I remember the first time I saw my father cry. I was in the 5th grade. It was such a shock to me, that to this day, I still remember it vividly. It was grey outside and drizzling cold winter rains on the sleepy valley where we lived. The weather matched our moods as we had piled in a mini van to take our golden retriever to the vet. This dog had been with the family farther back than any of us kids. Her hair was a golden red, much like the fur that grows from my face, though her muzzle had signs of age. She lived a good life with a loving family, was loved, and loved alike. It was in the sterile florescent lights, while most of the family was tearing up, that I witnessed the first vulnerable moment out of my father. He cried as he said goodbye to Brandy. It still leaves me a little raw to remember this occasion.
A week or so later, some kid was screwing with me on the playground and I ended up kicking his ass. I didn’t get suspended, the Nuns blamed my aggression on my dog’s death. If only that were true. That dude needed to back off my shit.
Dog’s have always had a prominent place in my life. I would estimate that I was “without dog” for only around a year. That said, I’ve known only four dogs intimately. As they go, Brandy the golden retriever, Sydney the Australian sheep dog, Sunshine Peppermint Patty the golden retriever, and of course, my current companion, Iggy the smooth fox terrier.
All of these dogs had their character. Sydney was talkative, snored like a banshee, and always tried to get you to itch his rear end. Brandy would eat cherry tomatoes in the garden with me as a child, she loved to swim and play fetch. Then there was Patty.
Patty was the first dog I had ever met as a puppy. We picked her out from her litter near the house I grew up in. I slept on the porch for the first three nights she was home because she was scared. I was in the sixth grade and when I would be awoken to go to school, my folks would find me lying on my back and Patty with her nose on my shoulder. Mates for life. She never forgot me, even when I left for college. When I would come back to visit my folks, she’d wait up for me to come home before she went to bed. She was the ultimate care taker. She wasn’t territorial for the most part, though, in hindsight I would come to realize she growled or barked at every girl she disapproved of right out the gates. I just didn’t know to read that from her.
She lived a good happy life. She died two days before St. Patrick’s day and I didn’t really come to terms with her passing until a few days later. It’s striking to me the kind of bond one can form with a canine. Anyways, I wrote this poem after she died. It was about 6 years ago, and I still get a knot in my stomach when I think about her.
Her full name was “Sunshine Peppermint Patty.” Don’t ask, my Mom named her.
The last I remember of my dog is her eyes so far away and distant.
Brushing her grey gold hair with salty stains from my cheeks.
It was the end of her life, but my love for her will never die.
She was just a puppy, afraid and crying on the porch when we first met.
We both dreamed with her nose resting on my shoulder.
That was all it took. We were partners for life after that.
She was my best friend.
When I played guitar, or the piano, she would sit there
and watch with her eyes like rich dark coffee.
When I came home later she would be there in the hallway,
waiting for me to come home so she could sleep soundly.
I would bring green bones and other treats home for her.
She started becoming nosy anytime I came home with a paper
or plastic bag in hand.
When i spent a month in jail, I went home and barked at me,
“Where the fuck have you been?!?!?!?!”
If I brought a girl home she would growl if she didn’t approve.
She was friendly with the few she did approve of.
By the end of her stay on this Earth, a tumor had developed in the bone of her spine.
It had deteriorated a disc and she lost the use of her back legs.
Her condition quickly worsened.
I was once again on a sleeping bag next to her so she would feel
So she wouldn’t cry in fear.
I told her she was off to see her Sidney in the sky and that I
I think about her often. I haven’t been myself these past days.
The cold metallic taste of fear has not left the roof of my mouth
or the inside of my teeth.
I’ve been left stricken with anxiety, stretched and weary.
I’m questioning all that has passed and I rage against the turning of the World.
I wonder, if I die, will she be there?
Will she be coming back as some blonde redhead to win me over with her charm and beauty?
I write while still shaking from shock, thought it happened over
two days ago.
What am I doing here?
So when my grey gold hair is brushed by salt water stains from someone’s cheeks,
With my eyes far away and distant,
I will know that I have done my best.
To love like my dog Patty loved me.
It’s Saint Patty’s day today and my eyes are filled
With sadness, fear and hope.
With that I encourage you to check out the Oatmeal comic – My dog: the paradox.
Originally posted on Rojobag.Wordpress March 19th, 2013.