Monday, December 27, 2010


This morning we took our first walk without our beloved, sweet, complex, oft neurotic-but-always-well-meaning pooch, Olive. Opal was in the backpack, and my hands were strangely free, searching for refuge pulling straps and wedged in pockets.

Olive died four days ago exactly, during our morning walk. Opal was attached to the front of me in the facing-out Bjorn, holding the kelly-green leash in her mittened hand. We moseyed through a spill of sunlight in the open-space near our house with not a single tree to intercept. Olive took one jolly lap through the tall, crispy grasses, bouncing and light-footed like her wild forefathers or kin in the jungle, returned to us looking not-abnormally fettered. She tossled with a passing poodle before lying down abruptly. She then seized for a moment and died, quickly, completely and silently at our feet, leaving us entirely shocked and gobsmacked with grief in her wake. (I speak for myself and for Jesse when he arrived. Opal, however, was not at all distressed. In fact, when Jesse arrived at the scene, he said Opal was wearing an emphatic grin).

There is a much longer story to precede this scene. The story of Olive and her impulses, of a hundred similar examples before the fateful moment she chose to eat through a suitcase to consume the dark chocolate inside. All of these instances narrowed into the single snapshot of that particular afternoon: the vision of wrappers and destroyed luggage and having no idea of the potential danger. The induced vomiting, vet calls and extreme supervision. If she starts acting weird, take her to the hospital. She never acted weird, never weirder than usual. In fact, she slept through the night and awoke to visit Opal and receive a dozen kisses and a plop-down hug. I thought a walk would do her good, burn some of the energy that congealed from being forced to stay in one spot for so long. But, it seemed the caffeine that was absorbed into her little body, in spite of the vomiting, increased her heart rate more than she could handle when she went for a run.

It was a perfect storm of events. The vet said over the phone the next day.

There is much more writing to be done on this topic, to be sure. Three years of Russian-doll emotions want to be sifted through and organized on the page, like lining up threads for needlepoint. It will take me a while to sort it out, it was not a simple relationship. But I wanted to write something in the meantime to mark the time in some way, put a notch in the sidewalk. To acknowledge the fiery life of this little dog and how suddenly, unexpectedly, it came to an end.

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