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.
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.