Archive for March, 2009

More Greta

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I still haven’t figured out how to make this blog do what I want, which, in this case, is to set aside a special ‘Greta memory’ section, but I don’t intend to let that deter me from reminiscing. Last week I started a list of things affected by Greta’s absence, and the first entry was simply “Everything,” but I decided that wasn’t quite specific enough.

So here are some more memories that have struck me during this, the first week of Greta’s absence:

Things I’m not doing anymore

  • Opening the front door to the sound of pre-emptive barking.
  • Carefully closing the door to the utility room, worried who might go nosing through the kitchen trash can.
  • While eating, carefully saving a good cross-section of the best bites.
  • Wiping up dog drool from the kitchen floor after a particular juicy meal.
  • Getting the mail and having to explain, “No, I’m not going for a walk, I’m just getting the mail. We’ll go for a walk later.”
  • Being held to my promise to go for a walk later by a series of ever-increasing glares, whines, and, finally, barks.
  • Listening, while just on the edge of sleep, for dog panting, or that delicate whine, or just that feeling that I’m being watched by a pair of big brown eyes.
  • Having to carefully feel where I step when I get out of bed in the dark.
  • Calling her “The Fleeb,” or G-dog, or any of the infinite number of silly nicknames we all gave her.
  • Casually sidling down the pet aisle of the grocery store to look at dog treats.
  • Carefully collecting a variety of plastic bags to re-use for poop duty.
  • Happily ignoring food dropped on the kitchen floor, since it would be taken care of almost instantly.
  • Riding in the van normally, because it still smells of Greta, and which, until Saturday, still had her leash and collar in it because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stand the sound of her dog tags jangling when I picked them up.

Things she’s not doing any more

  • Rolling her dish down the stairs.
  • Sniffing to make sure I’m putting on my walking pants, as opposed to my going-to-work pants.
  • Slinking away to flop down disappointedly if I put on the wrong pants.
  • Holding down leftover styrofoam dishes and pie pans with her paw while she cleans out the last morsel.
  • Reclining in the den with her elbow on a pillow.
  • Trying to find a place inside the house to bury a bone.
  • Coming through the curtain from my “office” like a short, green ghost
  • Herding her sheeps. Or her peeps.
  • Bonking with her bonking bone

For some reason, the empty corner where her water and food dish used to stay (when she wasn’t rolling it down the stairs) was the hardest part about being home alone Saturday. So I’m writing stuff like this, not only to share these sentimental thoughts, but also to name them, and thereby acknowledge them, and thus perhaps place them in the right place in my life, neither dominating my consciousness, nor totally absent from it.

Greta

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

(Also see the Flowers posting, below.)

Trails

Beach dog

Beach dog

Greta left lots of trails over her lifetime – half-eaten toilet tissue, abandoned laundry, the occasional drop of blood from a victim (apologies to you members of that special club), muddy paw prints, dog slobber, and fur by the ton. But mostly she left a lot of memories that deserve to be captured.

I’ll start the list, and look forward to other contributions.

Chasing the stick

She taught me early on that one stick was not enough; she would keep it and make me chase her. Or, even more feisty, she would drop it and stand over it waiting for me to try to get it, then snatch it up and go running off. But two sticks worked fine, at least most of the time. On rare occasions, she would hold the first stick until I had thrown the second, and come back with both of them. Or if I didn’t pick up the one she had dropped fast enough, she would go get the one I threw, then fly back to get the other one too. In the last couple of years, I taught her “one more,” which meant after she picked the next stick up, we should head inside. Sometimes she would object, perhaps thinking I hadn’t had enough fun yet, but most of the time she happily went in to claim the treat I invariably gave her.

Flowers

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

There are two bunches of flowers on our kitchen table: four roses
that have just opened up, and a large bouquet of assorted cut
flowers.

Roses

Sunday morning the band One Tree Hill, of which I am a member, played at a small church. As usual, Patrick told the story of his life before and after the wreck that paralyzed him from chest down, interspersed with his original music. It’s both sobering and inspiring.

The church people were all welcoming and friendly, but one woman stands out in my memory. She’s one of those “background” people that would be easy to ignore. She was in the kitchen when I went looking for coffee after sound check. She was putting out pastries and cups and spoons for coffee and juice, and she told me how she had bought some cups because the church was almost out, then she proudly told me about her daughter, who plays euphonium with the church worship team, and works at a music store. It was a particularly heart-warming conversation for several reasons, not the least of which is that it included the word “euphonium.”

After the event, as we were stowing gear, wrapping cables and hauling speakers (one of my favorite parts – seriously), the coffee cup lady came up to the stage with four roses, stems wrapped in foil, for┬áPatrick, Brian, and me. None of us would be considered “flower guys,” but it was a sweet gesture, and I took them home and put them on the kitchen table. They were pretty on Sunday, but by this morning they had opened up and are perfect and gorgeous.

Bouquet

On Christmas Day, 2000, we brought a German Shepherd puppy home as a
gift for my youngest son. We had no intention of making her a house dog, but Greta had other ideas. Over the past 8-plus years, she has been a dear member of the family, contributing to our joyful chaos in many ways.

In late December of 2008, she was diagnosed with lymphoma. Her symptoms gradually grew worse, including decreased bowel control and difficulty breathing. Last Sunday, while my son and wife were home, and I was having lunch with Patrick after our gig, Greta had an attack of diarrhea in the house, which, typically, upset her. That, coupled with other clear indications that her quality of life was rapidly diminishing, led us to decide that her time had come. It was the culmination of a long and difficult decision process. All of the kids came home Sunday night for a final visit. On Monday morning, my sons and I took her to the vet to be euthanized. We returned to an emptier, dogless house, and sat with one of my daughters eating chicken biscuits, drinking coffee, and trying not to think about Greta too much.

A couple of hours later, I was facilitating a focused brainstorming session at work, glad to have something to occupy my mind.

Monday afternoon, my wife’s sister brought over a bouquet of cut flowers from her and her crazy husband, with whom I share an affinity for deviled eggs. For several reasons, they understand the impact of Greta’s absence.

In retrospect, maybe I am turning into a flower guy after all. I guess it could be worse.