No Small Thing

I’m going to run in circles until I fall over!

Hey, folks.  I don’t have a review ready; my anosmia is back with a vengeance, which is just depressing.  I try to practice my gratitude – at least smelling things is my pleasure and not business, I’m not a chef or a perfumer or a sommelier etc.  I don’t make my living off my nose.  But I resent it, sure.

My ancient little rescue mutt Lila got really sick two weeks ago, we think she had a stroke (and possibly some mini-strokes in the past, once I understood the behaviors she was manifesting).  All I knew was, one morning she wouldn’t get up – couldn’t stand up, couldn’t really move, wouldn’t eat or drink, seemed shut down.  Anita and I were traveling that rough road together for a few days, although in different ways; as she mentioned her beautiful big dog got bloat, which can kill you quick.  We love our dogs, we talk about them all the time when we’re chatting, and we also know part of that love is the responsibility of letting them go when it’s the right and reasonable thing to do, and that moment isn’t always clear.  Both our dogs had a sudden, serious onset of illness which can indicate it’s a fixable, reversible thing.  Both our dogs pulled through.

As I sobbed to a couple of folks over the phone when Lila was at her lowest ebb, I know I’m going to have to let her go one day.  But not now, and not like this.  We spent several days back and forth to the vet for IV hydration and lots of tests, and I carried her around at home, wrapped in her favorite blanket.  Held her up on her shaky legs in the yard, and fed her slowly from a spoon, cooing at her, willing her to eat.  To live.  She’s on the slow mend and she seems perfectly happy and not in pain, and the fact that she now gets lost in the corner of the room or the yard, and needs me to carry her up and down the tricky places, and we’ve done things like block off the stairs, is perfectly fine with both of us as far as I can tell.

I got suckered into getting Lila.  Our life had imploded, and one of the last things I had to do on the way out the door from our big house and our former life was to put our fifteen-year-old standard poodle down, because he was suffering and it just wasn’t fair to keep him like that.  It was the right thing to do, but it still hurts my heart years later, because it was such an awful time in every respect that all I wanted to do was bring him into our new home, our new life.  So there we were, living in a rental, everything’s a mess, I was unemployed and in full-on fake-it-til-you-make-it mode, and after about six months the kids started talking about a dog.  I said no.  They said please; I said absolutely not.  Then they regrouped and started talking about how great it would be if we, you know, fostered a dog.  Another poodle that wouldn’t trigger their allergies.  No commitment or anything; just another living being who needs our love!  I thought to myself, I don’t want another being who needs my love, my heart’s so broken right now, I’m short on room in there already.

So, what changed?  Maybe, partly, I’m just an idiot.  Also, an optimist.  Also, on some level, it was a vote for the future.  That someday, if I just kept going, if I believed things would ever be normal again, they would. And for me, a dog’s always been part of that equation.  They found Lila online at a rescue organization.  She was somewhere between seven and ten years old, they weren’t sure, she was a stray from a high-kill shelter in the south. She was tiny, and quiet.  Maybe there was room for an eight-pound dog. We kept her, of course.  Both people who were in line to adopt her had crises and backed out at the last minute, and then she was ours.  I knew I’d been suckered, and it felt like kismet.

Leave me alone, I’m recuperating on my narwhal.

My kids tease me– four of them, yet you look at my phone and all you see is photos of her and Stanley the maltese (a later addition with his own backstory) because, funny thing, Lila can’t stand anyone but me.  Turns out they didn’t get a dog, I did.  I’m her only human.  I don’t delude myself; if I dropped dead next week I’m sure she’d find someone else to glom onto.  Have I mentioned she’s weird?  She grumbles a lot.  She was probably some back-yard puppy-mill brood mare and she wasn’t socialized, and as my kids said, she never learned how to dog.  She looks like a plush toy.  Her nickname’s the rhino because it’s so ridiculously silly for a dog so small. The kids and I sing her little rhino songs because we’re also ridiculously silly.  She is the kind of cute that draws strangers all the time (pre-COVID) which is too bad, because she just hides, she’s not here for the petting, unless it’s me.  She’s got three teeth left at this point.  Sometimes I lose her in the bed linens and we play where’s Lila.

I don’t even know why I wrote all this, and I’m having a bit of a cry as I do.  We were in the middle of board meetings when this went down and it was the only two days I’d been away from home in months (we did our part virtually in separate offices at work) and I still think, what if, and shudder.  Maybe I’d have realized sooner that something was off, although 1) I don’t think that would have changed things and 2) she’s always been a little off, so yeah, no.  She’s now somewhere between thirteen and sixteen years old, and she’s had a great life, at least these last few years.  And someday, maybe someday soon, I will have to let her go.  And I will be bereft.  And yet I would do it all over again, in a heartbeat.  Yes, I miss perfume.  Yes, I hope I get my sense of smell back, I’m investigating options (there’s been a lot of new olfactory research, thanks to COVID, and my two tests came back negative, so who knows).  And yes, a small dog is a small thing in all the huge problems we face now in the world. The willingness to love, though, knowing that to love is to leave yourself open to so much feeling, to heartbreak, to experience that most tender aspect of ourselves, over and over?  Love is no small thing.

  • Patty says:

    Oh, I had no idea! I’m glad she seems to be okay’ish? I get it, and I still am puzzled as I carry Anya around up and down stairs and then stair at her for long periods of time and watch her walk because I think she looks a little stiff and off in the back end, and maybe I should give her a little steroid or rimadyl to keep the inflammation down. And I don’t have to diaper her as much except when I’m going to be working a lot and can’t take them out midday, but she’s much more continent…. and do y ou just think, who the hell are you? I didn’t know I could love my dogs this much? I loved all my dogs I’ve had in my life, but it’s these as I get older and I’m not married and my kinds are grown that are this crazy comfort and tie to caring for something. I hope you have her for another many, many years. I can’t look down that road very far. I know I’ve got four hard decisions ahead of me at some point, but hopefully many years away, but odds say no, one will happen sooner than I want. 🙁

  • Ariel says:

    I hope you get a day sometime in the next week where all you do is play “where’s Lila?” and “who needs a cuddle?” (obvio, Lila).

    Is the anosmia unilateral?

  • crikey says:

    It’s amazing how much love and joy a tiny fuzz can generate, both giving and receiving. (And how much intense sorrow when they leave, or when they suffer.) Here’s to the happiness you share xx

    (p.s. I would have left a comment earlier, but my aging moggy was asleep on the laptop and I couldn’t bear to move her.)

  • Dina C. says:

    I appreciate your dog stories so much more now than I would have two years ago, March, because we got our very first dog about 1-1/2 years ago. In spite of my allergies, out of love, I allowed my daughter to get the dog she had been wanting since childhood. We all love him, and he’s been a special joy and comfort during these shelter at home months. I hope your Lila lives for many more healthy years. She’s adorable.

    • March says:

      It’s …. kind of wild and miraculous, how much you can love them. And I’ve been extra grateful as well, having my pooches around while we’re all at home. I’m happy it’s worked out for you.

  • SamanthaL says:

    No small thing at all…I’m so glad she’ll be ok. We had to put our dog Lady down, she was a 16 year old border collie mix (I think…she was a rescue and we were never sure!) last Tuesday. She was very ill and in pain but still so happy and sweet. I can’t stop looking for her every time I open the door and still save her little bites of my food and then get sad all over again when I realize she’s gone. The house is so empty without her. I’ve been distracting myself by picking out all the Voluspa candles that I want to try. My favorite candles are Diptyque Opoponax, Pomander and L’artisan The et Pain D’épices but I want volume so I’m looking for cheaper options…any suggestions are welcome!

    • March says:

      Oh, I am SO sorry. Even when we know it’s the right thing, the right time, that doesn’t make it easier. My kids were furious, which made it even worse. And oh, to come home to an empty house, my heart goes out to you. I have a TON of candles, and weirdly they’re one of the things I can smell, although I’m not sure I’m smelling them “right”? I rotate them. I really like that dumb Volcano one they have at Anthropologie (I actually think of it as their signature scent although it’s not) and I just bought another Thymes Frasier Fir, which IMO is the perfect candle when it finally gets cold, which it’s allegedly going to do in about 12 hours lol. This summer I stocked up on a cheapo I found at TJ Maxx and bought on a whim, and I liked it so much I went back and bought them out! It’s just a summer scent, coconut / tanning oil and was so cheerful.

  • Musette says:

    The Rhino is a BEAST! She’s persackly what you needed to get you through the dark days. And I think/pray she’ll be with you for some time to come.
    And while my own dog IS beautiful… she is NOT big. She’s ‘normal-sized’ 😉

    xoxoxoxoxo

  • Alityke says:

    The mutual love bond between human & animal is like no other. Lila seems to have rescued you just as much as you rescued her x

  • Portia says:

    March,
    you are amazing and I love you to bits.
    ALL the hugs
    Portia xx

  • Cinnamon says:

    It is so hard when our non-human children/companions are unwell given that they can’t say in a precise way to us “I’m feeling bad and this is what is bothering me”. Will think positive healing thoughts.

    And hope the anosmia is better soon. Frustrating. I believe I had covid way back months ago, but my test and antibody test both came back negative (done months later, so not terribly useful). So, I’m inclined to think the tests are variable and more of us have been affected than we really know. And indeed maybe all this will result in new discoveries on various treatments.

    • March says:

      I’ve had the anosmia for awhile now, but mid summer I got up one day and realized WHOA I can’t smell a thing! Noticeably worse. That was COVID test one. I just …. miss my sense of smell, so much.

  • Zazie says:

    I am glad that Lila is healing and has a loving mom tending to her needs.
    Wishing her a full recovery!

    On love… I feel you. Have you aver seen Interstellar, the movie? I think it really manages to capture the mysterious power of love more than any romantic movie (it’s a sci-fi opus, and perfect for physics nerds like me…). Love transcends. It is also so very hurtful, as I know very well myself. But it is also so very necessary.

    Hope your sense of smell recovers soon. Meanwhile… since you love makeup… Natasha Denona has a beautiful palette called Lila. Very flattering (at least on my deep autumn coloring) and much more wearable than it might look. But can be dialed up to full pow wow! It’s one of my faves!
    I’ll think of you and your lovely dog whenever I pull it out…
    If you haven’t already, you might have some fun checking it out…:)

  • Tara C says:

    Those of us who love animals know that feeling of intense love and sadness when the end seems near. I hope Lila continues to improve and you have more good time together. My current dog is only two, but once you’ve lost a few you know how precious every day with them is. Big hugs. And I’m really hoping your anosmia improves too!

  • Maya says:

    I’m with Kathleen. She has said it so very well. Your post made me teary-eyed as it reminded me of my loses as well, but the beauty and love we get and give are a great gift.

  • Janet in California says:

    This made me weep for my dogs of the past and for my current dogs who getting older.
    Love to you both.

  • Kathleen says:

    March, your post is beautiful. You are speaking my language. I completely get you. I am so sorry for you scare and relieved to hear your special Lila is recovering. The depth of my love for my fur babies probably is not understandable to many, but I feel so blessed to have been given the ability to love so deeply. Somehow we get the special ones, right?
    We make the decision to let them go out of love, they would do the same for us when its time. I wish for you many, many good days with Lila. xx