Mother never explained death to me, so you can imagine at the age of 41 how naive I must feel.
Birth, of course, was an entirely different matter. She didn’t have any problem giving me explicit details of how my brother was conceived (clinically) and what was going to happen when she went into labor. She was a nurse by training so it may not have seem that odd to her to explain to her six year old where babies came from. I took this knowledge to my Catholic school playground where within days of my new education, I told my class the vivid details of human birth and dismissed the old trope of a stork and such. Mother was called in to reign in her precocious offspring and to stop scaring the children with such wild stories.
Death. Death was a whole ‘nother matter.
People who died in my family were so far removed, I didn’t understand the concept of what it meant to die until nearly high school. If a death would occur, it would be my mother or one of her sibling’s aunts, uncles, cousins, or high school friend they hadn’t seen in a decade. People I knew in name only or had met once or twice. My paternal grandparents were well into their 80s when I came along, and my maternal grandmother had died right after I was born. I did not attend my first funeral until I was 24 when my grandfather died in 1996.
We had no pets growing up, except for fish who seemed to die as rapidly as they were replaced. Well, that’s not entirely true. My brother and I had kittens we had rescued after we had moved to Grand Rapids in the late 1980s. A few weeks after we had them, my mother had accidentally stepped on of them, paralyzing it. She threw the still living cat into the apartment dumpster, where it was rescued shortly after by a neighbor who took it to have it humanely put down.
After a few years of apartment living and Mother’s boyfriend hopping, we finally landed in the house on Paris Ave., a 1920s craftsman house not unlike Throbbing Manor. We somehow gained ownership of a Pomeranian puppy, named Max, that became beloved by my brother, and a Maine Coon cat named Chester, who was my cat until I moved out a few years later. Max was hit by a car within months of his arrival when he escaped out the front door one day. Chester became Mother’s cat and best friend after I moved out and remained that way until she put him down a few years ago at the ripe old age of 20.
So while I had relationships with pets and people and rationally knew dying existed, yet death was often removed from my day to day life so I had no coping skills when it did happen. While I would grieve when these pets or long lost friends were lost, the grieving never last long. It was more the loss of a life rather than a loss of something I loved.
Shortly after we moved into Throbbing Manor, Wednesday had a seizure. Within a couple of months, she would have a few more seizures and shortly after, benign lumps would be found on her spleen and removed.
The seizures, idiopathic in nature, had no warning signs. The last one she had was last summer while we were up at Throbbing Cabin. I had spent the night with her in my arms, tucked in like a baby, while the seizure did its thing. This was a growing concern as they would increase as she got older. She also had benign fatty deposits on her body, that while not fatal, could become more cosmetically problematic as she aged. Prednisone could destroy her liver. She was a ticking time bomb.
In the three years since the first seizure, she would come perilously close to death many times only to have a miraculous recovery. And in those three years, I grieved numerous times over when I thought it was time to let her go. I knew this was coming and we were living on borrowed time. That’s the funny thing about pets – they are fine until they are aren’t. They are not like humans in there is a progression with an illness. It would just hit you fast like a truck.
Against the prediction of the vet, Wednesday rebounded when we upped her Prednisone during her last week. But I knew this was a temporary fix. A very minor temporary fix. Even on the upped dose, she had maybe three months left before her liver would fail, or she slip on the wood floor and break a bone and not feel it, or something equally worse. She had had no control over her facilities and no feeling in her back legs. She would lie happily in her own shit and had no idea she had defecated herself.
The vet had told us this appointment was not a permanent appointment. We could cancel it any time. We came tantalizingly close to canceling the appointment during the week as Wednesday seemed to improve, but I knew it was time. I could bear cleaning up her shit and piss, but I could not bear the thought of her being in pain or her liver going out or her breaking something, a real fear TheHusband and I often discussed. We came even closer to canceling when the weather shifted and we were slated to get 5-8″ of snow Saturday morning.
We agreed Wednesday had attempted to make a deal with the devil.
They had us in a private room, and I could hold her or they could take her away. In respect for her, I wanted to be there when she died. They put a catheter in her paw with a sedative, so when they brought her back to me, she was snoring in the vet’s arms. Two shots would be injected vis the catheter, the drugs whose names I cannot remember, but her death would be peaceful. And quick.
Within seconds of the second drug was injected, I felt her last breath leave her body. I was petting the unicorn bump on her forehead when she died and I remember gasping in the fastness of it all. One minute she was in my arms, pawing at my hand to get comfy on my lap, and the next she was frolicking in the fields over the rainbow bridge.
TheHusband, supportive of my decision, was a pessimist about Wednesday’s illnesses over the years. He warned he was prepared for her death because he had many pets over the years who died and while it was sad and painful, it would be okay. It was just a pet.
Except, it didn’t work out that way. He cried when I cried, and if he cried, I cried. He panicked when we got to the vet because he didn’t know we would be with Wednesday when she died. He thought we would hand her over and leave. He choose to support me by staying in the private room with us, but he did not watch her die. And I was okay with that.
We had packed up all the unused food and medicine and donated it to the vet for families and pets who could use it. We had decided to keep Wednesday’s dog bed and food/water bowls in case we opt to get another dog later in the future.
The drive home was somber.
My brother and his girlfriend picked us up shortly after we got home and we went on a all day drinking spree across the city. Four pubs in nine hours, we came home late Saturday night with our hangovers starting and our sadness permeating our actions.
Our sleep was broken Saturday night, partially from drink and partially from unsurety. There was no 20lb lump keeping us apart and we were stumbling on how to cope. Sunday morning brought awkwardness. No dog to walk meant no we didn’t have to jump out of bed when our eyes opened.
After my allergy testing in the fall of 2011, and discovering I was allergic to lots of things including dogs, which forced our hand to be more vigilant in how our laundry was done. Comforter was steam cleaned by the dryer, along with the pillows, on a regular basis. Sheets rotated at least weekly, but more like bi-weekly. I was acclimated to Wednesday’s dander but coupled with the beefed up cleaning schedule, I was still plagued with the occasional hives and itchies.
It was the weekend, of course, for us to do all of those things. TheHusband gathered up all of Wednesday’s beds and steam cleaned them and packed them away. We washed her leash and harness, along with her food and water bowls, and packed those away as well. Her stuffed pug, the one she got when she was young pug, was washed and will now live on pillow mountain, where Wednesday would rightfully be.
I put Wednesday’s name tag on an extra long chain so it would be close to my heart.
We spent Sunday in enlonged periods of silence as we worked. There was no herding to the bedroom when it was time for bed, no impatient waiting at the top of the stairs as we came and went from the basement. No truffle hunting in the kitchen for the crumbs that may have fallen. No prolonged staring that was her way of begging as we ate. Dinner was a silent affair.
I felt lonely while TheHusband watched football in the Rumpus Room and I was pecking at this piece in the bedroom. I fondled her name tag a lot and tried not to cry as there was no 20lb lump who threw herself on my left side when she could get the chance. No bed hog who would plant her self between my legs at night, trapping me in.
TheHusband is taking her death more deeply then I had anticipated and I suspect in the next few weeks, it will be worse for us both. He is beginning to comprehend his constant companion, the living thing he spent 24 hours a day with, is no longer going to be around. He asked me to take down the house rules we had on our fridge, which included Wednesday specific instructions, because it was too painful to look at. Tonight I caught him trying to pet the air while we were snuggled up in bed and then we both cried.
She is everywhere in this house. I can see her in my mind’s eye at the locations I expect her to be and I can hear the tapping of her nails against the wooden floor as she followed me everywhere. I can see her drunken sailor walk speed up when she saw me come through the door at night and the roll over onto the floor for belly rubs when TheHusband stuck his foot near her.
To work through the grief, TheHusband started writing Wednesday’s obituary, beginning with her birth in Sparta in 510 BCE and so far, up to when she wrote Pug and Pugjudice. Additional chapters will be forthcoming.
She was the most interesting pug in the world. And she will never be forgotten.
Previously: Wednesday is born, she fights with Leonidas, and she becomes king of the yews.
Fearing more trouble in the Roman world, Wednesday quickly made her way to Scandinavia. She toiled for years trying to strike it rich with her questionable businesses.
- “Fjord Fiesta” A margarita bar for the weary bearded traveler.
- “Fjord Escape” Iron age Eco-tourism.
- “Fjord Focus” Ophthalmology practice.
- “Fjord Edge” Axe sharpening services.
After nearly 1000 years of failed business ventures, Wednesday decided to get back in the soildering game. She married a princess (The Danes have always been progressive), amassed an army, and attempted to conquer England.
After many failures, using her her years fighting with Leonidas as her guide, Wednesday finally conquered England and became known as Pug Forkbeard.
After conquering and unifying England, Wednesday decided to fade from the limelight to pursue her more creative endeavors. She then spent nearly the next millennium in England, traveling around the countryside gathering stories and hoarding grain where she decided to embark on the greatest writing career known to pugkind
She reminisced about her time there during an appearance on The Mike Douglas Show in 1966.
“I took a liking to England right away, something in there air there unlocked by creative juices. Probably emissions from all the rotting teeth; or the gas from the terrible food; or the terrible weather; or maybe the the miasma of cancer vapors from the collective national stiff upper lip. Wait, why did I like this place again?”
During a prolific period between 1589 and 1613 Wednesday wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets whose imprint on the English language and world culture cannot be overstated.
Among the most famous words in world literature is the opening soliloquy to Wednesday’s theatrical masterpiece Puglet:
To pee, or not to pee, that is the question–
Whether ’tis Nobler in the loin to suffer
The Stings and Arrows of distended bladder,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of urine
Wednesday’s coffers finally filled from her scheme as a grain trader and playwright, decides to to take the opportunity to focus her considerable talents on writing novels.
Between 1811 and 1816 she wrote six novels, which would become definitive classics:
Pug and Pugability
Pug and Pugjudice
Excerpted from Pug and Pugjudice:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single pug in possession of a pizza crust, must be in want of a drink.
Wednesday famously suggested the real reason her sister Cassandra burned her letters from that period. “I was having an affair with Lord Byron AND his half-sister Augusta Leigh. Can you imagine what would have happened to my work if that had gotten out? No one would have ever believed my books were written by, ‘A Lady!'”
Next chapter: Wednesday conquers America.
Wednesday the pug was born to a poor Spartan family on July 19th, 510 BCE. Her father, Pugtroclus, was a popcorn vendor. Her mother, Cleocharia, was a river nymph. It wasn’t a pleasant childhood as Wednesday’s parents had a strained relationship. She famously spoke of this in a 1977 interview on Parkinson for the BBC:
“My parents always fought about money. Dad would say, ‘I dragged my popcorn cart all the way to Olympia and back. I work my ass off to put food on the table. When I get home, I just see you splashing about in the creek. There isn’t even a cold meal waiting for me.’
“Mom would reply, ‘I’m a goddamned river nymph! What does a river nymph do? A river nymph frolics! I’m sorry that my chosen profession isn’t economically viable; but you knew this from the start. You sure didn’t seem to mind all the frolicking we did when you were younger.’”
Wednesday demonstrated an aptitude for battle from an early age which is a good talent for a young Spartan. She fought at Thermopylae with Leonidas and they had a close relationship. Many a night at the pub were spent bantering about the latest play or music. The 2007 biopic Leo and Me, for which Wednesday won a Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay, highlights one of these exchanges:
“ABBA!” Wednesday cried incredulously. “Leo, come on! You have got to be kidding me. They are terrible.“ Leonidas replied “I fucking love ABBA, I don’t care what you say. It’s a good thing the Swedes aren’t marching towards our gates. I’d let them pillage Sparta for backstage passes.”
After Leonidas fell, Wednesday lost her desire for combat. She decided to wander the world, seeking more peaceful endeavors. Eventually, she settled in Galilee.
500 years of travel left Wednesday with an empty coin purse, she noted that “artisanal” sangria was all the rage. Naturally, cashing in on this fad by launching an exclusive line of “artisanal” sangria goblets would replenish her coffers. Market research showed that anything labeled “artisanal” instantly became more desirable if it was made of wood.
Wednesday quickly signed up for carpentry classes at the local community college. The course was taught by a sweet, patient man named Joseph. There were constant interruptions by his wife, Mary. She had some facial ticks and would randomly repeat certain phrases like “King of the yews” (A pet name for her husband) and “Virgin birth”. Eventually, Wednesday got handy with the lathe and turned her first prototype.
Joseph suggested that Wednesday take pre-orders for her goblets. Renting a stall outside the temple in Jerusalem would offer the most exposure for the product. Wednesday made her way to the big city with Mary (on a sangria run) and her goblet in tow. Unfortunately, there was some sort of scheduling mix up. Wednesday’s stall was occupied by some local money lenders. Wednesday showed them her receipt for the stall and asked that they vacate the area. The money lenders also had a receipt for the same stall and the dispute soon became heated. Mary soon, became agitated by the argument and starting yelling “King of the yews, King of the yews”. The money lenders heard something seditious and reported Wednesday to the authorities.
Shortly after, Wednesday was arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion. Luckily for Wednesday, her half river nymph heritage allowed her to hold her breath for hours on end. Nullifying the normal suffocating effects of her sentence. This is boring business, so, after a few hours, Wednesday took a nap. The authorities mistook this for death and Wednesday was able to escape her shallow grave. Regrettably, the artisanal sangria goblet was lost in the melee at the temple and was never seen again.
Next chapter: Wednesday travels to Scandinavia, rules England, and writes her best seller, Pug and Pugability.
This day in Lisa-Universe: 2011