Saturday, September 20, 2003

My puppy

I first met her when she was about four months old. The son of a friend of mine had received her as a gift from a neighbor, but his mother didn't want to keep her. I was living as a bachelor in L.A. then, and she was just what I was looking for to keep me company. I offered to take her.
She was a chihuahua mix. Small, dark, and cute as hell. With barely any of the shaky nervousness that make chihuahuas so aggravating. She would jump up on my chest when I walked in from work (or when I returned from stepping out a minute, for that matter) and from day one she would snuggle up to me in bed.
I would toss her inside my jacket and we would go for long rides on my hog. I called her Broad. When asked why, I would tell people that I always wanted to have a female in my life that wouldn't mind being called a broad. When friends would call me over to watch a game or have a beer, I would say "I'm bringing the Broad," and more than once guys would be pleasantly surprised to find the broad was my dog.
When I worked security, Broad would walk my route with me at night and jump up in my arms when she heard a scary noise.
We went through a lot together. When I left Los Angeles I had only my bike, my guitar and Broad. She was always with me. The one constant thing in my ever changing life.
My wife was more of a cat person when we first met ( I hate cats!). She had an old cat that was on its last legs, staying with her mother at the time. Her name was Precious. She died shortly after we started seeing each other. Her Dad built a small casket for her and I buried her up in the hills behind my house. Cindy would walk up there often to visit her grave.
Broad had been staying with some friends of mine while I got settled in after a nasty breakup. When Cindy started spending most of her time at my house, I decided it was time to bring Broad back.
Broad took to her instantly. In fact, she abandoned me for her. Cindy in turn found Broad a lot more receptive to her tenderness than cats had ever been, and so lavished her with love. She took to treating Broad like a baby. Providing her with blankets and pillows, placed just right to maximize her comfort. Broad ate it up. We even got her a faux leather jacket, a sweater, and other accessories that made her look pretty damn cute. She became a staple in Cindy's appearance. Everywhere she went, out would come Broad. People expected to see them together.
Whenever we traveled anywhere, our biggest concern was always Broad and who would look after her. It was very hard to trust anybody. To most people she was only a dog, but to us she was like a child. We always tried to find somebody who would think of her as such.
When Cindy got pregnant I became a little concerned. Broad had never liked children. They would always be grabbing at her, and as fragile as she was, her only defensive mechanism was to growl at them as they approached her. She never wanted to hurt anybody. She just wanted to be left alone. I knew that having a baby in the house would be her darkest nightmare come true. She wouldn't get a moment's peace.
The other thing that worried me was that Broad was used to getting all our attention, particularly Cindy's. There was a high degree of probability that she would react jealously to an intrusion by somebody else.
But once Christina was born, all my worries disappeared. Broad let all her maternal instincts kick in and decided it was her baby too. She became protective of her, and guarded her sleeping area. She didn't even mind when Christina played with her ears or pulled her tail. She seemed to understand that it came with the territory.
It happened shortly after she turned eleven, that one morning for no apparent reason, Broad appeared to be totally blind. My wife had noticed there was something wrong with her, but it wasn't until I came home from work that evening and saw her wandering aimlessly in a circle outside, that I realized she'd lost her sight. I stepped outside and called her name, and guided by my voice, she made her way to me. She seemed relieved when I picked her up, like everything was going to be alright. But that night we all realized just how bad this was.
She was in the habit of climbing in and out of our bed all night; going for a drink or laying on the cold tile. That night she fell off the bed several times, and twice got stuck in between the mattress and the footboard. She couldn't find her water or food. It was heartbreaking.
On the following day my wife called me in tears at work. She couldn't bear to see how much Broad was struggling. She was bumping into everything and, since the pool is right outside the door, we were afraid she was going to fall in when we let her out into the yard. I called the vet and they allowed us to bring her in that same morning. I met my wife there.
The doctor confirmed our worst fears: she was completely and seemingly permanently blind, and there was nothing that could be done about it.
We were all crying like fools in the doctor's office. I knew what had to be done. I couldn't bear to think of seeing my dog like this any longer, but worse, I didn't want to imagine coming home some day to find her dead, caught between the bedframe and the mattress, or drowned in the pool. The thought of it was too devastating for words. We simply couldn't provide her with the type of intensive care she would now require. Convincing my wife of this was another matter.
We spent about thirty minutes in there discussing it. Finally, we decided to put her to sleep. They said their goodbyes and I stayed behind to hold her during the ordeal.
It went a lot slower and took a lot longer than I anticipated. The whole time I was crying like a baby and talking to her so she knew I was there, holding her. I couldn't help but imagining what was going through her head, wondering why I was letting this happen to her.
I know in my heart that we did the right thing, the only thing we could do. But I miss her so much that it hurts. Next month will be the first anniversary of her death, and the heartache has yet to dissipate. Perhaps it never will.
Whenever we drive past the vets office, my daughter will point at it and say, "There's Broad's doctor." Then she'll invariably add: "I miss Broad."
"I miss her too," I say, "I miss her too."

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