Doggie Breath

My dad always liked to say that we’re an “equal opportunity family.”

They’re black, I’m white. They’re 15 years old (or 105 in human years), I’m 20. They smell awful all the time from every orifice, I like to think that my odor is somewhat tolerable at least some of the time. They’re my sisters.

My sisters are two 14-year-old black labs.

My sisters are two 14-year-old black labs.

As an only child, they’re all I’ve ever had.

Tomorrow is the day they go to Heaven.

Losing both my sisters at the same time is something I’ve been dreading for a while. I’m trying to justify it in that Coco has been more and more wobbly lately, while she and Spooky have both been steadily losing control of their bowels.

I once read something online about why dogs’ lives are shorter than humans’. It was before a friend of mine’s dog died and I wanted to know how to comfort him when the time came. It said that people come into this world to learn how to live a good life, how to love one another, and it takes us a long time, roughly 70-80 years. But dogs are born knowing how to live and how to love so they don’t have to stay as long.

That’s the beauty in animals. Unconditional love.

Their love has kept my life so full for so long. It’ll be hard to let them both go at the same time, but their mom brought them into this world together so it’s only right that they should leave it the same way: together.

It’s really unfair that dogs can’t decide for themselves, when it’s their time to go. How can a person have the ability, burden even, to choose when the life of someone else ends?

My dad always said he would know when it was time for them to go because they’d be able to tell him. He’s not here now, so it’s been up to my mom and I. I just hope this unusually sunny day is dad saying he’s ready for them. It’s time. Send ’em up.

Spooky (red collar) and Coco (blue collar) taking a napDoggie breath is a wonderful smell that’s always followed by loving kisses.

I’m going to miss it.


Goodbye, old friend

Monday night my mom made the very last schlep into Virginia Beach to check that everything was in working order at our, now, old house for the owners’ arrival Tuesday morning.

We had been renting this house for the past four years from our, now, old friends, a Navy man and his wife who left it to retire to a larger, log-cabin-style home, probably overlooking the water, in the forests of Indiana. In those four years, my little family made a lot of memories in that house. It was a lot cozier than the house we had lived in previously- a five bedroom, brick house in a brand new neighborhood, every interior wall and carpet white and spotless, emotionless as a dead person. Due to a decline in our financial well-being our family was forced to consider a more modest home than the corpse of a house we bought when we first moved to Virginia Beach. We ended up renting from our friends, who were moving at the same time, conveniently enough.

So after four years, only months after my dad passed away, the owners, our “friends,” decided they want to sell the house, leaving us with only a month to find another home and evacuate. A month; it sounds doable, right? Reasonable? No. A month is not enough time to make a decision on a permanent home that we hadn’t even begun to look for, let alone all the packing there was to be done, keeping in mind I was still five hours from home at school for half of this month. They expected us to be gone in a month, when it had only been four since my dad passed and I hadn’t even been able to bring myself to go through his things. My mom and I were just beginning the struggle toward finding a “new normal,” the process that is vitally important after someone so essential in one’s life passes away. In one phone call, that new life was put on hold and our new normal was completely shattered and in addition to the grief, we suddenly had to deal with undue stress and pressure from this approaching move.

I’m not saying that the owners of the house are not allowed to do whatever they want with the property, whenever they want. They can. I’m also not implying that we’re not grateful for their letting us rent the house from them for as long as we did. However, these people did consider themselves great friends to my dad and to our family, until now. This decision on their part was going to cause a lot of problems for my, now smaller as of a few months, family.

We had to resort to finding only a temporary home. This sounds slightly more reasonable, right? No. Not with 3 pets, two of which are 14-year-old labs (that’s 98 in human years) who aren’t accustomed to change, soil themselves on a daily basis because they have little control over their bowels and bladders, and have hips which are physically unable to cooperate with stairs.

Thus, the search was very limited. The only places we could even consider a possibility were those who allowed 3 animals, all heavier than ten pounds, which eliminates almost all rental homes and apartments. Then we had to eliminate all the places with stairs or a deck or uneven surface of any kind, which led to a dwindling number of options. So we were looking for a rental home or a first-floor apartment with those qualifications and in our price range. The only places available were in areas that we consider scary, to say the least. It seemed that if we wanted a place to fit those qualifications and that was a safe place to live, we would need to start looking out of our price range.

At this point, things weren’t looking very promising. Then out of no where, my mom found this lovely little apartment complex in a neighboring city, only 25 minutes from where we’d been living in the cozy little house in Virginia Beach, with a unit available on the first floor. It was a miracle! And here we are in this cute little apartment, just big enough for the five of us.

Maybe it’s a good thing that this happened when it did. Maybe mom and I needed to be uprooted completely from our old lives in order to move on. I was uneasy about things changing, because I didn’t want to forget. Through the process of downsizing to the essentials (what must happen when a family moves from a home for six into an apartment for five) and selling so many of our possessions that held dear family memories, I was afraid that I wouldn’t remember him. I am still afraid, but now I’m afraid and buried under piles of boxes as the huge undertaking that is unpacking approaches.

Unsure and afraid of forgetting the past and of what our future holds, still I say, “Goodbye to you, old house. Though you were falling down around us at times, you only served to push us closer together. Thank you for the time and for the memories.”

18 Til I Die

Tomorrow is my 19th birthday and I find that every year, I become more and more reluctant to get older. I know that’s not really supposed to happen until I’m at least 30, but every year I find reasons to stay my current age.

It was a Wednesday morning when one of my closest friends passed away. I was only 14. I later found that the countdown to my 15th birthday was full of dread. It was so unfair to me that Josh would not live to see 15, but I would. My irrational anxieties about growing older were based in the guilt that I was allowed to experience 15 and 16 and 17 years on Earth, when Josh was only able to see 14 of them. Of course, being forced to cope with death at an early age, I had to have developed some irrationalities, but it also lead to my increased awareness of the fleeting nature of life and thus my greater appreciation for it.

From grief and guilt came the insistent foot-dragging only reminiscent of Peter Pan’s. I refused to see why 17, then 18, was necessary. I wondered why 16 wasn’t enough. The universe meant to tell me that I couldn’t possibly enjoy 16 for more than 365 days, certainly not forever, and I was livid. When I was trying so hard to make the best out of one year, in honor of my friend who would never live to see it, gravity or the space-time continuum, or what have you, was pushing me forward into uncharted territories, away from the age I had worked all year to make worth living. I was trying to live two lives.

The fatigue of living for two, my self-prescribed responsibility, is more than one can imagine so when the clock struck 18 I had to move on. I focused on myself; my goals, my collegiate future, my boyfriend, my family, the last shining bits of my childhood. I had found another reason to stay put. My childhood. Where had it gone, could it possibly be coming to an end so soon? Rooted into 18, I’ve dug my feet into what has possibly become the most eventful, for lack of a better word, year of my young life. If only the internet had space for me to explain this year, but I’m sure even this vast, unlimited information super-highway doesn’t have room for that. Then, just as I had become comfortable with 18, a horrible tragedy came without a moment to spare when my dad suddenly passed away. I, the girl with deep-seated fears of death, had to deal with what seemed at the time, and still today, the worst thing humanly imaginable. My best friend was gone. Though he lived 64 love-filled years, I had only lived 18, and a mere 18 years of memories for a father and daughter just doesn’t, and will probably never, feel long enough.

Now that 64 is a looming number in the distance, I have something else to fear about growing older, but I’m not going to let it stop me. In college, I am now, more than ever, aware of everything life has to offer, all of its opportunities and experiences. I want to do it all and not take one thing for granted. We never know how long we have, as neither Josh nor my dad did. I plan to make the most of every year, not living life for two, or even for three, but for one- me- so that they both may look down and see the satisfaction of a life well-lived and feel what I will feel as if they are still here in more than spirit. I plan to do a lot of learning and growing in my life, so I’ll give my hesitant roots a nudge toward some reasonable flexibility. This year I’m ready for 19, but I’m taking my 18-year-old mentality with me, tucked safely in a pocket.

As the daughter of my father, a man who never quite surpassed the maturity level of a 12-year-old, I know it’s possible. Growing old may be inevitable, but I’m always going to be daddy’s little girl; just the way he left me.