I always sorta wondered what it would be like to be in a country music song. Now I know. It sorta sucks. OK, it sucks a lot.
My dog died last night. She was 12. And she was a terrible pet. She was totally neurotic and spastic. She ate a hole in the wall once. What dog eats sheet rock?! She didn’t so much lick you as attack your face with an extremely aggressive tongue. She had this flailing tail of doom that would knock things over, scare her and she would run from them as though she wasn’t the one who did that.
But she was ours. I’ve never had a pet that was so thoroughly mine. She was attached to us in a way that’s almost impossible to fully explain. I worried when Monkey Boy arrived that she wouldn’t like him because she didn’t like anyone but me and Baby Daddy. I had no idea what we would do with her if they didn’t mesh because no one would take that aging, crazy beast. No one could be expected to. But I shouldn’t have worried. She loved Monkey Boy from the start. She was gentle and careful with him. When people came to the house to meet him, we had to put her outside because she would get between the guest and the baby and growl. She knew he was one of us immediately.
We got her at shelter when we lived in Tulsa a year after we were married. There were four little black puppies in the corner of the run. One scampered out to greet us. She was friendly and when they put us in the “get to know your new pet” room, we threw a tennis ball and she brought it back and put it in. my. hand. We wanted that dog! But those shelter workers are a sneaky bunch. They don’t let you take the dog home with you. It has to go the vet to be spayed or neutered and then it can go home with you. I don’t know if they intentionally pulled bait and switch, but we did not bring home that friendly dog. We got one of the weirdo dogs. When we threw a tennis ball, she looked at us like, “Dude, you lost your ball. You should probably go get that.” And so it began.
We were kicked out of obedience school. The trainer told us that we were either the worst pet owners she’d ever met or that Murphy was completely untrainable. We knew. We were never going to train her. So she trained us. Slowly over time our life morphed into a series of Murphy workarounds. But as annoying as it could get, the truth is we really didn’t mind.
She’d had bad hips from birth. She had three surgeries when she was a puppy to correct the problem, but because the dog didn’t seem to feel pain, she never healed properly from them and her bad hips were her ultimate undoing. Baby Daddy contended for years there were whole sections of her brain that didn’t work properly or at all – the pain section being one of them. I would hold her in my lap after surgeries and feed her ice chips to try and keep her still and calm. It didn’t really work, but she died believing she was a 50 pound lap dog.
She was named Pet of the Month by our vet in Tulsa. We suspect that each month they tallied who’d spent the most money in the previous 4 weeks and threw their owner a bone. They took a Polaroid of her but she was of course flailing, so it’s a blurry photo of her not looking at the camera that hung in the vet’s office and now framed in our room.
When Murphy was 4 we got her a pet, Lucy. We decided she could handle the responsibility. Lucy is easy. You pretty much feed and water her. She wants to please us, and pretty much loves everyone. It’s so weird. We had to give her tranquilizers today while she adjusts to life without Murphy to herd around the yard.
The past couple of weeks, Murphy hasn’t been doing well. It was clear that the old broad was in a lot of pain. We tried a series of shots and pills, but none worked. When we got home from dinner last night, it was clear she’d gone as far as she could go. I’m not sure if Baby Daddy couldn’t admit it to himself or if he thought I didn’t know. Either way, he seemed afraid to say the words out loud. So I made the call. We contacted the Animal ER and took her in.
It was awful. The ride over was silent. It was such a contrast to the ride when we brought her home. That afternoon was loud and we played music and talked excitedly of the life we’d have with her. There was a bit of panicked yelling when she got carsick. I never wore that dress again. The dog yak ruined it.
It’s surreal to say OK when the vet asks if you’re ready for the final shot. We told Murphy we loved her and because she was about to die, we lied and told her she was a good dog. It was a small kindness. We both cried like little children. They let us stay in the room as long as we wanted. Baby Daddy had a really hard time leaving her. I wanted to run screaming from the building. (We handle grief differently) When we were checking out, the receptionist tried to make small talk. I wanted to scream at her to shut up and turn down the volume on her stupid TV. No one wants to listen to the laugh track on Conan when their dog is dying. But that didn’t seem neighborly. She didn’t kill my dog. Time did.
Losing Murphy isn’t tragic or unexpected. It’s just sad. I wasn’t sure how Monkey Boy would take it. I got brownies and milk to soften the blow when I told Monkey Boy what happened. (He’s too young for booze and loose women) I sat him in my lap and told him gently, but directly, what happened. I said that Murphy died. She wasn’t going to live at our house anymore. She went to dog heaven. He looked me straight in the eye and asked very seriously… for more brownies. So we ate another brownie in memory of Murphy the Wonder Mutt – the best, worst dog ever. Somewhere I’m almost sure a violin played a country tune.