DISCLAIMER: Original, cause Em was one of a kind.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Fourteen years ago (in September) I had an unplanned puppy parenthood. It was the ride of a lifetime, and she hasn't stopped talking about it since.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Autobiography of Spaniel X
By Emily Ann Clugston-Bowers
as told to Sharon Bowers
My mom is kinda sorta a mess.
And I don't need to understand more than 200 words or have opposable thumbs to know that.
But I chose her.
Love's kinda freaky that way.
I heard her say it.
"I'm not sure I believe in a people heaven but I believe in a dog one."
I'm not sure if this qualifies-- I'm sure I'll get there shortly. Maybe there's a waiting line? But I don't think this is a purgatory for dogs whose moms are like mine.
You know. The female-liking-female types.
I don't get it. I've never liked anyone like that in my life, but I remember belly rubs and ear scratches and the way my mom would let me curl against her.
Still it seems to be a big deal. There's a lot of shouting about it sometimes.
What I remember best is wiggling out of my puppy crate (Talk about a Long. Time. Ago!) and making my appeal to be allowed onto a more amenable horizontal surface. (Yes, my Two Mommies were both English majors.) They were snuggled together in a way that reminded me of when I was in the drainage ditch with my litter mates.
That wasn't as bad as it sounds.
But when my mom lifted me to up there with them... this was way better.
I heard her say softly, "I love you." And her hand stroked my head and a slow sound that I learned to hear as a kiss touched my Other Mom's face.
She loved us both.
I slept more soundly than I ever had.
I hear her. All the time. Sometimes she hears me too. She always had. Kinda.
It wasn't loud, but my mom was looking up. And she never did that.
"Stop doing the Jedi Mind Trick. At least I hope you're doing the Jedi Mind Trick, elsewise, I'm fucked."
I knew it.
She could still hear me. And that was saying something considering a human's auditory senses.
Hey, I might not have opposable thumbs, but I can hear a rabid squirrel a mile away.
Yeah. So I missed a couple of bunnies.
She's not looking up anymore. She's looking down at that spot. You know, the one where I left her. I hate it when she does that thing with the water in her eyes. But she's smiling when she looks up again, despite the water thing. Everybody always says that she doesn't smile much, but she always did it when I patrolled the house with my green frog squeaky.
I carried that damn squeaky around a lot. I wonder if she ever figured out why.
I haven't seen any squeakies Up Here yet, but I'm gonna look for a green one if they have them.
Because she's looking up. And it makes her smile.
We gotta work on the watering thing.
So one day I'm in a drainage ditch with my first mom and three other little ones who are nothing like me. And they're pushy about the milk.
Then the next day I'm in a peach basket-- the others have hogged the other one and I'm all by myself. I'm moving at a rapid speed-- or maybe it's the thing that's carrying the peach basket is moving at a rapid speed, I dunno. I'm a dog, okay? Mechanics escapes me. It sways a lot, and my stomach doesn't like that. I can feel it coming, and I don't want to but it happens.
And it happens.
Oops. Redux. (Remind me, have I mentioned the Englishmajorness of my mom?)
Finally we stop.
The others are squirming around-- never try to put three puppies who are, I shall politely describe as "roomy," into a peach basket. But they insisted, and the tall man who told my first mom to "Stay" let them.
Then there were other voices that weren't the tall man's. I heard him saying something about "shelter" and "taking them" and I didn't get it all, okay? I was four weeks old and not as articulate as I am now. Besides, I was covered in vomit.
Do you know what that does to a girl's fur? Jeeze.
Then there was air-- and wouldn't you know it, they go for the Three Stooges. I don't know who they are, but I saw them on a pair of my mom's pajama bottoms once and it seems as appropriate a way to describe my litter mates as any.
So I'm stuck in a peach basket, shivering, covered in upchuck, and alone.
That's when she finds me.
Great entrance, right?
She cradles me both hands, and I fit into them easily. Maybe it was the shivering or the alone, but whatever. She didn't seem to mind the coating on my fur at no additional charge. I don't remember what she said-- and I doubt she does either cause the Jack killed a lot of her brain cells-- but I do remember that look in her eyes.
That's when I decided.
The watering thing has stopped, but I'm pretty sure it will start again. She's looking up.
"What music do you want at your wake, Em?"
I have to flag down two Irish Wolfhounds Up Here who start by explaining that I should expect one hell of a party.
(Can I admit that I'm still pissed that my mom didn't let me come to our housewarming? Our. House. Okay, I heard about the ex-stripper and the bar owner in hooker shoes, but still... I should have been there. Just sayin'.)
I panic when the Wolfhounds finish filling me in about the wake thing.
Sometimes it sucks to be dead.
I sigh in frustration. Somebody has to be around to herd everybody in the right direction. "Maybe they'll hire security," I think hopefully. Because, knowing that bunch, they'll need it.
Did I mention I found a green squeaky? It's even a frog.
Maybe that's why she's smiling.
I hope so.
Liner Notes to My Wake CD Volume 1
And I'm sure it's only the first of many. Because, my mom never does one of anything.
So here we go.
"Part of Me, Part of You"
Cause, we were the two in the convertible, and I'm sure I kept her from going off the cliff more than once.
"Take Me With You"
Cause, that's what she did, like all the time. I made out like a bandit when we went to McDonalds.
Cause... I dunno. I've never heard that one before. But she looks at my picture a lot when she plays it.
"I'm the Only One"
Cause I think it meant a lot to her and my Other Mommy. They'd smile whenever they heard it. And do that kissing thing. Occasionally my mom would pick me up and we'd dance. More on that later.
"Take It Easy"
Cause, well, I've heard that a lot. Thank... um... a Higher Power that she picked the Jackson Browne version, cause there was way too much Eagles played in that house. And not just on the CD player.
"I Kissed a Girl"
Cause my mom sure did it enough. And it always ended with me sleeping on the guest bed. She must have registered my displeasure cause I always got a lot of snacks the next day.
"Number 1 Crush"
Cause... damn I hate that song. Do you know how many times I had to listen to it while my mom wrote her crappy novel? (Her words, not mine because I'm a dog and can't read it in order to form my own opinion.) I'm not into the whole biting thing, but if f I had been able to make a fist I would have gone out, found Baz Luhrmann and punched him in the nose.
Cause it just screams Christmas. Only Not. But damn if we didn't watch "Moulin Rouge" every morning on Christmas Day. Like I needed another reason to hate Baz. My mom always turned it off before Nicole Kidman died.
"I'm Not Ready to Make Nice"
Cause... that's a gimme... My mom likes to sing, but she's not very good at it. And every time she sang this, I'd walk into the room and point it out. I don't think she ever got my message, cause she kept doing it.
"Break on Through"
Cause... in my defense... I did not know that my mom was a dog whisperer. I could blame it on the couple of licks of her Jack and Coke I'd had, but I'm gonna canine up. She stoned me. And I liked it, lying there snout to whatever people have instead of snouts. She touched, talked, and chanted at me until I. Could. Not. Move.
"Don't Know Why"
Cause she always listened to it when I was in the yard. She'd smile when I did my circles even though I didn't have anything to herd. But she seemed to know that a girl sometimes had to stretch her legs.
"Nobody Drinks Alone"
Cause I think she got this one. I was always there when she did. It still makes me sad.
"Save the Last Dance"
Cause she liked dancing. And sometimes she wanted to do it with me. I wasn't crazy about it, but I did like being in her arms. She never dropped me, although there were a couple of close calls.
Cause... This is the one that starts the watering thing again. But when she looks up, I know that's how she thinks of me.
Even if my halo is slightly cock-eyed.
And weighs a ton.
So... my Other Mommy... it didn't end well. There was lots of the water thing. A lot of shouting. Did I mention how I don't like anything loud? Except I did like VH1... well, back when it played music (Some of my favorite Sundays were when my mom and I would lie on the couch together and watch "Behind the Music" marathons. But I'm getting ahead of myself.)
I knew something was wrong when we started sleeping together-- just the two of us-- in a room that didn't have my Other Mommy in it. It didn't bother me too much-- but my mom... It bothered her a lot.
Then there were boxes and there were people my mom called "Mom" and "Dad."
"Oh," I thought. "She has those too?"
And my mom left me, which did not make me happy.
I have no sense of time, but remember I'm a dog and have no idea of what a sense of time is.
It seemed like forever.
There was the water thing from my Other Mommy, then her voice was on the thing they called "the phone." By the way she talked I knew it was my mom.
She looked at me-- she was very tall and I was very small-- and said, "She'll come for you tomorrow."
My heart did a skip, a jump, and a leap that would later prove my undoing, but I had never been happier.
My mom wasn't leaving me!
But when I saw her...
I had never seen my mom so sad. So sad that it made me sad, but they don't make doggie Xanax so I had to tough it out.
My fur was wet a lot and I didn't mind-- but I did feel a little guilty, cause lying against her felt so good.
I didn't even mind when she drooled in her sleep.
On my fur.
"Is it hard for you?"
She's looking up again.
She's in our bed on her back, and if I were there I'd be standing on her chest trying to lick her face or her hand-- except not the hand she uses to, you know... Anyway...
"I hope it's not."
Honestly saying-- it is and it isn't. There's grass and there're squeakies, and there's this dog named Mango that likes hanging out with me. I have no idea why.
And it doesn't hurt when I breathe.
'Cept I want it to. Down There. With her.
I watch her get up, and damn, I hate it when she gets on the scale. Believe me, before I had to leave, I had to do it a lot, but she does it every damn day.
Step Off Woman!
The Jedi Mind Trick is apparently not working this morning.
Since I left her, I've seen people I don't know at our doorstep. I've heard people I don't know talking about her. About us.
She keeps saying, "I'm hanging in there."
That's what she said when I had to go. "Hang in there for me, Em. Baby, please don't leave me."
I think she'll get it eventually.
Can I tell you how tired I got of hearing the line "I live in two rooms with a dog"?
I didn't mind it so much cause I'm small and my mom is too, and best of all there was a big field of grass right outside our door. She wouldn't let me off the leash during the day-- but sometimes at night she'd let me do my circles.
And sometimes, she even did them with me.
She took me to see my Other Mommy once, but we both knew it wasn't going to be the way it was before. I was okay with that. She kissed my head and scratched me in the wrong places like she always had-- but she was kind. I don't know if she heard me, but I said "Good-bye" to her that day.
I'm pretty sure my mom did too, cause her hand never left me the entire ride back. And there was the water thing. It went on for a long time after we got home.
I look down at her where she's clicking and clacking. "You're getting all this, right?"
So, we spent the summer with my mom at the desk doing something she called "writing" but just sounded like clicking and clacking to me. I'd mill about, and that was nice, maybe chew a rawhide or two. My shark squeaky was toast, and out of all the others I couldn't pick out one I liked best. Occasionally I'd deliberately interrupt her so I could go out, which would lead to cookies and then ropetug. But sometimes my mom would read to me, and I realized her speaking voice was way better than her singing one. I understood like nothing of what she was saying, but I always liked the way she looked at me afterwards. That there was also usually even another cookie involved didn't hurt matters.
Then that Other One showed up.
She kinda sorta made my mom smile-- which made me glad. But a lot of the time she didn't-- which kinda sorta really ticked me off.
As did the way she appropriated my place on the bed.
Suddenly two rooms and two people and a dog were kinda crowded because She Wouldn't Leave.
I knew there was the kissing and the touching and the... the... but my mom wasn't happy.
Okay, my mom's never happy, but there are degrees.
And one day her degree of unhappiness kinda reached critical mass, and she went ballistic.
Yes, I like Michael Bay movies.
After my mom finished talking, the Other One packed her things and left.
It was just the two of us again.
My mom's not doing well.
Okay, I've seen her in worse shape, but she's listening to that song-- the one that causes the water thing. In fact, yup... she just restarted it. She's listening to my "wake" CD. Except there's not a wake happening.
Then I see a little brown box and my picture beside it. (Why is my snout so white? I'm a brown dog.)
"We're home," she says to the box.
"Up Here," I want to shout, but I'm a dog and don't talk. Makes communication hell sometimes, hence the resorting to things like the Jedi Mind Trick-- but I try to keep that one in reserve for the procurement of meaty snacks and needless trips outside.
Now she looks up. I pick up my frog squeaky, and she smiles but it's all watery. Mixed messages much, mom?
"Welcome home, Baby."
Slowly our two rooms become much more confining, and not just cause my mom can mangle about a thousand songs on the piano. I kinda liked that, especially when it was in tune-- which wasn't often. Had she no respect for a dog's sense of hearing? I'd be a way better judge than Randy Jackson on American Idol. Pitchy, my ass.
But that wasn't the confining thing.
It was the big building that held our two rooms. Suddenly there were lots of people that wouldn't smile at me as my mom and I walked past. Sometimes, when my mom and I went to go to the grocery store, they would be sitting around their cars listening to really loud music.
Hey, I like music-- I wouldn't have picked my mom if I didn't... but...
I didn't like the way they looked at my mom.
She stopped letting me off the leash at all. And she didn't sleep with the windows open anymore. I hated not being able to sleep beside her, my snout towards the screen to breathe in the fresh scents. Combined with the warm sleepy smell of my mom, I was always out like a light in no time.
That was even worse than not being able to do my circles. And I really missed that.
During all that there were a few Hers as well as a couple of Hims-- which just confused the hell out of me-- but usually they didn't make it off the couch, so I got the bed.
So not long after (remember the sense of time thing) I found myself at my mom's Mom and Dad's. I was unhappily thinking, "You're going to make me miss something, aren't you?"
They kept calling me their "Granddog," and I have no idea what that means. Genealogy escapes me because it's entirely possible that my litter mates were only halfsies, cause I'm way better-looking. On the upside, being a "Granddog" meant I got a lot of snacks and went out whenever I wanted to.
That's when I started developing the Jedi Mind Trick. If only I had known how successful it would be.
Anyhow... I was stuck here and they're... who knows where they were... and then they're back. And I was in my mom's teleporter-- hey, they left it on the Sci-Fi channel instead of VH1 like I asked-- and then...
THERE'S MY YARD!
I ran so many circles that I had to flop down, panting. And my mom threw herself beside me, rubbing my back, sides and belly. I smelled her, the cut grass, the fresh air.
"Welcome home, Baby."
I hear people talking about my mom.
That isn't all.
I try and tell them-- she isn't all right (she is never that) but she's gonna be okay. I'm here to make sure of that. I always have, haven't I? Maybe I'm the only one who knows how much she wanted to leave sometimes, but I was the one who brought her back.
Want to know how I know?
Cause she told me.
Still, they think about her, maybe more than she realizes. That makes me glad. And cause she keeps looking up, I know she's not going anywhere anytime soon.
I don't know what a "study" is, except it's a room that my mom spends a lot of time in staring at the screen that looks like a teevee but isn't.
More with the clicking and clacking, I think, but this room-- all our rooms-- are way better than the ones we left. I like this one especially because 1) my mom seems happiest in it and 2) my LL Bean doggie bed fits perfectly in the corner where the two windows meet.
And I don't even have to do the Jedi Mind Trick to get her to leave them open for me.
I lie on my bed (Thanks Grandma!) and rest my snout on the windowsill while she clicks and clatters. Every once in a while she gets up with a glass in her hand, and I trail after her because she might get lost, but more importantly to see if she'll give me a cookie.
She usually does. Sometimes even two.
Sometimes, however, she spends waaayy too much time-- and you know it's waaayy too much time if I can figure it out-- in there. So I'd have to come and get her. I remember the look that my Other Mommy used to give her when she would stay up too late. It was half-lonesome, half-sweet, half-- wait-- is that too many halfs? Long division-- not a dog's strong suite.
At any rate-- no matter how many halfs-- it would always work for my Other Mommy. My mom's face would change, and she would come to bed in no time.
She recognized that look immediately.
"You get that from your Other Mother."
I didn't care, cause she always came to bed.
And she always let me curl up in the small of her back when we got there.
She didn't seem to mind much, cause she always petted and kissed me in the morning.
Not the way she kissed other girls, cause "Eww..."
I mean, I love my mom, but I don't LOVE my mom.
I heard that in a movie once.
We watch a lot of those-- along with aforementioned "Behind the Music" marathons-- when I'm not running my circles and she's not clicking and clacking.
And then she's clicking and clacking even more than usual, and I hear her say something about "Puppy Camp."
Hello! I can't do math, but I'm pretty sure in human years I'd be able to drink legally-- although I'd probably be carded, cause I look young for my age... But I digress.
Turns out "Puppy Camp" is code for "Going to Grandma's and Grandpa's While My Mom Reads Something to a Bunch of People."
Like she couldn't do that with me?
Still, it wasn't so bad. I mean, I missed my mom a whole lot, but she had come back for me before, right? And even if my grandparents didn't grasp the importance of circles in my world, they at least let me go out every time I even glanced in their direction.
Either I was scary good at that or they feared for their white carpet.
I wish she'd mow the grass.
How's anyone gonna run circles if she doesn't?
"I heard that."
She's looking up.
"And no, not today."
My food is still in my bowl. I've always been a grazer, okay? Which Up Here is kinda cool because they have an essentially never-ending bacon bowl with my name on it. And the water in the bowl beside it is always fresh. My water bowl Down There is still there, but the water is all gone.
I watch her take away some of my stuff-- except it wasn't really my stuff, cause I had never played with it. And... wait.... Dammit! I liked that Dinity Moore Beef Stew masquerading as Beneful. I didn't know she had those. She totally gypped me!
She did the watering thing on the way over.
She put a picture of me in the bag that held everything else.
And the lady asked if they could put it on their bulletin board.
Asked for my name.
"Em..." my mom said. "Emily." She was trying not to do the watering thing, and the way that the woman smiled at her told me that she could see just how much my mom loved me.
Like the whole world didn't already know that.
The Evolution of My Moniker
I have been called many things in my life, but the first thing that made me pay real attention was "Emily."
I remember my Two Mommies talking about it. I was okay with "Hey You," cause that's what my litter mates called me on their better days.
"She looks like an 'Emily.'"
My mom raised an eyebrow (which is one of her coolest tricks). "Bronte or Dickinson?"
"Jesus, how depressed and/or bitter do you want her to grow up to be?"
I haven't mentioned that my Other Mommy specialized in 19thCentury Literature while my mom was a Contemporary American Lit aficionado.
No wonder they were doomed.
But my mom let my Other Mommy win because she was so happy I was there.
Me. So. Too.
"Emily" eventually became "Em"; and because of it, there was this nice woman who made me snacks that thought my name was Emma. But everyone called me "Em," so much so that the person who lives with my mom's litter mate asked if she should sign me in that way. You know, that night I had to go.
But there were other things my mom called me. And I came every time she called me.
"Brown Dog" (Sometimes Aunt Kate called me "Blue Dog." I never got that.)
I'll omit "Frankendoggie-Chia-Pet" until later in the narrative.
But mostly what she called me was "Em."
That's what they call me Up Here.
I'm good with that.
Enter Aunt Kate.
At first I thought she was another Her, but there was no kissing and touching and... there was laughter. And use of multisyllabic words.
And she let me keep my space on the bed. That was cool, but what was even better is that she liked my mom. And didn't mind when I sat next(on) to her. Although it made her sneeze a lot. She even let me come in and wake her up in the mornings. (It was way harder than waking my mom up.)
It didn't take me long to figure out that she was the one my mom clicked and clacked and read papers with. We all spent a lot of time in the "study," wherein I discovered my mom's dog whispering abilities, while my Aunt Kate laughed at my drugged condition. They also touched a lot of what I had learned were "books." Chewed one once-- hey, I was teething!-- and quickly learned that was a bad thing. They traded them back and forth and pointed at stuff to each other a lot.
Aunt Kate visited sometimes and occasionally I got sent to Puppy Camp so they could go read. That made my mom really happy, which made me really happy.
But sometimes my mom was really really sad.
I mean really sad.
I did everything I could. I brought her squeakies, rawhides, and ropetugs. I even used the Jedi Mind Trick, and it would work more often than not, but sometimes it wouldn't.
That's when she would throw the things that I couldn't chew off the shelves. That's when she would do the water thing until she couldn't do it anymore. She would hold me close, and I didn't really mind how tight it was because eventually she would fall asleep with me still curled against her.
Then I could fall asleep too.
Things got worse before they got better-- there was one Puppy Camp that had nothing to do with reading to people. But my mom...
"I love you, Em," she said when she came back.
I heard her then. And I hear her now.
"That dog looks a lot like Emily."
That's my Grandpa.
"That is Emily."
That's my mom.
Hey! Sometimes a girl has to explore! The front lawn was the next frontier, and was it my fault they left the garage door open while they tinkered with the thing that took us to McDonald's?
She scooped me up in a minute, and I thought, "This is so cool."
What wasn't so cool was the fact that she didn't let me off the leash for two weeks. I don't know what two weeks is, but I heard her telling Aunt Kate. Whatever. It still sucked rocks.
But I got it. I only tried it again when I was scared. And then my mom would take me to someplace where I wasn't.
I liked our house. I'm not going to revisit the housewarming debacle because I've done that already. And I've reviewed the footage.
Another bonus for Up Here.
There was another Her.
My mom made dinner. A big dinner, I know, cause there were lots of smells that had me sitting at her foot, and I knew it was a special occasion-- I've known the word "Holiday" for a long time-- and then there was someone else there.
It wasn't like the Holiday that my mom and Aunt Kate spent together. And I'm not just talking about they people snacks that I got. (I didn't get so many this time, but I'm not still bitter...)
Aunt Kate and my mom talked about stuff that I didn't understand, but their voices told me they were happy. "Cold Mountain?" I didn't get it.
This was different, and I didn't like the way She made fun of my mom, calling her "The Hostess." Although I don't think my mom understood right away.
My mom likes making things nice for other people, okay? Especially for people she likes like that. It's harder for her to let people make things nice for her. Aunt Kate helped a lot with that. She's still a work in progress though.
So, this Her... she didn't last long-- especially after my mom tried to do something really nice and got told She wasn't interested in a Booty Call.
Now, I don't know what a Booty Call is, but I'm pretty sure that it doesn't involve a copy of "Gone With the Wind."
Living with my mom-- even if you are a dog and can't read-- it is impossible not to know about "Gone With the Wind." And don't even get me started about my Grandma on the subject.
There was the water thing. But not much, so I wasn't worried.
My mom went to that place where she had kept me from going all that time ago and talked to them for a really long time. Long... I dunno... but every time she petted one of them, I felt her petting me. And I heard her saying, "They ain't you."
Like I needed a newsflash for that.
I'm her girl. She told me that enough, and sometimes I would invoke the Jedi Mind Trick to say, "You too."
She heard it today, I could tell. But the petting-- it helped.
Not just her.
So let me fast forward a few years, cause there's really not a lot to say about some of them. That, and I need to save something for the sequel. (Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I can't work out a multi-book contract with Putnam. Damn, look at Robert Ludlum. And don't even get me started on V.C. Andrews...)
My mom is rubbing me. She likes to do that; I've trained her well. We're playing on the bed, and then her fingers are touching me in a way they don't usually. Then I hear her voice on the phone.
Then I'm in a place I don't want to go.
I like riding with my mom to the place, but I don't much like the stuff that happens there.
There were needles and cold things against my chest, and I'm not even going to mention the thing that went up my unmentionable.
Then there were more voices on the phone, and I was back there. More needles...
And talk about the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
My mom's holding me, and I think, "Please don't let us start dancing." I really don't want to revisit my peach basket past.
We're in our house, but I'm confused. Why are we in the "study?" And why is there stuff against my fur? Why are my bowls in here?
I Don't Want To Be In Here!
I want my bed. I shout at my mom. And she tries to hold me, says soft stuff, but I'm having none of it.
I want my bed.
It didn't take her long to get the message.
I didn't even have to destroy two rolls of toilet paper to get the message across this time. (Saving that story for the sequel.)
My mom's a quick study that way. (No pun intended.)
This is when the "Frankendoggie" moniker happened. I blame that lady that my mom clicked and clacked but didn't read with. Unflattering to me, but true nonetheless. My mom did the watering thing the first time she took the thing-- what's a "shirt?"-- away from the place I really wanted to lick.
Cause it really hurt.
I stayed on my bed for a long time, and then my mom took me back to that place.
What does "unstapling" mean? Whatever. I tried to be still, and I was cause I'm a good dog. My mom was there with me and petted my head while the strange man and the tall blonde woman-- yes, my mom noticed because she has a thing for tall blondes, and I'd say that even after thirteen years she still loves my Other Mommy but this is about me, okay?
Thus, I was "unstapled." But it still hurt and there was a "shirt" against my fur. My mom and I were going to have to have a discussion about this, although I really didn't mind so much because it covered up some of the fur that had been taken away.
After all-- a girl has to keep up appearances.
Oh please. Not that CD again. I try the Jedi Mind Trick to see if I can psychically crush the CD player, but every time I think I'm getting somewhere, she smacks the machine to start it playing again.
"Okay," I tell her. "Play your music." Again with the me liking music. "But play something else. Springsteen, Prince, Etheridge..." Only not her cause it's one of the water songs on that damn CD.
Who's Toby Keith?
I dunno, but it works for me, cause she does that head-bobbing thing on a couple of songs. And she sang once or twice.
Her voice has not improved in my absence.
But for a Higher Power's sake, don't play that damn Leona Lewis song again, cause I freakin' hate it. Nobody "Bleeds Love," cause "Love Is Free."
That's the way it's always been for me.
And Sheryl Crow could kick Leona Lewis' ass any day. Even if she's still bitter over the whole Lance Armstrong thing.
She and Stevie Nicks just need to come to their senses. Maybe the Jedi Mind Trick will work on them? I mean, after all, there's something to be said for the Everywhere Spirit. But just as I'm ready to focus my powers, I'm distracted, cause my mom just hit the damn restart button on the CD.
My circles were starting to be not so fun anymore. And not cause sometimes my mom didn't mow the grass. The thing that made me skip, jump, leap and made me so fast-- I'm ignoring the whole greyhound incident (Maybe that's why I didn't mind the bunnies so much?)-- well...
And then it wouldn't.
And then I'd do some circles. Then I'd flop down on the porch while my mom turned the pages of the things I couldn't chew.
Sometimes I couldn't get my breath in the mornings, but it didn't usually last long, and by the time my mom would get back from the place that earned my kibble, I could do my rounds with my frog squeaky.
She petted me a lot (like she didn't always) when I couldn't get my breath and put her hand on the thing that beat so hard and-- most importantly-- scratched my butt. Until I was able to flop over and enjoy my mom's dog whispering fully.
I was okay with this protocol-- nine seasons of "ER" teaches you something-- but my mom...
Not so convinced.
I go back to that place (Loved the ride, mom put the top down) and the nice Dr. C touches me with the cold thing and there's the Ow. They also take pictures of me. "Am I going to be on the cover of 'Vanity Fair'?" I think. Cause if I am, I want a bath first. Dr. C talks to my mom a long time, so I pick up messages. I look at what he's pointing at, and I think, "If that's me, then mom's way overdue taking me to the stylist." Inside out is not my best look.
When we leave, my mom has a bag of something in her hand, but it doesn't smell meaty.
What does "Congestive Heart Failure" mean?
Cause it makes my mom do the water thing as we drive home.
On the upside...
She thinks she's fooling me, that I don't see the little things that are embedded in the cubes of snacking goodness.
Sometimes I spit the little things out just to make a point, but then she makes her point by opening my snout, placing the little things in my mouth, and closing my snout.
For the record, opposable thumbs win.
Still, it makes me feel better. It's easier to breathe, and the beating thing doesn't hurt so much.
On the other hand...
Sometimes I can't not go.
Like when my mom's not here. I try and try to wait, and she comes home on her kibble-earning break for me, but still...
I do it as far away from our bed as possible.
She never yells or gets mad at me. She just smiles-- not the kind of smile that I see when I bring her a squeaky-- but it's still filled with love. "It's okay, Baby. You wanna go out?"
Even if I didn't have to anymore-- I went every time.
There's clicking and clacking and...
What's a Shondaland?
I remember my mom once talking about Disneyland and how it made her miss the thing that would bring her back to me. (I don't know who was madder about that-- me or Aunt Kate.)
And there's a lot of clear stuff that has the same effect as Jack-- but quite frankly, the Jack was much tastier. And there's a lot of the water thing when she has too much of it.
My picture is beside her as she clicks and clacks, and the little brown box has my picture beside it too, along with some square things I'm sure I wouldn't be allowed to chew. Oh-- and there's a cactus.
I wasn't even an unneutered encounter in my first mom's head when my mom met Her. I heard enough about Her, though. I even met Her once, and I wasn't exactly impressed. But I heard my mom bitch about getting a cactus for Valentine's Day enough. And for a housewarming present.
Can you tell "Housewarming" is still a trigger phrase for me?
So Why Is One Sitting Beside My Box?!?
Cause I know it's my box now.
I may be Up Here doing the Jedi Mind Trick, but I'm also Down There with her.
Works for me.
Weird how she really can hear me sometimes, cause she looks at the box and the cactus. "It took me seven fucking years to kill that damn cactus. I figure I can do longer with yours."
I absently duck my head away from the little blond terrier that wants to play with me and say, "Then you better get it into a bigger pot."
I have no idea how I know this.
Damn... it's scary the kind of superpowers you get Up Here.
The beating and breathing thing are getting easier. I know my mom thinks it's because of the little (and in some cases, not so little) white things she gives me-- but frankly, I'm convinced it's the CHEESE! factor.
Then my back leg starts hurting. I can't tell left from right-- because really, what good would it do me? I know where all the doors are and that's good enough for me. There's this... thing.... pressing against my skin, and all the fur there is gone.
That pisses me off.
I'm licking it, why I don't know except that it itches. And again with the hurting.
But I could be stroking out-- we've moved on to "Grey's Anatomy" now-- by the way my mom reacts.
There are phone calls.
There is the water thing.
There are more phone calls.
Then I'm in the thing that takes me to the place I don't much want to go.
"Can't we just go to McD's and forget it?" I think.
And there we were. But it wasn't at McD's. (Dammit.)
I'm down with the weighing thing, cause my mom always comes with me. I hold still, and they read things and say stuff. Then they take us into the room.
My snout tells me I remember this place.
I can tell by my mom's face that she does too.
Someone that I don't recognize comes in with the tall blonde that made my mom look twice and sits down on the floor beside me.
I'm at my mom's foot in a second, and only when my mom gets down in the floor with me do I let her touch me.
I don't like her, but if mom says it's okay...
I hear the doctor say something about "excessive licking"-- and I'm insulted.
Like I don't have anything better to do? Between patrolling, napping, and getting my butt scratched-- when the hell does she think I have time to excessively lick? Give me a break.
My mom starts talking, and I hear words I don't understand-- like "cancer," and "white mast cell," and "surgery," and that lady doctor left the room.
Do you know how thin the walls in that place are? I can hear her talking-- hell, my mom can hear it, and that's saying something considering the damage she's done to her ears with that sound system of hers.
Then suddenly the doctor's back, and she's all "Aspirate..."
"Ass..." is what I want to call her, cause my mom knew it to begin with. Otherwise she wouldn't have brought me back here. She had found the things on the back of my neck the night before when she was touching me the way she didn't usually. They were nowhere near as gross and ugly as the thing on my leg, and as small as they were, she still found them.
Stuff that the lady doctor had missed as she examined me.
Now... I'm all about Girl Power... but pay attention, bitch.
My mom didn't go earn my kibble that day.
Instead she stopped us at the Publix-- I've known that word for a long time-- and...
I can smell the meatiness of the bag, but I'm a polite dog and don't go for it. However, I do the hopeful thing with my eyes, and I know by the way my mom looks at me that I'm so gonna get lucky when we get home.
There are more phone calls and more words that I don't understand, and then...
Another Jimi Hendrix Experience.
To her credit, my mom didn't take me to the "study" again. She just put me on our bed and curled against me.
Usually that's my job, but I don't mind cause really... I'm so circling the airport.
My mom's rubbing her eyes-- and that's never a good sign. She's also running a hand through her hair, which is not unusual, but in combination with the rubbing of the eyes... a very, very bad sign.
I wish Aunt Kate were here.
The clicking and clacking has slowed, but I note the addition of new things that I'm not supposed to chew. These are ones with pictures-- what's a "graphic novel"? Cause that sounds kinda porny-- my mom has those too, but I always left the room when she watched them-- but these aren't. They make my mom smile and then frown and then mutter something about "referring to the text."
Then she glances towards my brown box. So I do too.
She Found My Frog Squeaky!
It's sitting right there next to my box, and it looks just like the one I have in my mouth right now.
She still needs to get a bigger pot for that damn cactus.
Pale Blue does not suit my coloring, okay?
But that's what they wrap my leg and neck in, and it pushes the fur on my head up. That's when the whole Chia-Pet thing starts.
HELLO! Head still attached to body!
I know what a Chia-Pet is cause my mom's litter mate gave her one for Christmas once. She took it away, and I never saw it again.
Which didn't bother me, cause it was kinda creepy.
I hear her talking on the phone with Aunt Kate, and she's all "You know if you look at her from the right angle..." But she's smiling at me as she says it and then gets down in the floor with me.
"My little Frankendoggie-Chia-Pet."
I glare at her, but I don't have enough energy to do the Jedi Mind Trick. And circles are a little beyond me right now. So I just let my mom pet me, and then she turns on the thing that's bigger than the thing she clicks and clacks on and settles on her end of the couch so that I can settle on mine.
It's hard. The thing beats so fast inside me, and I try not to let her know, cause I can tell by the watering thing she's worried enough. We've always shared the couch-- she had her end and I had mine, unless of course I wanted to sit on her. She never minded. So I didn't mind that extra bit of Jedi that it took for me to catapult myself up there. We watch the picture that comes on when you put little shiny things into shiny boxes. Things blow up and I don't care. My mom is getting sleepy. I can tell.
I have to stand on her chest to tell her it's time to go to bed. I'm so tired, but I gotta get my mom there, cause I know she just as tired.
It takes a few tries before I can make it up on the bed, but I finally do. I settle on my half of the bed, and my mom sleeps one way and I sleep the other. I don't like it. I settle in closer, turning over. Hello! It's not like she hasn't woken up with my paws in her back before. And just like every time before, she rolls over. "C'mere, you."
People are saying stuff.
"New Dog" is the one I hear the most.
But more than anything, I hear her say, "No."
Sometimes, though, it's "Not yet." and that kind of stings, but a part of me wants someone Down There to herd her.
She needs looking after, my mom.
She looks at my box a lot.
And she goes to sleep and wakes up with my collar in her hand every night.
Except when she starts wandering around.
I hear her calling for me...
Aunt Kate's room.
The back porch.
She's calling for me, and I try and tell her that I'm still there.
Except that I'm not.
She still hasn't quite gotten it.
We start going to that place a lot. And when I say "lot," I mean A LOT. She wakes up like she usually does, but she doesn't put on the stuff that she usually puts on when she goes to earn my kibble. It's the stuff that she wears when she doesn't have to.
"Are we going to McD's?" I think the first time.
I'm quickly cured of that assumption.
And why does it make my mom so sad?
I hear things like "not like people," and "won't lose her fur" and...
We're talking about my fur here?!?
I need a say in this matter, cause I'm not sure what comes after "Frankendoggie-Chia-Pet."
My mom's got 'The Face,' however. There isn't any of the water thing, but I can see she wants to as they take me Back There. (I'm just sayin'-- I get really familiar with Back There.)
Then they bring me to the place where my mom is, and she's upset. I am too, but for different reasons. She feels the wet on my fur which wasn't there when we arrived.
Me? I'm upset about-- oh-- THE NEEDLE THING THEY STABBED INTO MY CHEST!!!!
You're worried about my blood, then, Hello! Don't stab me.
I think that's it, but my mom isn't moving.
I can't help it-- I have to listen to the messages that the others have left. Mom doesn't mind, but when the not-tall-blond-nurse comes in, I instinctively go to my mom's foot. The not-tall-blonde has something dangling from her hand, and I very much don't want it.
My mom scoops me up in her arms.
She holds me gently, so gently that I wouldn't even mind if she wanted to dance. Where's Brad Paisley when you need him? And who's Brad Paisley and why do I know his name?
We're so totally gonna make a break for it, I just know.
Instead, my mom looks at the thing in the not-tall-blonde's hand and says, "She hates leashes."
Which is true.
She walks me over to the not-tall-blonde and hands me into her arms. "Is it okay if you just carry her?"
My mom is still clicking and clacking, kinda...
But sometimes she just falls apart.
I try to use the Jedi Mind Trick to tell her I miss her as much as she misses me.
She doesn't know that the ache in her thing that beats in her chest is the same in mine.
I'm her girl.
She is mine.
Up Here you remember stuff.
Like the little license tag with your name on it that dangled over your crate when you were small.
My mom still has it.
It's propped against the white board that she and Aunt Kate use when they're ranting and raving-- I'm sorry, clicking and clacking-- about the stuff they read to people. When Aunt Kate isn't here, my mom makes "To Do" lists on it. How I know what a "To Do" list is escapes me, but I watched her do it often enough.
She hasn't made one in a while cause she keeps taking me to get stabbed in the chest and then they compound the indignity (My mom likes to read out loud a lot, so I've learned a lot of words... I'm a smart dog, you know... And I'm still irked we never finished "White Fang...") Anyway... What was I saying?
Oh, right. Compounded indignity.
They shave the fur on one of my front paws and shove another needle in!
My front paw! The neighbors will think I have the mange! Not that I much like the neighbors-- Yuppies with a dog that has no manners-- but I have a rep to protect.
Whatever they're putting inside me makes me want to do the Oops from both ends. Sometimes both at once. I do my best not to, but, well...
More little white things?
One the upside...
On the downside...
Sometimes I have to wake my mom up after she's turned off the thing we watch together (Have you seen "Shiloh" by the way? I really liked that one.) and gone to bed.
It's really hard for me to get up there now, and more often than not, I sleep at the foot of the bed. I know it hurts my mom that I don't sleep with her anymore, but she seems to understand.
Although she does step on me a couple of times going to the bathroom at night. She always says she's sorry, and I always get a belly rub and a butt scratch out of it.
Not a bad trade considering I always over-act the yelping.
So... more often than not I can wake my mom up. I don't bark or anything, cause that would just be rude-- and I have manners (Unlike some dogs). I do, however, have an award-winning worthy low whine-- but sometimes my mom is so tired she just doesn't hear me. And I can't get up on the bed to tell her.
More with the Oops.
She's on the phone with my Aunt Kate, which makes me want to go outside, only I am outside, but it's also inside- and I don't get it, but it still seems to work Up Here.
My mom would always let me out when she was on the phone. She'd talk, and I'd pick up messages.
Those bunnies sure chatted a lot.
She doesn't open that door anymore.
You know, the one she always let me out of.
And she doesn't sit on the porch turning the pages of the things that I can't chew.
I so need to be back in my yard.
Instead she's sitting inside-- more with the clicking and clacking-- only...
There's something bright and colorful sitting next to my box.
She looks up.
"They're flowers, doofus."
"Okay," she says, still looking up. "I won't call you that." The water thing threatens, but she blinks it away.
I look at my box again and see the last little bit of rawhide that I had been chewing up until I had to leave. The little knot (the best part in case you don't know) is sitting on top of my box.
Damn. I had wanted to finish that rawhide.
I was grateful there weren't any more Jimi Hendrix Experiences, although there was lots of stabbing and shaving-- but at least they put a colorful wrap over my paw to cover the damage.
I liked the purple ones the best. But the red ones weren't too bad either.
They didn't always shave my paw. Sometimes they just stabbed me in the chest and then Dr. C would come into our room (Hey! I spent more time in that room than anyone else. Some of those messages were waaay old.) He would say things like "blood cell count" and "infection" and "weight loss"( which my mom had recently become oh-too-familiar with). My mom would get the look that I just knew would mean the water thing later.
She still took me to Publix, though.
Boar's Head turkey cures everything. Well, in my tummy it does.
The thing in my chest hurts in spite of the drug-laced CHEESE! Which pisses me off because I can't get to my place on the couch, and my mom starts taking it all. And she calls me a bed-hog??
On the other hand, it makes it easier for me to get her attention when I feel the Oops about to happen. My snout next to her not-snout-but-something-else seems to do the trick pretty well. And though it makes the thing in my chest beat even harder, I learn to navigate the stairs in the dark.
After all, we wouldn't want to turn on a light and disturb the neighbors.
She did though.
Disturb the neighbors by turning on lights that were never that great to begin with. I think that's why my mom liked to put the yellow polo shirt (Thanks Grandma!) on me at night. She could see me better in the dark. Not like I was about to get lost. (I'm saving the story about the time my mom accidentally locked me out of the house for the sequel.)
But sometimes, though...
She would carry me down the stairs herself. Cause I just couldn't get down them. That was even scarier than dancing with her, cause honestly-- one hand on the dog, the other on the banister... well, it made the dog pretty worried. I'm not sure how the banister felt.
We made it down every time.
And made it up again.
It was getting so hard.
She's only kind of clicking and clacking now, and Aunt Kate-- she's doing the best she can. She's got issues of her own. (Max and her tennis balls need to get a grip.) And my mom-- we've already established her issues-- sometimes she takes it out on my Aunt Kate. Which isn't easy for either of them. But I know how much my mom loves my Aunt Kate even if it isn't in That Way, so they totally need to get their shit-- collective and individual-- together, cause my mom needs someone to ride in the convertible with her until someone else picks her the way I did.
Cause it's gonna happen, I know.
Maybe I can use the Jedi Mind Trick to direct her in the right direction. I hear there's a beagle roaming around the Publix parking lot.
The thing that beat inside my chest told me I was going to have to leave soon.
But my house is here. And my mom. And my grandparents. And that litter mate of my mom's that she sometimes called "The Idiot."
I don't think she meant anything bad by it, cause really-- you can't top "Frankendoggie-Chia-Pet." I dare you to try.
I can't patrol anymore cause I can't find my green frog. I tell myself that's the reason why, but honestly, it's cause it's getting too hard to do much of anything.
The cubes of snacking goodness are still tasty, but the food in my bowl-- no matter how fresh-- isn't. I don't even go for as many fries as I used to (I could've chowed an entire Medium one, I swear, but my mom would never buy me one. She always made me share, and we always halved the last one.).
Instead I lie down on the hardwood floor and look at my mom where she's clicking and clacking. It's the best angle, cause she's sitting at the "breakfast nook" on her stool. I'm lying next to the big pole that I think holds the house up, which is also where we used to dance. We don't dance anymore, although she holds me while we're sitting down. I'm trying to do the Jedi Mind Trick to tell her it's going to be soon, that I don't want to, but I'm going to have to, and...
I kinda think she starts to get the message.
Cause she buys two of those point-at-you-and-click things. And she starts pointing and clicking at me. She even takes me to the library, but doesn't let me go in (Hey! I'm way quieter than most of those kids-- I know because my mom told me that on more than one occasion. Maybe I should have filed a discrimination suit-- my mom knows this kick-ass lawyer named Katherine.) There's this nice lady named Jane who takes our picture even though I'm not at my best, cause with the stabbing and shaving-- mostly what I want to do is hit the Publix, take my CHEESE! And go to sleep.
I look down at my mom cause she's looking up. We both know how this story ends.
Except it hasn't. She's getting it. I'll never leave her, even if someone else picks her, I'll always be Up Here, trying to herd her in the right direction.
I'm still working on the Stevie and Sheryl thing.
So my mom puts me in the thing that takes us to tastiness, and we land at grandmas. CHEESE! I think, and though I would normally scout the yard-- I'm just too tired. I mark a few quick territorial spaces, but mostly I want to see grandma. Cause she needs to know that I have to leave soon. Really soon.
And I think that's why my mom brought me, cause she hasn't lately.
Sure enough, my water bowl is there-- grandma always has one waiting for me, and I get my snacks. She keeps them for me, you know. Grandma's really good that way-- well, she's good in a lot of ways-- but Frosty Paws have a way of stealing a dog's heart.
'Cept mine belonged to my mom, but she was willing to share. So I was too.
When we get home my mom takes a shower-- she always does cause I hate the smell of smoke-- and she lifts me up on the bed. I hate it that I can't do it anymore, but I want to be near my mom. And she knows it. She kisses my head and does the belly rub that feels so good. "After tomorrow," she says, "Only two more to go."
"Great," I think, "Only I don't know how many two are."
She nuzzles my fur. Kisses me again and frowns.
It's been awhile since I've been to see my stylist (Her name's Tasha, by the way. If you go, tell her Em recommended you.). And my mom knows how particular I am about my fur.
So the next morning when she takes me to the place that stabs and shaves, she asks about baths.
She doesn't know.
But she knows.
A lady has to leave looking her best.
She doesn't take me to Publix after the whole-- well, by now you know the drill. Instead, they put me in a kennel. Hello! I should be allowed to roam the halls cause I know them well enough by now. Hell, I could act as cruise director for some of the newbies.
The not-blond-nurse (damn, I was hoping for the tall blond one, cause she really was kinda hot-- at least in my mom's opinion) comes and takes me out of the kennel.
The water feels so good. Not too warm and not too cold. Her hands are nice as they soap me and inadvertently scratch my butt. I wasn't exactly complaining. She rinses me off, and put me into this little space that she called the "Blower Room."
I didn't like it. And the thing that beat in my chest started to beat even harder. I tried to get away from the noise and the heat, and I knew it was time.
I just wanted to wait for my mom.
She knew something was wrong the minute she got there. I was panting and heaving and I thought I might have to go right there, but I wasn't gonna. I wanted Our House. I wanted to be there with my mom.
I saw her hesitate. Knew she was about to ask for Dr. C, but I used the Jedi Mind Trick Down There one last time.
I made her take me home.
"Baby... Em..." Her hand is on my back as I try to catch my breath. I go to the "study" which is where I remember my mom being the happiest. "I have to go back to earn you more kibble."
I make a vow that she can't hear to wait.
And I do.
It hurts so much.
But I do.
As soon as I hear her walk through the door and say, "Em... It's time for ball!"
At the time I didn't understand why she always said that¯although I do know what ball is, even though I prefer ropetug-- but Up Here I understand the reference.
My mom's home.
It's okay for me to let go.
This is the part where my mom would turn off "Moulin Rouge."
But she can't turn this off, even though we both want to. She holds me, cradles me, and I let go, cause I'm safe in my mom's arms. And then... I can see her now from where I'm not.
She takes me outside so that grandma wouldn't have to see where I had to leave and waits until grandma gets there. She never lets me go for a minute, petting me, holding me the way she always the did.
Grandma called my mom's litter mate, and though my mom said everything would be okay, they insisted on coming anyway.
To the place where my mom was going to have to leave me. At least for now.
They got there before we did.
And all my mom wanted to do was hold me. And they let her.
When they left us alone, she told me, "I may not have been the best mom ever, but Em, you were the best dog ever."
I dunno if she heard me, cause I was a bit scrambled at the time, but I told her, "I picked you for a reason."
I knew by the way she laid me on the table that she hated every second of it, and I didn't have any way of telling her that it wasn't cold, it wasn't hard-- that the thing that made us mom and Em was still alive. And always would be.
It's been three months since I had to leave, and she hears me better than ever before. Great-grandma's picture sits next to my box, and my mom puts bright colorful things beside our pictures and my box pretty often. We talk a lot. So I focus the Jedi Mind Trick (not for the last time, I'm sure).
I tell her.
She looks up and smiles. It's not watery. "I know."
"But not until you mow the grass."
NOT THE ABSOLUTE END
(cause there is that Putnam deal pending.)
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