Sunday, October 14, 2012

Farewell, My Gabster

For the past 12 years, I've had a writing companion here in the office each and every day. She's so dedicated that she even sleeps here. Slept.

I had many nicknames for her. Gabster. Gabbus. Pooch-face. Pain-in-the-butt. Her real name was Gabby.

I get up at an ungodly hour to write. Gabby usually got up with me, barking to be let out of the office and taken outside when she heard me in the kitchen making the morning coffee. After breakfast, she would sit at my feet, often on top of them, as I wrote. She made sure I didn't become completely glued to the chair by periodically making me take her outside. She was a most eager luncheon companion, especially as I prepared my sandwich and might accidentally let a sliver of ham or cheese fall to the floor.

Gabby was a strange little beagle. She loved people but did not like to be petted by them. She prefered to be close enough for some part of her body to touch, but petting... well, she tolerated it for a few seconds, then moved away, as if she could not understand this strange behavior. She liked walks only when my wife Joanne was one of the walkers. She had a chair in the family room all to herself, but whenever she had the opportunity she sneaked onto one of the couches. When ordered off, BAD GIRL, she simply hopped back onto her chair, arranged herself into a small circle of black and tan and white, and snoozed on as if nothing had happened outside of a ridiculously unreasonable human demand.

A month ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. Decisions had to be made. How much time? What were the options? What was to be gained? And, yes, what would be the costs? In the past, I agreed  readily to procedures and fees that a reasonable person would justifiably think excessive for a dog. But this time was different. It wasn't a matter of healing. It was an issue of prolonging. And so we decided to let Mother Nature have her way.

In the few weeks following the bad news, Gabby had her bad days, but most were pretty good. Our carpet took a beating, but we cleaned up silently and without remonstration. She seemed to recover a little after each bout with the beast inside, and so we kept hoping that the diagnosis was wrong or that Gabby was beating it. We knew, of course, that the prognosis was bleak. And Gabby was never much of a fighter. One of our family's favorite stories is of the day she took off after a gaggle of geese making their way across our back yard, only to turn tail the moment one of the goslings turned around.

This past Friday night I returned home from a two-day business trip. She raised her head to greet me, but her eyes were yellowed and filmy. She didn't wag her tail. She didn't even stand. And so yesterday, we gathered up her favorite cushion and took her to the vet for the final time. The last thing Gabby saw was Joanne's comforting, teary smile.

Yes, I cried, too. I cried the moment she left us.  I cried when we got home and she wasn't there to greet us, running and tail-wagging around the family in joy and immense relief that we had, after all, returned. And this morning, I cried (just a little bit... I'm not a complete pussy) when I made the morning coffee. And right now, at this moment, my feet are cold.

I had fully intended to keep this all to myself. After all, people lose their pets all the time. We know from the day we get the little buggers that there will come a day similar to the one my family experienced yesterday. Why write about this painful but common experience?

Hell if I know. My only excuse, perhaps, is that I'm a writer. And I feel compelled to acknowledge this little dog's spirit to a world larger than my own.

Gabby! Here!

Good girl.