Amidst some of the unbelievably sad news going on this week, I’d just like to say one more word about little Chopes, our black Lab/Bordie Collie mix dog that passed away just before Christmas. I know he already wrote something on here, and many of you wrote wonderful things back (Just Andrew also sent us a beautiful book), but there are no gravestones for dogs, no museum wings named after them, and their memoirs tend to be unreadable.
What does last forever – at least in Google’s archives and the Wayback Machine – is a blog posting, and I don’t think one is enough. So I am here to say that Chopin Blake was born on June 9, 1990 and died peacefully on December 22, 2005 in the arms of those that loved him. Tessa, who writes about one comment per year, may want to add something, but this is my little paean.
The benefit of experience is that it keeps you from contemplating redundancy. So often, before you have a child, many of your questions will begin, “Yes, but how will I know…” and then fill in the rest. When you go ahead and have that child, you will realize, like we did last night, that Lucy was sick with a 100-degree fever, without even using a thermometer. We could tell by the way she slept and a soft hand on her back, and we knew.
Of course, we went ahead and took her temperature, because we’re completists, but we didn’t need to.
Much the same happens before any Big Life Moment, when you are unsure of your instincts and will not know if things are really happening or not. Will I love him? Will I know if she is the one? How will I know when it is time? And for the last few months for us, it was “How will we know when Chopin is truly dying?”
A couple of years ago, when he first had his vestibular syndrome, a chance meeting with a holistic veterinarian gave us this following nugget: “What you want in any animal’s life is HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY, DEAD.” I hate to sound like a Family Circus cartoon, but that isn’t a bad scenario for any of us.
On December 21st, the longest and darkest evening of the year, Chopes and I walked out onto the frozen-topped snow and sniffed around. Back inside, we play-fought like he was a puppy, he scrounged through the trash and almost devoured one of Tessa’s breastfeeding pads, and he paced around the farmhouse about fifteen times – the usual – before curling up to sleep.
The next day, while Tessa and Lucy were spending the afternoon in the next town over, I was trying to build the new crib, when I noticed I hadn’t seen Chopes in a while. I found him curled up on the bathroom floor, and in one millisecond I knew he was dying.
He wasn’t laying that differently, the breathing may have been a little weird, but in that moment I gained the weird of experience of just knowing something. I called Tessa, bade her come home immediately, and we spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening with him as he drifted away. When it was apparent that he may actually be suffering a little, Tessa went with him down the country road to the vet, and while Lucy and I stayed home, he put Chopes to sleep while Tessa stroked his tummy.
That was a tiny moment in all that Chopes was. He spent his years, however, doing the following:
– disrupting Millie Barringer’s drama classes by howling outside Graham Memorial
– jumping out of the car while making a left onto Columbia Street
– shivering during every thunderstorm and cathecting into Tessa’s belly
– trying to tell Tessa that someone was stealing her bike (and she ignored him at her loss)
– making hundreds of laps around the lake in Stephentown, NY in order to guard the perimeter
– herding 80 stampeding cows into us the moment I proposed to my wife
But I think his greatest moment came the day five years ago when our friend Neal visited our apartment and revealed he was about to get open-heart surgery for a mitral valve prolapse. After staying stoic for a few minutes, Neal got very scared and suddenly broke down in tears. None of us knew exactly what to say, but Chopin, usually standoffish and fearing intimacy, walked up to Neal and gave him a big wet kiss on the lips.
He did the same to Lucy the first time they met. He probably kissed four people in his life, but they were well-chosen.
And so here is his little blog entry, a testament to a great animal who blessed us with almost 16 years of trash-ransacking, weirdness and his own brand of quirky, undying love. Every crumpled sweater in the corner of my eye, every clicking noise like claws on the wood floor, every sigh of the radiator makes me think you’re still here. It will be a long time before that fades.