Why am I so sad?
People say, “It’s just a dog. Those things happen.”
With all the things to be sad about…
People losing their jobs,
Earthquakes, fires, storms and floods,
the girl dying because of a botched transplant,
the kid stolen from bed in the middle of the night,
the bus exploding at a busy market,
the drums of war approaching…
with all the bad news in the world today
it’s easy to find other things to be sad about,
other things to cry over.
But all those things were so much easier to handle
when your went nose nudged my hand
and you looked up with those big brown eyes
and let it be known that you were there to absorb the worries of the day,
the traumas of the world,
the anxieties of the moment.
Little Pepe Viejo, we called you.
Viejo because you seemed to turn prematurely gray
and that’s how our Honduran handyman teased you
as you always sought out a sliver of sunshine
to bask in and roll around,
even on the gloomiest of days.
A hot dog, indeed.
Doxies are odd dogs anyway,
Certainly not created with any logic,
Certainly not ergonomically correct,
twice as long as you are tall.
But Pepe Viejo stood tall.
You took no bunk from bigger dogs,
and have held your own in smaller scrapes.
I always thought you’d do your tail-chasing spin for us
when you especially knew we were down or sad.
It was always a ridiculous endeavor,
and you purposefully stumbled from the dizziness,
but it never ceased to make us laugh.
And there is your favorite hill at the dog park,
Where you’d run with a wagging tail
And yelp until I threw a rock
And you’d chase it as if it were a pig’s ear
And when you’d catch it,
you’d lick it a few times,
and then bark for another.
And, no matter how steep the hill,
Up or down
You’d dive or climb for it
and made great efforts to chase that rock down,
causing strangers along the way to gasp,
or at least smile.
There was also the monster in the hole.
I never knew if may have been a rat,
or gopher, ground hog, or a snake,
or possibly a badger, as is your nature.
You may have once seen it in the grate
near the ivy by the front door,
but whenever you’d go outside,
that’d be the first thing you’d check.
“Where’s the monster?” we’d ask.
That’s where you went,
sniffling at the grate.
Barking at nothing,
at least that we could see.
You knew your place as well,
and it was always in the king’s spot.
When we’d drive, you’d insist on sitting in the driver’s lap,
no matter who it was,
and at home,
you’d sit in that grand yellow and white striped chair
near the front door.
A guard to the house.
I have a photo of you curled up on that,
looking out as if you don’t want to be bothered,
and we’ve blown up that picture and put it in a frame.
It’s sitting on that chair, all ragged now.
You’d puff your cheeks out
if you were frustrated,
and sleep with your tongue hanging out.
Your skin was soft,
and I used to joke how it’s good
that the natives in Alaska didn’t know
about Doxie’s soft skin or else they’d be
going after the likes of you
rather than baby seals.
And so it was on the coldest of nights,
That you’d wrap up in our cold feet
And be the perfect little
Doxie hot water bottle.
You were always the bad dog.
The one who would piddle on a pile of papers
that were important and being stacked with purpose.
Or you’d leave a stinky pile by the front door
especially if we were away too long.
It was hard to know it was you,
because Rudi was always around,
but we always suspected it was you.
You always looked guilty.
But also for forgiveness.
Rudi isn’t really your brother,
But we always would say he was,
he’s a year younger and a bit bigger,
a bit redder and less gray.
Yet, no one could seem to tell you apart except for us.
You guys, together, were more like best friends,
Or lovers, and you had a routine as well.
Rudi would chew your ears,
I mean really chew them up good and wet and sticky,
and you’d let him do it.
Then, you’d walk around with slobbery ears,
but for some reason you liked it.
Then, you’d lick Rudi’s ear wax out of his ears.
For some reason, poor Rudi gets a lot of gunk in his ears,
but you’d know just how to make him feel better
as he groaned with pleasure.
And, even though both of you were fixed
and boys for that matter,
you’d then try to mount poor Rudi,
except you laid off during those few months
after he had back surgery.
You’d both curl up on your blanket together,
And curl up like two pill bugs under the covers with us.
I could never think of you two apart.
It was sad for me when during your training
you were kept apart,
because you each had to establish your identity,
that you weren’t thinking you were one dog,
one unit, one entity,
the trainer said.
And, you went on your first and only airplane ride,
the Delta agent at first said you guys couldn’t be
in the same kennel together.
But, I protested,
you always curl up on top of each other and then
she said to make you stand up, and I said,
“But they are standing up,
they’re miniature dachshunds!”
And of course, your tail-spinning trick
proved to her that you could get around pretty easily after all.
And so that day you stood up and your eyes widened
And you whined for me and fell over
It seemed like you didn’t really want to go.
My friend said you looked like a character in “The Matrix”
Who pleaded, “No, not like this”
So he massaged your heart
and brought you back.
Until I got home to hold you.
The vet said it’s a heart attack
There’s nothing much they could do,
Except maybe put you out of your pain.
But you waited until I came home.
Curled up in the black and white blanket
that you always loved to pee on
and then snuggle in,
next to the fireplace with friends around.
You tried to stumble over to me,
Shaky, barely able to walk.
Gray, more Viejo than I ever saw you.
We tried to make you comfortable.
Curled up by the fire,
You were so cold,
You were squirming,
You were wheezing and oozing.
And my friend kept bringing you back,
Kept trying to massage your heart,
But I saw in your eyes, you were ready.
Rudi, who kept a distance, out of fear, or sadness,
Came up when I scooped you in my arms
He licked your face one last time
As I said, “It’s OK, little dog, you can go.”
In a gasp, you let go, with a big final sigh.
With blood and saliva covering my
Bill Blass shirt and my new Hugo Boss suit.
I held you tighter and you were gone,
My tears and drool fell and mixed with yours.
In retrospect, I think, this is perhaps the saddest moment of my life.
And I cry even more knowing that there will be sadder
Moments in my life coming up,
We were so sure you’d be around so much longer
than the short eight years of your life.
but I’m so glad the last walk we took,
was with Rudi, and your other doggie friends,
the whole dog team,
The whole pack.
The next day you looked like you were asleep
On your blanket.
Rudi didn’t understand when we put you
Deep into the hole
With your blanket,
In a bright sunny spot,
And covered you up with dirt.
And I planted flowers on top.
And tried to dig down to you,
where he last saw you,
but then settled on plopping on top of the dirt
And piddling on the first P
we spelled out in white rock.
A fitting tribute.
Rudi’s a bit lost without you,
And somehow I’ve got to cope
With the looming war and terror of world events,
My father who’s ailing and unable to care for himself,
The illness inside me that could cripple me at any time,
I’ve got to cope with all that,
Without your knowing comfort.
Rudi’s certainly a loyal dog, a comfort too,
But you seemed to know
when a lick or a snuggle
as particularly timely
Little Pepe Viejo:
Little Pepe Viejo,
you found that sliver of sunshine
even on the gloomiest of days,
you kept my feet warm
on the coldest of nights,
you comforted me with your little wet nose
when the scroll at the bottom of CNN
seemed too much to bear…
What do I do now?
— Mike Szymański
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