Monday, April 4, 2011

Urge, Purge, Dirge, or When to Call the Doctor

First off, this is crazy. I have lost both parents, a sister, one marriage, and countless other people, things and critters of value. Why - how - can the death of this dog so unhinge me? It has been almost a month since Tank died, yet crying jags continue to ambush like sudden seizures. It's totally crazy.

It can come on quite suddenly, maybe when I realize that we are filling just three bowls instead of four, or five. Maybe when I catch site of the shaded empty pen. Maybe when a sudden wind comes rushing from nowhere, roaring like a river through the tall Torrey pine tree near the house, while every other bush and tree on the hill is calm and still.

We both miss him, Michael perhaps more than I, but we soldier on in our own little capsules of grief and quiet, offering the briefest of hugs coupled with many resigned sighs and consoling phrases. He was miserable. He was very sick. There really was no hope, either way. Even if we had elected chemo and radiation over the surgery, his time was running out. The tumor was huge. He must have had it for a long time and we just didn't know. Or it was very aggressive. Or maybe both. At least when one dies on the operating table in an attempt to remove an enormous fibrosarcoma that was literally squeezing the life and breath from him, the survivors are saved from having to play the coulda, woulda, shoulda game. Kindly old Karabey died almost two years ago, and made it until five, despite multiple disabilities. But Tank, dead at three years? It shoulda been different.

It has long been my theory that the loss of pets helps to prepare children for losing loved ones later in life. We start out with a pale goldfish belly-up in a murky bowl of water, or a turtle that escaped and was later found, dessicated shell like a poker chip, under the couch. We all had legions of little wounded birds resting in shoe boxes full of tissue, which later become convenient coffins. And all of this should be bringing us to the stage where we, as adults, learn to recognize and accept the impermanence of life. But I am not finding it so. In fact, each death now seems cumulative, shock based on a Richter-scale-like rating system, each one ten times worse than the previous.

Apparently now there is research that shows people who have been dumped in a relationship, and are said to be "suffering from a broken heart," actually do feel real, physical pain. It's a fist in the gut, labored breathing, and - quite literally - a sore heart. In ancient Greece, around in 300 BC, Menander wrote: "Time is the healer of all necessary evils." This has been thoughtfully appended by J. Worth Kilcrease , when he wrote, "Time doesn't heal, it's what you DO with the time that heals."

So we continue running the ranch, mowing, chopping thistles, installing an emergency water tank, feeding, shearing, and loving those that are left just as much as we can. They say you stop crying when you run out of tears. But I swear, when that strange wind starts tearing at the top of the pine tree, and it sounds like big Kangals running through tall grass, I would surely join them if there were any way at all.

Tank was the firstborn of seven puppies, and earned his name by his physique.
Here, Tank (left) keeps a watchful eye on the goats.
Tank checks out Mouse, a tiny, preemie Pygora.
Tank was Michael's dog.  Period.

Tank (center) and the girls rough-housing.  Zerrin, his mother (right) avoids a fatal nip by leaping into the air.  Notice his two-curl tail.
The end


seashells said...

Ohhhh, I am so sorry about Tank. I think it is harder to lose them when they are still young. I know I cried more over losing my 8 year old cat than I did over my 12 year old dog.

Catherine said...

I'm off the sheep-l and I know exactly how you feel about the loss of Tank. My own died a month ago aged 12 and it's left me with such a hole! I don't go about moaning but every so often I have to draw a deep breath to subdue that welling up feeling in the chest. They were important relationships we had.