Yesterday Bronte’s ashes returned home to us.
A week exactly.
I didn’t look at it at all yesterday; I wasn’t quite ready for the emotional investment yet. It has been an intermittent process of stumbling on little things that suddenly make me very sad.
He has left a slew of booby-traps around the house.
The first day, just getting home without him greeting me at the door was too much. It has been tough coming home to his absence. But it’s getting easier.
There is something deeply melancholy about storms now. I still reflexively worry about the weather, especially when I am not home myself. It takes me a few seconds to realise why I feel uneasy, … which then makes me sad.
There have been a lot of storms still… it hasn’t stopped since he left. And earlier this week, just watching the rain pour down was too much. He deeply disliked the rain, which is why he is inside in an urn; Abbey could not bear to bury him outside where he’d rather not have been before.
So many little things around the house set off emotions.
Mis-spoken cat names.
A month ago he started going down-hill. Didn’t really want to eat as much as he should. I was worried but not alarmed. Since then I’ve cooked and baked anything I could think of to try to appeal to his appetite. It worked a little, but just not enough.
Last Sunday I had to fly to Melbourne for work, and I was afraid. I knew it could get critical while I was away, but I couldn’t face being distracted and far away and helpless to do anything, so I asked Abbey to not let me know anything either way till I got back, and she did an admirable job.
As I sat waiting for the taxi on Sunday evening, he nestled on our laps with his nose resting on my legs and I was so tempted to just abandon the whole trip. Screw it. I’m finishing my job in 2 weeks anyway, what is the worst they can do?!
Leaving that nose behind was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I know I couldn’t have done anything further for him, and I’m not entirely sure if I would have even wanted to be there when it happened. But still.
Wednesday night I got home after delay upon delay.
It couldn’t have been more fitting.
As I was walking up the driveway I wasn’t sure which of the Schrödinger’s Dog outcomes I would prefer.
When I knocked on the door and Abbey opened it for me, I knew.
I’ll miss Bronte badly.
Every time I’d come home he would be standing there at the door, wagging his tail to varying degrees of crazy.
For a few moments he’d greet me like his favourite.
And so did I.
I have never been a dog person.
Cats have always been more my style.
Abbey always wanted a dog.
One day in 2006 she told me she was going to see a whippet that someone had on offer to a good home. I was very clear she should not bring it home. So she brought it home… just so that she could see what it’d be like. I was very clear it was just to try on for size. So she kept him. I was very clear I didn’t like dogs, and it would be her dog.
Then the bastard dog proceeded to be so unspeakably reasonable, quiet and lovely that I couldn’t help but give in at every turn.
He was a bit demanding at times. Especially in the beginning he seemed to be very fearful of upsetting us. He seemed very fearful of us going away and not coming back. This fear translated in some… annoyances.
When we’d go places, we would leave him in the back yard so that we wouldn’t have to worry about his toileting habits in our absence. We’d return home to find him at the front door waiting for us. He got very good at jumping the Colorbond fence by launching himself off the exterior airconditioner unit.
We decided, we’ll deal with the toileting habits and just lock him inside on the lino. What could possibly go wrong. And we returned home to find Bronte sitting at the front door, waiting for us, outside. A brief investigation into the matter revealed that he had wriggled open the narrow laundry window with his nose, broken the glass, jumped through the window screen, launched off the airconditioner unit and found his way back outside.
He always was a bit of an adventurer when he wanted to be.
But his true inner nature was that of a stately British lord. Never happy unless seated on a pile of pillows, front-legs crossed, with a look on his face that could only be more striking had he actually had a pipe in his mouth.
He came travelling with us to many places. Some cold against his better judgement. Some rugged against his soft inside-dog paws. And he collected a range of fashionable coats to shield him from the elements, … or any mild discomfort really. I could relate to that. It’s one of the many ways he found to endear himself to me.
He also participated in Halloween dress-ups. And he didn’t even seem to mind all the silly/stupid/awkward things he had to endure to look fabulous. Somewhere I cannot find it right now, there is a picture of him dressed as a praying mantis. Alas, Inspector Gadget will have to do for this occasion.
Everything seemed like it would never end.
Then last year he got diagnosed with heart disease. And the prognosis was not good. It was the kind of degenerative disease that usually doesn’t take very long before it becomes terminal. We didn’t expect to make another Christmas with him. And it hit me harder than I ever would have thought. I was a mess. I cried a lot and slept very little. Over a dog! I don’t even like dogs!
We got him on some medication, and it was expected it would extend his healthy life-span somewhat before we had hard decisions to make. With a bit of luck, there’d be one more summer, and possibly one more Christmas to look forward to. And against all odds, it did. There was no noticeable progression of the disease.
Bad things never happen in isolation though.
He also had a growing lump on his butt. Of all the indignations in the world, he wasn’t going to die heroically of a failing heart, but a stupid growth on his ass was going to do him in. Under other circumstances it would have been an easy decision to go for surgery then-and-there, but with the heart condition the required sedation was risky at best.
We tried some alternatives. Hormone suppression injections seemed to help, but that was more in our minds than in actual reality.
When I got home on Friday Abbey needed a hug. She had been to the vet for a check-up for Bronte, the lump wasn’t shrinking and surgery was the only option. He was booked in immediately for today. 2:30pm.
By dinner tonight we would either have a live Bronte or a dead Bronte. And I was trying very hard not to think of how this Schrödinger experiment was going to unfold. I left work early to drive the dog to the vet.
I had been taking lots of extra pictures of him over the past few days. It was tough to hold it together full-well knowing why I was doing it. I think I may have developed a Pavlov reaction to cameras.
We drove to the vet but she was running late on a house-call. We took Bronte to a nearby park. It seemed as if he knew something was about to happen. He seemed unsettled, but whether that was the unusualness of the situation… the smells of nature… or perhaps our emotions feeding into him… I’m not sure.
By about 3:15pm we were back at the vet, and by 3:45pm he was getting some sedatives before the X-Rays. Within moments he was legless and head-butting solid surfaces. We had to head home to distract ourselves. The whole process from start to finish would be taking about an hour to get through.
My eyes kept darting for the time.
4:10pm … by now they must well-and-truly be done with the X-Rays and know whether there are further lumps making surgery pointless. No call yet, so that at least must be looking good.
4:25pm … Bronte must be fully under by now. If his heart isn’t going to take it, it could be any minute now.
4:30pm … The phone rings. Too early. Shit.
I hear Abbey pick up the phone in the kitchen.
I wander over bracing myself.
The tone sounds wrong.
I faintly hear a voice at the other end. Also the wrong tone.
And a weight falls off my shoulders as I realise they were just done very quickly. They must have over-estimated the effort. They are asking if the lump on his leg needs to come off too. No, we’re not concerned about that one… it’s not an actual growth. It’s been there forever.
It takes another hour or so before they call us to come pick him up. It’s the second-longest hour of my life, as I imagine something going wrong at the last moment.
Although he’s still not completely in the clear, his biggest worries for now are controlling the pain and the potential for infections. If that all goes smoothly over the next couple of weeks he should be back to his usual self. It’s looking more and more likely that he’ll make the remainder of his natural lifespan before his maladies catch up with him.
Sooner or later it will be time to say goodbye.
But luckily, not yet today.
Maybe a few more years of additional memories to come first.