagging tail waiting for a solitary aging man by himself on a day of driving gray rain.

Without You Harry Nilsson

No, I can't forget this evening
Or your face as you were leaving
But I guess that's just the way the story goes
You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows
Yes, it shows

No, I can't forget tomorrow
When I think of all my sorrows
When I had you there but then I let you go
And now it's only fair that I should let you know
What you should know

I can't live if living is without you
I can't live, I can't give any more
Can't live if living is without you
I can't give, I can't give any more

Posted by fred1st at July 2, 2003 11:14 AM | TrackBack

I'm so sorry.

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at July 2, 2003 01:49 PM

I cant imagine what it is that you are dealing with right now. My dog is only three years old and I cant stand the thought of losing him in 10 years.

My thoughts and prayers...

Posted by: Matt Caruso at July 2, 2003 01:58 PM

Another man appears, who once had the pleasure of meeting the dog, and who recalls his good nature, his curiosity, his apparent companionability, and who grieves with the man, respectfully and deeply.

Posted by: Kurt at July 2, 2003 01:59 PM

I'm so sorry. I still haven't gotten quite over the death of my first dog--but the memories are sweet...

Posted by: Emma at July 2, 2003 02:42 PM

Fred, I feel just horrible for you. I don't think I'll ever gripe about another stray dog hair or muddy paw print again.

Roxie and I will play fetch just a little bit longer than normal this afternoon, and we will think about Buster the whole time.

Posted by: ronbailey at July 2, 2003 03:28 PM


Posted by: peggy at July 2, 2003 03:29 PM

Fred, I'm sorry it had to be like that. It won't feel like it now, but it does get easier. Buster is still there - you have your memories and nothing can take those away.
Our thoughts are with you

Posted by: Woody at July 2, 2003 07:07 PM

I've never been brave enough to post a comment before, but the courage you've shown in sharing your ordeal with us deserves my respect and heartfelt condolences. It's a low-down feeling you're riding through, I know.

Thank you, Fred. And thank you, Buster.

Posted by: Andrew Hartlen at July 2, 2003 07:57 PM

I've never been completely convinced that a better place waits for mere humans - but I'm certain that there's one for dogs.

Posted by: CGHill at July 2, 2003 09:35 PM

"All Dogs Go to Heaven"

Posted by: Cop Car at July 2, 2003 10:18 PM

Thinking of you and Buster - with much love.

Posted by: Da Goddess at July 2, 2003 10:38 PM

Words can't express the sorrow that I feel for you.

Posted by: bogie at July 3, 2003 03:05 AM

Impossibly sad. No words are up to it. Thinking of you.

Posted by: boynton at July 3, 2003 05:55 AM

so sorry fred. i'll soon be joining you in this though as my pal neil is 13 and not nearly the pup he used to be. deaf, almost blind and arthritic. each morning i look carefully to see if he's still with us and he is. i miss him sharing my pillow with me as he can't get into the bed anymore. i know it's not long for him.

stay brave amigo.

Posted by: bud at July 3, 2003 09:43 AM

Oh Fred! I'm behind in my reading and just found out about Buster. I am so sorry! God bless.


Posted by: Rana at July 3, 2003 11:45 AM

My condolences, old friend. This is very sad news.

Posted by: Curt at July 3, 2003 03:50 PM

There are no words. I am so sorry for your loss.

Posted by: lisa at July 3, 2003 08:23 PM

Just catching up with some of my favorite blogs and read your latest post about Buster. I am so very sorry.

Posted by: loco at July 3, 2003 09:47 PM

I am so sorry, Fred. It is always so sad when a family memeber dies. I never met your dog, but I sit here and cry because it shows in your post how much you loved him. A lot of animals in this world don't get that. You gave Buster the best life he could have had, and I am sure he was grateful.

Posted by: Eva at July 5, 2003 11:46 AM

Oh Fred, I'm just now catching up here, and so so sorry to hear about Buster. Each time the heartache I've endured over the loss of a pet reminds me of how attached I become and I vow never again. But I do. For the love. All for the love. And so do you. My sincere condolences..

Posted by: deb at July 5, 2003 01:09 PM

I found you via a comment at Leslie Harpold's site. I didn't want to click on the link you provided, because it referred to this sad sad time, but I did anyway. I don't know if I'm "glad" I did, because now I'm in tears for both of you. I do know, though, that this entry is beautifully written and I think you sound like an amazing person, just from this entry alone.

My heart goes out to you. I am so sorry for your loss and the loss of your wonderful dog's life.

Posted by: Jodi at July 5, 2003 04:15 PM

Fred, my dog, Pal, was struck and killed on July 3 by someone speeding down the highway behind my house. I don't know how Pal got out of our gate, but that's not important now. I'd had Pal for 7 months to the day when he died, and yet he was such an important part of my life. Yes, he was frustrating as all get out sometimes, but he was also a wonderful companion and source of joy. He lived up to his name. I loved him, and as I knelt on the highway ignoring the traffic that had to drive around us while I cradled his shattered head in my hands, I told him how much I loved him. I know he wasn't there anymore, not really. I was glad for that, because it was obvious by merely looking at him that the pain would've been unbearable. But when his ear flickered for the last time and that grin crossed his face as he breathed his last, I knew how deeply Pal loved me, too.

My heart goes out to you right now. I'm glad Buster passed peacefully, and that he had a long life with you. I'm glad he loved you, and that you loved him.

Let's hope that Buster and Pal are happily playing together in the Happy Hunting grounds where they'll be eternally young.

Posted by: Venomous Kate at July 5, 2003 10:55 PM

I finally cried today. Not of the refreshing, wet, stormy sort, but at least enough to feel as thought the thought is settling in. Buster is a sweet part of our lives. A high point.
Well, I think I'll avoid trying to come up with things deep and poetic, my own mock-salve for everything. This is hard. Love you. In my thoughts and prayers.

Posted by: nate at July 6, 2003 01:53 PM

I'm so very sorry to hear about your loss, Fred. My heart goes out to you - how it must hurt to have lost such a faithful and loving companion. I know you will miss him terribly, and we shall miss your tales of him, but I know he'll be there on the other side to give you a tail-wagging greeting.

God bless...

Posted by: Wylie at July 11, 2003 11:22 AM

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