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.

15 comments:

  1. How I know. I have my husband's dog, Mocha, only two years old when he suddenly died of a heart attack. She's 13 1/2 now and totally bonded to me. She has been my companion through my grief journey and the loss of my job two years ago. My writing triumphs, be what they be.

    I know that day will come when I have to let her ago (She has tumor on her head, though pretty lively still, just creaky --like me) I wrote about this in an essay called Putting Things Away. It's a day I don't look forward to, for I'll miss her so much.

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    1. Thanks for your note, Janet. All best wishes to you and Mocha.

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  2. Oh, Jim, so very sorry for the whole family. I love reading your blogs, but this one broke my heart and may have triggered a tear duct or two.
    Our pets have a way of infusing themselves into our lives and more importantly our hearts. It is a loss so hard to understand until it happens to you. So very sorry.

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  3. Hey Mr. King,

    I'll express my condolences in person as well, but I just wanted to say how touching this blog post was. I knew Gabby was your writing companion and an important part of the King family, but this really helps explain her unique personality. I always wondered why she would greet me at the door only to run away when I tried to pet her. She was a funny beagle. Again, sorry for your loss.

    Regards,
    Jeff M.

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  4. Well, I just cried like a baby. Take solace that I'm a bigger pussy than you.

    Sorry for your loss. Your words, not surprisingly, do her proud.

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    1. Thank you, Gae. Sorry I made you cry. I've a feeling you're going to get back at me for that. :)

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  5. Tears are streaming down my face as I write this Jim. I am so sorry. We have a Wheaten Terrier named Chamois who has a personality exactly like you described Gabby. Our girl Chamois is 11. It is amazing how these little creatures capture our hearts. She was a lucky girl to be a part of your family for so many years. Cherish your memories.



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    1. Marianne, you're absolutely right: These damned dogs wiggle their way into your heart and won't let go. Hope you and your family have many more happy years with Chamois. Thanks so much for your note.

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  6. Jim, so sorry for your loss! As I write my terrier is lying by my feet. She's always there while I'm at my desk. When I (occasionally) get up to do housework, she follows me from room to room.

    I used to quote Kipling and swear I would never let one get so close - but here she is and I'll never be ready to see her go, even though we've only had her for one year. She was my 48th anniversary puppy.

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    1. http://carolynpaulbranch.com/?p=439

      http://www.petloss.com/poems/maingrp/powerdog.htm

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    2. Thank you for your note, Carolyn, and for these links. Kipling had it right, and Cookie is a cutie. Much happiness to all of you!

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  7. I'm so so sorry for your loss!! I'm sitting here in tears. My son's father bought him a new puppy and I kept swearing I wouldn't fall in love with the thing. 4 months later...

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  8. Good luck with not falling in love with your dog, Karla! The good, cliched news is that time heals. We are now able to talk about Gabby's antics without getting all mopey. But I still get up in the morning and think, for a second, that Gabby's at the office door, wagging and waiting.

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