No. 19 in “Nuggets I picked up from my dog,” inspired by walks with my late dog, Coffee.
As he was leaving, the guy who came to fix my computer looked down at the beast stretched out on the floor. He lay snoring on his doggie cushion with his favorite blue blankie, topped with what used to be the sheet to my bed. There was a time when the hound would have bounded up suspiciously at the presence of a visitor and gone straight to a TSA sniff of his junk yard. But he snoozed on, not moving a muscle.
The computer guy looked at him and said “I had a cat.”
I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to encourage him to go into any detail. I can’t imagine hearing a single iota of information about a cat, any cat, that wouldn’t cause my eyes to glaze over. Or my nose to start running. But, like most cat people, the computer guy didn’t need any encouragement.
“Yeah, my cat was 15.” He shook his head slowly. “I came downstairs one morning and he was stretched out on the floor. Dead.”
A bloodshot eye popped open on the hound.
“He doesn’t like to hear the word dead,” I told the computer guy.
“He was 15,” he said. “My cat.”
“My dog is 15,” I whispered.
“Actually,” said the computer guy, “my cat was fifteen and a half.”
I paused, wondering: Should I raise him to 16? Or stand pat? Since my name is Pat and I was already standing…
“He was a strange cat.”
“No kidding,” I said without a shred of irony. I could sense him building up to telling me the entire life story of his former cat. It was moments like these when I wished the telephone would ring.
“What was that,” I said.
“What was what?”
“That noise outside. Didn’t you hear it? It sounded like gunfire. Lemme check it out.”
That got the two of us out onto the front porch and in no time we were waving good-bye. I was left wondering why so many people, when they see that I have an old dog, feel they have to tell me the story of their own pet’s sad demise.
They don’t do that with people. They don’t start telling you how they found their 80-year-old granddad belly up on the floor the other day. Or that they finally had to put their granny down because she’d started calling the fichus tree Uncle Buck.
The lady who delivers packages stopped by not long ago when the beast was sitting out in the yard, snouting the passing world. She knelt down and gave him a nice head rub and then told me he looked so old. She proceeded to tell me she had just lost her dog. Well not just, about a year ago. And she still hadn’t gotten over it. She gave Coffee a sympathetic look. “He’s not far away from that,” she said. “He’s really old. But he’ll let you know.”
“Let me know what?”
“When it’s time,” she said.
“And it isn’t easy,” she said, leaving me with my package and, I felt, some extra baggage.
Ever since, whenever Coffee groans or moans or has trouble moving, which is often these days, I wonder if he’s trying to tell me something. He is getting old and gray and slow and needful of all kinds of prescriptions for this pain and that delicate condition. He’s suddenly barking all the time when before he hardly said a word. Sometimes he forgets he’s house trained. I took him to the vet and explained it all.
The doctor shook her head. “He’s suffering from dementia.”
“Dogs get that?”
“Just like people,” she said. “Now, there will come a time when you’ll have to let me know…”
“Let you know what?”
“Well,” she said. “When it’s time.”
Coffee and I drove home. Actually I drove and he sat in the backseat. He was happy, I could tell, to be going home and not staying for the late show. I was just slightly confused by this riddle of time, and exactly how everything worked from here on in. The dog lets me know? And then I let the vet know? It didn’t make sense. What dog in his right mind would let me know?
Then I looked at him in the rear view mirror and remembered. He wasn’t in his right mind.
Then I thought “Well who is?”
We got home and I gave him a biscuit and put it out of my mind. My right mind. My left mind. The whole damn mind I was going to have to make up. Someday. When it’s time.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved.