November, November, it’s time to remember.. all the things we are grateful for… at least, that’s what Facebook wants me to believe. I should participate in the statitude of gratitude, but I have so much to be grateful for, that I couldn’t possibly post it all. Plus I’d forget to post 50% of the time.
That being said, there is SO much I am grateful for. I am increasingly reminded on a daily basis what a wonderful support network I have–my brother Matt is here with me, casting a gently protective eye over every doucher who might even want to do me wrong—and I am surrounded by friends who have gone above and beyond to help me in my transition to a new city. My roommate is a total badass, who loves to cook and never ceases to surprise me with her impressive intelligence and good humor. And then I am always humbled by the incredible kindness of my oldest brother, Sam, and his wife Brooke, who is probably the most incredible woman I have ever known in the history of ever. The two of them are deserving of both gratitude and respect of the utmost kind. To top it off, I have five more brothers who are smart, kind, funny, and interesting. I am such a lucky gal.
But tonight, despite all these wonderful things for which I am grateful, there is one individual who sticks out disproportionately large in my mind. We’ve known each other practically since birth, and she’s been there by my side through thick and thin. She’s my best friend, my constant companion, the receptor of every stupid song I make up in the shower, and the chewer of everything sacred I own.
I am talking, of course, about Lois.
Everyone knows I love Lois, even if I joke about beating her brains out on a regular basis. It is unbelievably irritating when I come home and there are irreparable pieces of everything all over the floor. She eats more, shits more, sheds more, drinks more, and sleeps more than I ever knew was possible in a dog. But she’s my eating, shitting, shedding, drinking, sleeping dog, and tonight I think I’m more grateful for her than I’ve ever been. Let me explain.
This evening, I went to the local dog-friendly corner bar. I’ve taken Lois here before, and she’s enjoyed herself; and since I had no plans tonight and drinks are cheap, I decided we probably ought to check it out again. Lois was excited to go, and pooped thrice on the way there to make room for her eager anticipation. Once we arrived at the bar, she made friends with everyone there and promptly greeted every new customer. After a while, her true personality came out, and she laid herself out on the floor and couldn’t be bothered to get up or even wag her tail. Good dog.
Nevertheless, everyone loved her. Everybody at the bar told me what a beautiful, sweet, calm dog I had. And I had to agree! I mean, Lois really is a people pleaser. What with her nose being exactly at the perfect butt-sniffing height, she can crotch-rocket to her heart’s content and nobody can blame her. I really love hearing all the wonderful compliments on the attitude of a dog I have no control over. I take all credit.
But after the surface-y compliments that always accompany a dog of such high Idaho-farm accidental breeding, come the stories. Lois seems to resemble everybody’s dogs that have passed away, and in a bar environment where everyone is a little tipsy, I get to hear about these other dogs.
And I love it. I love, love, love to hear people’s stories about their animals. For some reason, people can talk about their animals much more openly than human loved ones; dogs, especially, seem to open the flood gates of conversation. All night, I was privileged to hear tales about loyal best friends, and the incredible adventures they had with their owners. A couple of times I admit I was brought to tears by the tender loss that the bargoers experienced when their dogs passed away. But, invariably, they’d look down at Lois, say things would be okay, and take another shot. I was convinced.
Before I met Lois, I’d known people who had had animals their entire lives and then lost them. Weird was it to me that these people experienced such devastation when their pets died. Growing up with lots of faunae, but having parents who didn’t particularly cherish indoor animals, I had never truly bonded with a pet, especially with one as sentient as a dog. I thought tragic pet death was this odd liberal phenomenon, exclusive to those who replaced childbearing with other, less important beings; surely, their suffering was not really that deep.
Boy, was I wrong. Just listening to the painful stories that came in from wiser pet companions than me makes my heart hurt. The toughest dudes have to take work off for a week when their dog dies. The most uncommunicative folks will tell you, in vivid detail, of their last visit to the vet with their old companion. A serial killer will cry when he recounts his last night with Bubba (I made that up, but I’m sure it’s true). A couple of months ago, I read “Where The Red Fern Grows” and I cried the whole goddamn way through. Thinking about the time when Lois’s hips are splayed and I have to (attempt to) carry her down the stairs fills my stony soul with such tenderness I can hardly bear it. God forbid she should have to save my life from an angry black bear on a freezing winter’s night; I might die of loving sentimentality.
I mean, dogs aren’t people. I get that. But the kind of bonding you experience with a dog is so intimate, so incredible, so (and I hesitate to use this word) sacred; I think that, once I lose Lois, I will never have another dog. It just takes one time, one round, one perfectly perfect animal who loves you, trusts you, eats everything you own and then asks you for more—how could I ever expect that again? How could I ever own another dog and ask him/her to measure up to Lois? How could I expect that dog to terrify the creepy guy at the park who tried to follow us home? How could I bring another dog to a neighborhood bar and expect him/her to garnish so much attention that I’m the proudest parent within a mile’s radius? How will I ever recover from the loss I know I’ll experience when Lois’s time to be my beastie bestie has come and gone?
Listening to these tragic tales from other folks—stories about taking their dog to the vet for the last time, holding their puppy as he suffers his last stroke, gently wiping up blood from the corners of their mutt’s aged mouth—I can’t believe how intensely and intimately these folks love their dogs. You never hear casual stranger just talk about people who have died, and yet they’ll share every detail of their dogs’ life and death with you. It’s a really neat thing, and I am SO grateful for it.
And that makes me grateful for Lois. I’m grateful for her, even if she’s really kind of stupid, and even if she chews a lot of shit, and even if she takes over my side of the bed in the middle of the night. She protects me, loves me, kills infinitely-legged bugs in the bathtub for me, licks my armpits even when she knows she shouldn’t, is too lazy to get off of the bed to pee in the morning, sleeps 80% of the time, eats a pound of food a day, poops three pounds of poop a day, sheds six pounds of fur a day, and still manages to give me those giant, gentle “I-love-you-so-much-even-though-I-don’t-know-why” eyes while doing it. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I have to live without her.
But, gratefully, it looks like the day when I have to answer that question is quite a ways away. Lois is healthy, without worms, fleas, or hip dysplasia—something I worry incessantly about. The fact that she’s a mutt from Idaho who happened by total accident seems to have ensured that she has lived life thus far without any physical deformation (besides the lack of a normal sized brain). She’s dumb, but she ain’t hurtin for it.
I’m so in love with Lois, and I am so grateful she’s in my life. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May you scoop poop with an attitude of gratitude, because you never know when the poop scoopin may stop.