I’m sitting here looking at the preview for my About Me page, trying to think of how I intended to start this first post, and I’ve caught myself staring at my little blurb at the top of the page a few times now.
“Humour is my coping mechanism for all of life’s trials.”
Usually, I’d say that’s true. And I’ll say right now, I wish with all my heart that my first post on a blog that people have actually claimed they’ll read could be a happier one. I truly, sincerely didn’t intend to bum you folks out with my very first post. Unfortunately, I don’t have much in the way of humour right now.
This has been a very busy week for me. It was the last week in the first semester of my third (and final!) year of college, and baby, I can’t tell you how psyched I was. I submitted my final behaviour program to my supervisor on Sunday night. My meeting with her to discuss my grade was on Thursday, and not only did I beat the benchmark grade we have to achieve on our programs, I ended up with a final placement grade of 81%. I was pretty damn pleased.
Skim through Friday, and around this time last night, I was sitting on the couch with a drink in my hand, feeling a little buzzed, anticipating my boyfriend’s arrival from Guelph and getting ready to jump him when he got here. I was thinking about finally getting a chance to meet one of my fellow NaNoers the next day, and I was happy and bubbly and feeling like I could handle whatever crap the world threw at me.
All of that shattered at around 9:30pm when I got a text message from my mother. Funny, really, how in less than 160 characters your world can suddenly shift so completely that you know without a doubt it’ll never be the same again.
Hey, sending this out to all of you 😦 got some bad news… Mustang was hit by a car, doesn’t look like she’ll survive 😥
Such a simple little message. To most, it’s probably completely meaningless. But it knocked me down with one sweep of the giant hand of fate, turned me into a child once again and made me sob my eyes out.
Mustang was my family’s dog. We got her when I was twelve, a gangly pup with huge flippers for paws, floppy ears, a couple of brain cells to rub together and a huge, giving heart.
Our family fell in love with her instantly. She was a goof of a dog, as like to trip over herself as to run to you when you called. Over the years, she became a part of our family. So when she was hit by a car last night, it wasn’t just a family pet who died. It was a family member.
This dog grew up with me. As I headed into my teen years and started growing and experiencing the painful awkwardness of hormones, so did she. As I tried to figure out how my limbs worked, so did she. And when my grandmother died on a rainy day in 2004, I put the dog on the leash, I walked down the road, and I screamed and cried and raged at the world for letting cancer take my Nana.
Through it all, she was right there with me. Sure, I didn’t like her as much when I heard the thunder of her saucer-sized paws (which she more or less grew into) clambering up the stairs so that she could hurtle onto my bed to wake me at my mom’s request. But I always loved her.
As soon as I read that message, everything stopped. I stopped being happy, I lost the buzz I’d gotten from my itty bitty amount of alcohol consumption, and I let out a pathetic little keening sound that I didn’t even recognize as coming from my own throat. I hunched into a ball on my couch and sobbed. Great, heaving sobs that hack against a dry throat even as the tears keep pouring down your face. Through tears I forced my trembling fingers to work, to text my mother back, to ask what had happened and what was happening. And while waiting, the awfulness of waiting, I sent messages to my friends, those who had known this dog almost as well as I had and knew she was nothing but loving.
I hated that I was stuck here in the city I go to school in. I’m no vet, but I wanted so desperately to be home, to see my puppy, to hold her, to tell her everything would be all right.
It wasn’t. After a miserable hour of crying until my head was pounding and my throat was raw, until my eyes were puffy and I thought I had no tears left to give, an hour of posting Facebook statuses asking to please, please, please let Mustang live, because she’s a part of our family and we need her, I heard from my mother. She’d put my youngest sibling to bed and had joined my stepdad outside with Mustang.
And they’d stayed with her, had kept her warm with a sleeping bag, until she died. Peacefully, according to my mom. They’d called the vet, but she was out of the area, and from what my mom’s said, it seems that it was clear the vet’s only use would have been to keep Mustang from suffering.
So just like that, she’s gone. Never again will I pull into my mother’s laneway to hear Mustang’s deceptively fierce barking, to see her come tearing across the yard to meet the vehicle. Never again will I see the joy of recognition on the doggy face, see the barking turn instead to a lolling tongue and wagging tail, with the happy gleam in the caramel eyes.
Last night was awful. I sobbed until I thought I had no more tears left, making such inhuman noises that my dog wouldn’t stay in the same room with me. By the time my boyfriend got here, I’d curled up on my bed in my candlelit bedroom and was playing Simple Plan’s “Gone Too Soon” on repeat. Even though I’d thought I’d run out of tears, that song brought on more. I’d put it on at my roommate’s suggestion. She wanted me to get the tears out, even though she said she knew I’d be against the idea. I didn’t want to cry anymore. My head hurt and my throat ached and I felt hollowed out. So I put the song on and curled up on my bed, sniffling but not crying–until I heard the beginning of the chorus:
In the blink of an eye / I never got to say goodbye
Off I went again, choking on the fresh tears. When I looked up, my dog was curled on the floor at the foot of my bed. Guarding me in her own Sage way, as my roommate said in a text. (She isn’t here at the moment. She was in Ottawa for her placement, since she’s from there originally.)
By the time the boyfriend got here, I’d settled down slightly. Through the glory of BlackBerry Messenger I could see that the boyfriend had read my last message to him–“Food!”, sent before I knew what had happened. I put the dog on her leash and went downstairs. It was snowing, finally. I’ve been haranguing Mother Nature and demanding snow for weeks. It’s December. C’mon. It was oddly bittersweet that it should decide to fall now.
I walked around the side of the building, snow beginning to dust my coat and hair, as he pulled in. I was in pajamas, my hair falling in a mess around my puffy face. He looked at me as he got out of the truck, walked towards me and put his arms around me and said “You okay?”
I shook my head, managed to get a “No” out past the tears that were building again, managed, just barely, to choke out what had happened even though, unbeknownst to me, a mutual friend had already warned him, and he’d stopped and bought flowers. In the next moment I’d buried my face in his chest and was sobbing all over again. He was all I’d been able to think of in the past two hours. I’d wanted him there, with me, making me feel better. My roommate sent a text when I said he was there telling him to take care of me for her, and I’d handed him my phone so that he could reply. This morning I checked my phone to see what that reply had been.
Two words: “Will do.”
And he did. He let me cry it out and he held me and waited until I’d settled enough to curl up beside him and tell stories about Mustang. The puppy she’d been, all awkward limbs and loping run. The way she’d played in the snow, burying her face in it and then snorting loudly. The way she’d grown into our family as she aged until she was as much a part of it as the younger siblings who had come along after she had.
As a result, today was an interesting day. I got to meet Chomsky, a fellow NaNoer I’ve long spoken to on Twitter. It was a day of highs and lows, ups and downs, rights and lefts and a few I-don’t-even-know-which-way-that-was thrown in. I was excited to meet Chomsky; I was still upset over the loss of my dog. I’d been warned that over the next few days everything will make me cry, but I haven’t cried so far today and it’s ten o’clock in the evening. I don’t know if that’ll last; it’s been a bizarre day. I laugh, and then I remember I lost a family member, and suddenly I feel terrible for laughing. I can only close my eyes in pain when I think of Mustang hurt on the side of the road.
I didn’t mean to start a blog while I was grieving, but it seems that’s how it worked out. Murphy’s Law; I should know. Whatever can go wrong, will.
I can only hope Fred, our childhood beagle, is up there showing her the ropes in doggy heaven. And when it’s Sage’s time, I know she’ll have two angels watching out for her.
But I still can’t help but feel that when I pull into my mom’s laneway, I’m going to cry. I just can’t help it. She’s been with us at that house from day one. It’s not home without her.
You had a good life, Mustang. Have fun chasing all the critters up there. This fractured, scarred family is going to miss you. I don’t think you knew how good you were to us. Home won’t be the same.