16 October 2008

Tick tock

In 2001, about a month and a half before I got married, my now-ex-wife and I found a Saint Bernard running around stray while we were evaluating a site for our wedding reception. After about five minutes of discussion we decided to take him home, clean him up, and post signs saying we had found a lost dog.

The drive home from the place still sticks in my head today. We had taken separate cars to the reception site, and her car had more interior room than my light truck (read: a back seat). I followed behind her in the event that the dog suddenly freaked out on her and she had to pull over and abandon ship. The ride went without incident, and I can still remember driving behind them and looking through the back window of her car. The sheer size of the animal in her back seat was apparent even from a distance; in fact, at first glance it looked like she was transporting an over-sized hairy human being. The entire trip (about 10 miles) I was in awe of the giant dog in the back seat.

We got him home without any problem, and quickly set about the task of cleaning him up. Not knowing any better, we first tried to wash him in the bathtub. The effort was successful for roughly five minutes, until it became apparent that he was having trouble keeping his footing on the slick porcelain of the tub. But during that five minutes, I was convinced that this giant beast had some laceration on his body: The soap and water being rinsed from him was blood-red. Once we took him outside onto the patio (where he could easily stand) and resumed the de-lousing, I was able to inspect him for deep cuts, but could find none. Then I realized that he was so flea-bitten that he had suffered thousands of micro-bites, and that the dried blood (or "flea-dirt") was just getting cleaned off of him for the first time in a while.

After we finished his three baths, we took him back inside as our yard was not yet fenced. He promptly climbed up on the couch and shook himself. My ex-wife and I both exploded in a chorus of "NO!" and he nearly knocked over a lamp leaping down in order to obey. To his credit, he has never even tried to get on the couch since that first evening.

The next day, we discussed again the idea of putting up "Found Dog" signs and decided against it. Judging by his under-weight condition and the number of fleas and ticks on him, if he was someone's dog he had either been missing for weeks or was being seriously mistreated. By the end of the week, we had dropped a grand on a chain-link fence, plus untold other cash on food, bowls, toys, collars, and a leash.


The past month or so, Ike (as he came to be known) has been showing signs of decline. He was fully grown when we found him, and that first week when we took him to the vet we were told that he was probably three years old, but at least one and a half. Thanks to the ease of Internet research, it is a small matter to find out the life expectancy of a Saint Bernard, so I know I'm in the eleventh hour with Ike.

As we are still on good terms, I have been keeping the ex advised about his status and encouraging her to visit him often. During one visit, she asked me how I was dealing with his declining health and inevitable death.

"Denial," I responded.

I know denial will only take me so far, but right now it is my method of choice regarding the dog that outlasted my marriage. I mean, it is either that or depression and heavy drinking, and there will be plenty of time for that when he is gone. His impending doom is also calling back into focus another reason I'd love to have children: You probably won't have to watch your children grow old and die.

The clock is running down for Ike, and it's slowly breaking my heart.


Something more upbeat and irreverent next time, I promise.


Lorrie Veasey said...

What a beautiful post. I think you are an amazing writer. My heart breaks for you and Ike and that's saying a lot, since I am usually a cold hearted bitch and a CAT PERSON to boot.


I've lost a couple of dogs over the past 47 years and it's always a big bummer. I live with 3 cats and 2 dogs and we are currently watching my wife's cat wind down after 21 years. I am truly sorry for all of you. LV is right, you are a wonderful writer.

zakary said...

Poor Ike. Rigby is 14 and in the same boat with Ike. He can't even walk up the stairs now. I hope he just passes in his sleep because I know DAMN well I can't do IT. You know what I speak of and I am so in denial I can't even type it here.

Mostly I worry about Zoe because he is the only dog she has ever known.