Good Night, Good Dog

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Callisto, the wonderful dog we adopted seven years ago, passed away peacefully after a short battle with disease. She leaves a dog-shaped hole in our hearts as she was very much our daughter. My wife and I wished she could have stuck around to meet the baby, but the universe has a funny way of balancing equations. One life leaves us just as another is arriving.

Good night, good dog. You were the best friend a man could have on any adventure. I miss you dearly, but I’m happy you’re not suffering anymore and you’re in that place where dogs go to chase bunnies eternally.

Vaya con Dios.

Goodnight, Kitten

I didn’t have a lot of pets growing up. What pets I had were a combination of dogs we inherited or just randomly adopted (or they adopted us), and a cat or two that liked to be around us. Mom had some parakeets once, but then she lost it when they died. There is also the story of me adopting a baby chick that grew up to be a rooster.

When I started dating my wife ten years ago, we mutually adopted a little cat. My wife already had a 14 year-old Maine Coon with an attitude. The Little Cat was our little girl, a sign that our relationship was going somewhere. When we brought the Little Cat home, the Big Cat almost packed up and left. Seriously, he was pissed. But they grew to respect each other and live in harmony.

Big Cat passed away about six years ago, and Little Cat became the alpha cat of the house. She then got a little brother that ended up dying in an accident. After him, she got two sisters. Along with the dog and the Guinea Pigs in my office, they all got to give the house a lot of life. They gave us a lot of love, too. And we got a good bit of laughs from all their shenanigans.

Unfortunately, the Little Cat developed cancer on her neck. After a few months of trying different things, the tumors got so big that they got in the way of her eating, drinking, and breathing. The humane thing to do was to euthanize her. So we took her to the veterinarian last week and said goodbye to her. It was very, very hard to do. We miss her dearly.

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How could you not love her?

I’ve always been amazed that we humans come to be so close to these furry animals. They truly do become our family. The Little Cat was truly our little girl, a symbol that our dating did progress to our current marriage (six years and counting)… That we are both committed to this home, to ourselves, and to these kittens.

Goodnight, kitten. I hope you’re enjoying a big batch of catnip with the Big Cat and the Boy Cat… And all other cats who’ve moved on.

Playing fetch with a big, dumb, lovable dog

I went out to the lake near the house to get the dog tired. She’s been very active inside the house, probably because the weather has been so nice. She probably wants to chase all the rabbits that run around the yard, too. So we went to the lake and I threw the ball for her a few times. There is a particular place by the lake with a steep incline, so the ball travels farther and she has to work harder to run back to me. Well, after a few back-and-forths, she decided that she had enough. She took that ball and ran into the lake to drink some water and cool off.

I love this big, dumb, lovable dog. She has been with us for five years, bringing us 99% good times and the occasional headache when she decides to eat something she shouldn’t, clean a cat, or lose her bowel control in the living room.

Here’s a video of the whole “I’m going into the lake whether you like it or not” incident. I hope you enjoy it.

I don’t want to be that parent

My wife and I got back from a very long run (mixed in with walking). We’re running a very long race in a couple of weeks, and we want to be prepared for it. As we hobbled around the house, legs wobbly from ten miles of jogging, we noticed a strange smell emanating from the dog. Sure enough, the dog had some “intestinal issues”. While I don’t usually get mad at her for getting into the kitty litter, which causes her stinky issues to appear, I found myself getting mad at her.

"Whatever. The house is kept safe, so..."
“Whatever. The house is kept safe, so…”

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What is it about our pets?

[row][span size=’8′][slab_h3][slabtext]”I would like to see anyone, [/slabtext][slabtext] prophet, king or God,[/slabtext][slabtext]convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.” [/slabtext][slabtext]– Neil Gaiman[/slabtext][/slab_h3][/span][/row]
I have always loved dogs. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t like them. Even when a neighbor’s dog took a bite out of my hand, I still liked all other dogs. (You’d think the bite and the ensuing rabies vaccine series would have made me fear dogs.) However, because of our financial situation growing up I didn’t get to have a lot of dogs. One dog I had died when we were unable to take it to the veterinarian. Another dog ran away.

It was my grandfather who had dogs, and lots of them. He loved his dogs. He fed them meat from the slaughterhouse every evening. That’s one really good memory I have of spending summers with my grandparents in Chihuahua. Grandpa would come home and his dogs would go crazy for him. He’d stand in the backyard, cutting off pieces of meat for the dogs. My aunt had a house cat that ran outside and onto the roof to get his piece there. One time, grandpa threw a piece of meat up at the cat, the cat reached out for it and missed, falling into the pack of dogs on the ground. Poor cat. That probably cost him one life, at least.

When I was in college, my landlord, who lived right next door, had two dogs. He kept them hungry all the time, feeding them only once. He said that it made them more aggressive so they would protect his home. Those two dogs were anything but aggressive. I’d come home late and toss them some scraps. The way their tails wagged made me smile.

After college, I didn’t have any pets at all until I met the woman who’d become my wife. She taught me to love pets by introducing me to her behemoth cat. A few months into our dating, we adopted a little cat. Then I got a fish for my apartment. Once we moved in together, we got a dog. Let me tell you, that dog and the big cat got along famously. I have hidden camera footage of the two of them napping on the couch, one on each side, for hours every day when we were gone. Unfortunately, the big cat passed away from old age.

It was then that we adopted a new cat. We had him for a few months before he passed away from an accident in the unfinished basement. I was out for a run when my wife called me. She was very upset. She found him hanging by his collar on a wire in the basement. The snap-away collar didn’t snap away. It was awful. Ever since, she’s made sure to see all the cats as soon as we get home.

I write “cats” because we eventually got two kittens to give company to the little cat. The two kittens are all grown up now, but only in size. They still think they’re kittens, and they give the little cat a run for her money.

While we were dating, and after the fish died (as fish do), I got a couple of gerbils. When they died (as they do), I got a couple of Guinea Pigs. They sit in my office all day, doing what they do… Which is mostly eating. When I sit at my desk and do stuff, I’ll take one of them out to sit at the desk with me. He’ll look at the monitor or wander around, eating my notes and important documents.

It’s true what my wife said about having pets: They give the most empty home a feeling of being alive. Now that I have these quadrupeds around, I can’t imagine not being in this “pack.” It’s our little family, and it will always be our little family, even if we decide to fill the house with human children as well.

And, now, here are some pictures of our quadrupeds, including three dogs whose picture I took when I traveled to Chihuahua a few weeks ago.
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Sick Guinea Pigs and thoughts on death

The first time I remember seeing a dead person was at the funeral of my maternal grandfather. I don’t remember the details, but I do remember my mom lifting me up to see him in his coffin. I had no clue what was going on or why everyone was so upset. Probably because I didn’t spend much time with him, I didn’t miss him as he laid there. More likely, though, I was too young to understand the implications of death.

The first time I understood the implications of death was later on in my childhood when “Julio”, the kid from across the street, was killed in a traffic accident. Coincidentally, mom and I had driven by the accident site, but we didn’t know that it was him who had been struck by a car driven by a drunken driver as Julio and his parents waited for the bus back in Juarez. The next day, mom asked to talk to me. She was crying. She told me what happened and asked me if I was okay. I was okay, but I knew that I would not be spending any more time with Julio, the awkward kid from across the street whom we all bullied and made fun of; the kid who’d come over to play regardless of how different he was and how differently we all treated him.

It was with Julio’s death that I understood that death is pretty much a permanent thing. Sure, there have been “exceptions” to the rule that once you’re dead you’re gone, but they happened in an ancient time only found in the holy texts. My faith also teaches that life goes on beyond death, but it goes on in a plane of reality different than the here and now in which I exist. So, for all intents and purposes, death is permanent. One moment you’re alive, and the next, poof, you’re gone. Cellular processes cease and decay begins.

My biggest beef with death is its finality. Once you’re dead, you’re dead. There’s no going back once you’re pronounced. That bothers me. It bothers me because I’m used to missing deadlines and still getting away with doing what needed to be done. It bothers me because I’ve been able to reconcile with people even after an all-out brawl with them. In short, there’s always a fix to things, but not to death. And, so, death reminds me that I’m not really in control of things.

I have two Guinea Pigs, “Chicharito” and “Little Wayne Rooney.” I got them about a year and a half ago, or so, and they have been good company while I dabble in my home office. Once in a while, I’ll take them out of their cage and put them on the desk while I’m writing. They like to explore the desk and then look up at the screen and follow the cursor or the letters as they appear on the screen. Very rarely, I’ll talk to them in full, complete thoughts, using them as my little, furry counselors.

They don’t judge.

Unfortunately, they’ve been sneezing a lot. This morning, LWR looked disoriented, but he was still eating and drinking water. I looked at his eye. It was covered in goop and looked diseased. So I took him to the bathroom and cleaned it up with some warm water. I also held a warm compress on his eye for a couple of minutes. He went back into his cage, but he wasn’t acting well. With the two of them sneezing, I’m worried an upper respiratory (or even full-on respiratory) infection is hitting them.

If they get very sick, I’ll take them to the veterinarian, but I refuse to spend exorbitant amounts of money to keep them alive. They’re Guinea Pigs. They were $12 each at a pet store. Yes, they’re my pets. Yes, they’re part of the pack, along with three cats and the dog. Yes, they’re like family. But they’re Guinea Pigs. If they get very sick, I’ll have to ask the vet to put them down.

And I hate that because of its finality.

As I move on in my career within public health, there is no doubt in my mind that I will see death again, and I will see other things that are irreparable, permanent, and final. And it scares me. But I’m known for taking on things that scare me.