Sunday, July 16, 2023

A touching love story--guest blogger, my nephew Brandon

"I think we should get…HIM.” Katie said, pointing to one of the smaller poodles of the litter.
He looked like a blur of beige fur, like the head on a mop. I was still looking at the largest, shyest one, trying to convince myself that I’m right.

It's May 18th, 2013. Less than a month since we've successfully been married and honeymoon-ed. We're in Zebulon, Georgia, of all places, in what seems to be a puppy-mill in training. Katie is fixated on the one rambunctious pup that continues to do low-flying circles in the grass and dirt. He ends up being the only puppy of the ones present that seem eager to meet us.

As with most things -- Katie was right.

We named that little guy Amos, inspired by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Amos Lee.

In the ten years since Amos and I became inseparable, Katie would be quick to remind me: One, I didn't want a small dog and two, Amos was not my first choice.

Again, she was right. It wasn't that I didn't want Amos. Growing up, we really only had large dogs (aside from Droopy). The only small dogs I was familiar with, were small, yippy, nipping dogs that were full of energy, hard to control and had Napoleon complexes. Amos was Katie's first real pet and dog, and she had her heart set on a toy poodle. I said: "Just so long as he doesn't have a poodle haircut." At that time, I thought talking her into getting a dog would be much much harder. Are you seeing a pattern here? I am wrong a lot. It’s a gift.

Not only was getting a dog her idea, but it turns out her first and only pick that day would steal our hearts.

Amos quickly became the center of our family. He was the star of Christmas cards, and the center of attention when friends would come over. He and I wrote songs together. He rode in a basket on Katie’s bike. Two years in, he would have to contend with the first born, Gibson and before that a new house. Then four years into his tenure, our second son, Nash Corbett. He kept a watchful eye over both of them as they grew.

He was the same, happy go lucky little guy for seven years. But in April of 2020, we knew something wasn't right with him. A week long stay at the vet would result in Amos' diabetes diagnosis. I was heartbroken. I was afraid this was the end. Our veterinarian explained that with care and routine, Amos could still live a full and virtually uninterrupted life. All that was required was a regimented routine of regularly spaced feedings and me becoming an insulin injection specialist.

Three years into Operation: Dog Diabetes yielded Amos’ next brush with pancreatitis. Thankfully, he recovered and with the help of our vet, he was back to being himself. Katie discovered that most dogs don't live much longer than a few years after their diagnosis. "Not Amos," I thought. By all accounts, he was the model patient and I the model caregiver. With Katie's nearly perfect record in the back of my mind — I shuttered to admit that we might not have much longer with our boy.

Dogs are the perfect companions. They love us unconditionally, and require very little of us. A head scratch, some treats, a walk here or there, a place to lay their head. Popcorn. Maybe a piece of bacon. Why not? While their love comes unconditionally, what we really trade is a little piece of ourselves. They accept us as we are. Deeply flawed, and hard to understand. And in return for that piece, they give us everything they have. Trusting us to protect and care for them.

Dogs are a little bit of us, and uniquely their own. They become a part of us. A piece of us and yet a beast that is untamable. They aren't people but they fill all of the gaps in our hearts that people can't. We leave, we come home late, we spend our days at the office, we send them to the vet to board for a week — and yet they are as happy to see us as ever. They sit with us in our quiet moments — while we repeat things to them, asking them questions in a language that they only feign to understand. Do you want to see the boys? Mommy's home. Do you want a treat? Do you want to go for a ride?

You have the photos, videos and key memories of them. What you can never duplicate are the quiet moments between you. You check on your kids, dog asleep at their feet. You come home late at night, he greets you at the door, loud enough to wake the entire house. A yelp, a bark in the middle of the day, as the mail truck passes. The sound of the doggie door. The quiet push of your office door, as he checks to make sure you're still there. The expectation that any time you try to sit down, or take a nap, your stationary legs make an excellent bed.

The decision to say goodbye to our Amos was the toughest decision we’ve had to make as a family. I have doubts. I have the regret that his last days were spent in a vet kennel and not at home. I I tried everything I could to hold on to him. I didn’t want to let him go. I would've done anything in my power to keep him with me — with us. But after these ten years, and everything he gave to us -- I couldn't let him suffer anymore.

In his last days, in addition to not eating and stomach issues, we found out that his heart had grown in size. Not only from our love, but from the beginnings of congenital heart failure. I looked into his little black eyes — cloudy with cataracts as a result of the diabetes. I no longer saw the young, bouncy, lively pup that we had known all these years. I saw eyes that were suffering — tired but could not sleep. His knees were worn from years of compensating on moveable knees caps. Knees sore from chasing the boys, jumping on couches, beds and up and down stairs. My heart, my head and my guts were all screaming that it was time. Please. Can’t I be wrong this time? Just one more time.

Before the doctors came in, he desperately tried to crawl to me, and lay his head against me. His breaths — pained, rapid and shallow. I haven't cried like that in my entire adult life. I held him close in his last moments and told him everything would be ok. That I would miss him and that I loved him.

Scott Van Pelt, in his 2022 tribute to his dog Otis, said this: "Nothing we do could earn what dogs give away to us for free." And: "If this hurt is the cost of the transaction, for being on the receiving of a mighty love that I got to know — I'd pay it again with enormous gratitude.” I couldn’t say it any better than that.

It is with the deepest hurt in my heart that I write this now. I can't begin to quantify in gratitude, and in love what I owe to our sweet Amos. I would gladly pay again and again, with the piece of me I gave, and the pieces now of my broken heart, just to have his head rest against my chest one last time.
If our lives are but a blink in the span of time, a dog's life for us is a blazing, beautiful shooting star. A shooting star where simultaneously a wish is made and a wish is granted. It is one of life’s cruelest truths — that we get to love them, caring for them and them us so deeply but that they live such a seemingly short amount of time.

It bears repeating. Katie couldn’t have been more right — about everything and especially Amos. I've never been more glad to admit that I was wrong.

Amos -- we love you always. The boys miss you. Katie misses you and said you can share her blanket. There’s not a moment that I don’t miss you. Thank you for sharing your brief, but beautiful life with us. I’ll hold on to your memory forever.


Sylvia said...

Thanks for sharing. We've been through it. So true.

Sylvia said...

Thanks you for sharing. So true. We've been through it.