Friday, August 19, 2011

Good-bye, Good Dog - January 10, 2009

Nothing jump–starts introspection like death. And because a blog is really exo-spection, I have missed all of you as much as the comforting swamp inside my own skull. So it’s good to be back, waders on and lamp aloft, the gurgle and crackle of life’s guts and debris underfoot, slogging forth.

My dog, Eena, is gone. I can’t believe it.

B had seen it coming for months but I dismissed his cautious warnings. In the last year she’d gone from lazy to listless. Her muzzle lengthened through a spreading mask of gray, and her once electric, black coffee eyes became rheumy. She seemed to experience sudden shots of pain through her hips and legs that she expressed in yelps and mortified winces. I saw all that as B did but attributed it to arthritis. What I ultimately could not deny were the accidents; this supremely housebroken animal had one, and then another, and so on, with increasing frequency and urgency. Afterward she would cower in the corner shaking, doubtless now, from pain. By the time blood became evident, her cancer was in full-throttle aggression. A sonogram at the animal hospital on York Avenue revealed that she was, according to the doctor, “in danger of sudden failure, because of the rampant tumors.”

I dragged my 57 pound Pit Bull off the examining table and onto my lap and she lay across me sweet as a baby. I thought I would choke from guilt. I would not say that the guilt gnaws at me like its own tiny cancer, because I don’t have that kind of gall, but it’s pretty bad in moments, and then I stab myself in the brain with a psychic hat pin because it’s just NOT about me. I treated Eena like a princess. But she suffered, bravely, quietly, without complaint, and I am sorry about that.

For myself, I just miss her. She was such a beauty. She had a great dog-smell; warm and musty and toasty, like pretzels. Silken ears. A pink chin. She had good breath, until the end. She was powerful and discerning and loyal as all hell. She saved me from a car-jacking once, and from loneliness often. We were really together, partners, best friends. It was a good love, fully returned, and worth everything.
Eena happened to also be a very fine ambassador for her breed, and she touched, and changed, hearts and minds. Many hands reached out and changed her, as well. So I want to thank everyone I can think of who was part of her life. Here we go:

My mother, who named her. “How about ‘Eena’? She looks tough, like a Russian.”

My father, who welcomed her, and me, into his home, and ultimately gave it to us. “The thing I liked about Eena,” he said, “is she showed that all that crap about breeds is bullshit.”

My sister, Lori, who always asked, “How’s Eeeeeena the dog?” and who spent a lot of that Christmas patting her.

My husband, who gave up his bitchy cat (although the cat managed to wind up living down the hall from us anyway) to make room in his life for a Pit Bull he frankly feared, then fell in love with. Eena often made overtures of marriage to B, which he gracefully declined without ever embarrassing her. B took all those beautiful pictures. He made the videos for me.

Aunty Judy and Uncle Neil, and Aunty Betty and Uncle Sol, and Cousin Flora and Cousin Harold, who never said ‘no’ to a visit from Eena in their lovely homes. And Aunt Miriam and Uncle Eli and all our other family and friends who let Eena into their hearts.

Grandma from California, a true Horsewoman who walked a New York City Pit Bull like she owned the place! And Grandpa who expected nothing less.

My x-husband, Killer, and Uncle Vic, who were delighted to receive Eena as a guest more than a few times, fed her liverwurst straight out of the open fridge and gave her full run of the yard with its near-gettable squirrels, squeaky clothesline, and cool garden dirt. She slept on their couch. Uncle Vic fed Eena the Pit Bull extra-large biscuits from between his teeth.

Killer’s sister Lisa who let her kids chase Eena around the house in circles, and around and around and around….laughing…

Carolyn and Jeff Ingledue, who get it about dogs and who brought the kids over to play on the last day, and who cried the night before.

Kelly Kay Griffith, who is afraid of dogs and never admitted it until well after she fell for Eena. Kelly treated Eena like a lady, as only a lady from the South would do.

Megan O’Connor, who also kept a secret, that she thought I was crazy to bring this dog home, and said graciously, “You both proved me wrong.”

Patrick Dillon, who believes that animals hold their own funerals, and who could not keep his hands off her, and who played “Bite-cha!” with Eena; Eena won. Patrick, I believe that the dogs sang for your cat. I never forgot it.

Kevin Fitzgerald, to whom it never occurred to be afraid of Eena, and who threw a tennis ball at McCarren Park higher and farther than Eena and I would ever have dreamed.

Cindy Intile and Emmalie and Peter, and Allison Searson and Abby and Olivia, who never blanched at a house full of dog hair.

Chris Ryan, who was always delighted to see Eena and didn’t make a big deal about it.

The entire neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant circa 2001, when I was the white girl, and Eena was that white girl’s dog, and no matter what they really thought, everybody was very, very nice. Hispanic old man who lived across the street from the basketball court, and who came out and joined us for coffee and fetch almost every morning and brought Eena rawhides, I’m sorry that we didn’t say goodbye.

Jessie O’Connor, who walked Eena all those nights I was coercing B into marrying me, and who had Eena off the leash in Travers Park, god help us, and fed her ice cream cones.

Ashleigh Hurwitz, who said, “I think a Pit Bull is a good dog for you… I mean, obviously.”

Joan Margiotta, who took allergy pills so she could visit and dragged her kids over, too. I still think Kate had a summer friendship with a Rotty when she was 1 year old, I did not dream this.

Nancy Caronia, who always shared the futon with Eena.

Candice and Rich and Max Polner, who not only took Eena for a long weekend but also chauffeured her home. Poor Rich believed Eena’s insinuations that she needed 6 walks a day, only to find out that the Pit he thought would look so cool with him was afraid of wind, rain, and garbage cans.

Everybody on Youtube with Pit tributes, who gets it. And all the single girls with Pits, who will never put a guy before their dogs. And everyone we ever met on the street, who testified about the goodness and nobility of the Pit Bulls they have known, and who stroked Eena and pet her and scratched her and saw her as she was and adored her on the spot.

And Dr. Cesar Tello, the veterinarian who told me the brutal truth about Eena, who believes in mercy and relief, and who crossed himself and wept with me at the very end.

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