Chapter 6 ~ April 2004
One week ago today Pinche left.
It is a gray and rainy day in L.A. -- an appropriate reflection of how I feel.
Bubba is feeling blue too.
Dan Dan bought him a new ball yesterday -- while he's more of an intellectual kind of a dog, we thought a little playing might cheer him up.
So today, Bubba and I played a rousing game of fetch.
I threw. I ran. I fetched. I played.
Needless to say, the ball game was not a hit and I am exhausted.
It is amazing the lengths we will go through to entertain our dogs when they would have been just as happy with a nap.
There have been a few more "encounters of the Pinche kind".
Dan Dan says I should post them but I am afraid that Pinche's friend (you guys) will think I have slipped over the edge.
And no, he didn't "call" me again but I will tell you that one incident involved Pinche's leash which disappeared two days ago from where Dan Dan had left it in the living room -- only to reappear tonite in the office next to a pile of Pinche's pictures.
You know, Pinche did have a naughty sense of humor and today is April Fool's Day.
Like my horoscope says, the joke's on me.
Show him the way."
Request to a furry friend I never met
How do I know Tiger was the best dog in the world?
Easy. The plaque on his grave says he was the best dog in the world and animal lovers don't lie, so that's how I know.
Tiger is buried right next to Pinche. His picture shows he was a strong German Shepherd in life and he looks like he was a good soul -- must have been to be the best dog in the world.
I explained to Tiger that Pinche was not the best dog in the world -- nor was he even the best dog in town much less in my house (that would be Bubba-Dog) but what Pinche lacked in manners he made up for in personality.
I told Tiger that Pinche had been all growl and no grace... that he never stopped to smell the flowers, only to pee on them and that his motto had always been "eat first, ask questions later and when in doubt, bite".
Tiger listened quietly as I poured out my heart and asked him to please guide Pinche --it seemed the neighborly thing to do and being the best dog in the world certainly comes with responsibilities so I thought he'd be the right guy to ask.
I told Tiger Pinche had his ball with him and they might be able to play a good game together.
Pinche was also carrying two milkbones -- I sort of regretted mentioning that because sharing was not one of Pinche's traits but maybe heaven has mellowed him out and he'll let Tiger have one.
Since there is no tombstone up yet and no picture of Pinche for Tiger to refer to, I told him to look for the loudest dog in heaven. The one with all the hair and the funky haircut. The one the angels would be spoon feeding at the bridge. The guy with the blue bandanna -- the dog that would be sharing his story with others and showing off about having his own website.
That would be Pinche, Tiger. That would be the boy I am asking you to guide, at least until he gets his four paws wet about the ways of heaven.
And Tiger, when you see Pinche will you remind him of how much he was and is loved. And missed.
And one last thing Tiger, because "best" doesn't always mean brightest -- and good doesn't mean great; because "best" isn't earned by the number of tricks you do or your pedigree; because "best" can be used to describe the love people feel for you and the imprint you left behind on their hearts and souls, could you do me one last favor?
When you see Pinche, would you please tell him that he too was the best dog in the world.
You know, losing it as in all the marbles that complete a set; as in the plastic thing that keeps the six-pack in your mind all together.
Grief will do that do to you.
Take for example, the hair-spray incident. Granted, it has given me yet another funny story to tell but it is also proof that my mind's going, going, gone.
Yesterday morning, I picked up a twelve inch high can of extra-hold hair spray and sprayed away -- it is a minor detail that I did not aim it towards the hair on my head but instead sprayed every hair on my sweater and pants neatly into place.
I thought it was perfume.
Not enough to convince you? Ok, then let me tell you about the microwave incident.
Last week I bought a cold sandwich which I wanted to warm up. I took it out of it's plastic wrap, rewrapped it in a paper towel, popped it in and proceeded to wait for it to warm up.
The problem, you ask?
I had actually put the sandwich inside the refrigerator, not the microwave. I knew something was wrong with the picture as I looked at the refrigerator door but it took me more than a few seconds to figure it out.
Then there's the burner story -- immediately after taking a pan of boiling water off the stovetop, I decided to adjust the burner with my bare hands.
It's ok though -- the blistered burn is healing quite nicely, thank you.
Then the other day I tried to remove my makeup with toothpaste (it didn't work) and I also tried to walk thru a glass door (that didn't work either).
I also put the milk in the pantry and the container of coffee in the refrigerator.
Signs that I am slipping? Or just that my mind is elsewhere?
Yes on both counts.
I am still thinking of Pinche. And Bubba. And what I should have done but didn't. On what I should do now, but don't know I should..and on and on it goes.
I write all of this at the risk of you never ever believing me again if I say that Pinche has called me or that there have been more "signs" but that's ok, because I know that a lot of you have also slipped between the lines as you have grieved the loss of a furry friend.
It is part of loving and losing; feeling and grieving.
So for now, I will deal with it.
I will eat my sandwiches cold and with a bandaged finger, smelling like Aqua Net.
I will buy more milk to replace the gallon left to spoil in the pantry and I will open doors before I walk into them.
And I will continue to think of my old boy -- my long lost boy who is now running free on another horizon.
It will be ok.
I just don't know when.
Bubba is my other old boy -- my furry friend who has also been with me since 1992, when I found him wandering the streets of Los Angeles.
Bubba was also Pinche's best buddy.
For eleven years they did everything together -- they ate at the same time and napped together; they played and romped; they laughed and loved each other very much.
Oh sure, there were a few fights along the way. A couple of incidents involving misplaced milkbones and ball ownership.
But after a few growls and bites, it was nothing that a quick time-out couldn't cure.
Minutes later, tails-a-wagging, all was forgiven and forgotten.
They were the canine version of the odd-couple: Pinche loud, Bubba quiet. Pinche rough and tough, Bubba a gentle soul. So different yet so the same.
Like the song says, Bubba was the wing beneath Pinche's wings. The true "A" dog of the house, he was content to sit in the shadows and let Pinche think he was in charge.
And oh, how Pinche adored Bubba!
Anything and everything Bubba did, Pinche had to do too. I remember giving Bubba a bath one day -- as I took him outside, Bubba began to do that doggy shake, getting water everywhere. Watching his hero do that, a completely dry Pinche began doing the same, shaking imaginary water off his coat -- if Bubba was doing it then it must be the right thing to do!
But now Pinche is gone and Bubba is alone -- and while he has plenty of two-legged friends that love him, his sidekick just isn't here anymore.
In the last few weeks, I have seen Bubba age by many a dog year.
His naps are longer and deeper, his sprint slower. Eating is no longer a source of pleasure, only a necessity. And Pinche's old resting places have become his new spots.
The dog who wouldn't leave my side for days if he heard me sneeze, now leaves the room when I cry. Maybe it's because he doesn't want me to see him cry -- who knows.
He too is mourning...grieving the loss of his faithful friend Pinche.
I am pained by his pain and I try to make it up to him -- we are all trying hard.
Long walks, good food, quality napping time together -- things that matter so much to a furry friend.
It is the least I can do for Bubba-Dog because he wasn't only Pinche's best friend, he is mine too.
And having loved and lost Pinche, I am hanging on tight to this boy's fur -- I'm not letting go.
We still have a lot of milkbones to eat; a lot of Pinche stories to talk about and a lot of parks to walk thru....
So Bubba-Dog, hang on boy.
You're not alone.
We're not alone.
It is amazing how time seems to stop when you are in such pain but then suddenly it begins flying by and there's no stopping it.
Time is so tricky -- there's never enough of it when the going is good. And you can never hold on to it -- you can never stop it, much less turn it back.
I have wanted to write about Pinche's last two days here but somehow haven't been able to find the words or the courage.
It's like if I document them, commit the happenings to this page, then it will really be over.
His mission and his message -- over. Just like that.
So maybe tomorrow -- maybe tomorrow I will tell you about how Pinche found love in the lobby at the doctors office that next to last day.
I'll write about his being the center of attention, as he always was and loved to be.
And how happy and healthy he was.
I'll tell you how I went to the market and bought him something special for dinner that night -- never ever imagining it would be his last dinner ever.
I'll write about how well the world was and how high my hopes were.
But I'll do it tomorrow because today it's just too painful.
When you're feeling sad, holidays are usually harder to handle than regular days but today, it's ok.
Pinche didn't eat chocolate; wear bunny ears or cute Easter outfits and he had no feelings about rabbits one way or another -- so that makes this holiday all the easier to get thru.
Easter ham was another story but I am not going to go there today.
So my friends, I wish all of you a peaceful day.
Tomorrow, we'll get back to dealing with the grief and reminiscing.
Today, Bubba and l will be ok -- and ok is better than bad.
Ten days since I last wrote something here.
How time flies -- when you're having fun and even when you're not.
So first, an apology. I'm sorry.
For some reason I haven't been able to open Pinche's online doggy diary to write a single word.
No, it wasn't writers block.
And I can't say I was too busy...I actually had the last week off from my fulltime job, so that wasn't it.
What it was is spelled d-e-n-i-a-l.
Denial - one more step in the grieving process.
The "if I don't think about it, it doesn't really exist and if it doesn't exist, then it never really happened" phase.
Can you relate?
Don't get me wrong -- I think about Sponge-Dog all the time. And more and more it's with a smile on my face than with a tear on my cheek.
Pinche's life is ever-present and ever-celebrated -- it's just his death that's being ignored.
Was being ignored.
I'm back. Bubba's back. Even Dan-Dan is back.
Back with more tales of Pinche's tail -- the one that's wagging away on the other side.
So what would you like to hear about first?
More signs that Pinche is really here even if he isn't?
Bubba's visit to the vet or Bubba's trip to the Pet Psychic?
I knew it! You all want to know when and where I actually flipped out enough to take Bubba to a pet psychic!
Sorry -- you'll have to read about Bubba-Dog's exciting trip to the doctor first .
The appointment with the vet made during another phase of my grieving -- the "paranoia phase" to be exact.
That's when you think every other pet you own is suddenly going to drop dead before your very eyes.
The one where you find yourself asking anyone and everyone "do you think my dog is limping?", "did Bubba sneeze?", "was that just a cough or should I start mouth to mouth?....you know, paranoia.
All of a sudden I am analyzing how Bubba walks, sleeps, snores, eats and yes, even poos.
I am obsessed with his aging, sleeping and peeing patterns.
Should I change his diet? Walk him more? Walk him less? Let him sleep? Wake him up? Play ball? Watch PBS? Take a nap?
On and on I go.
After weeks of unanswered questions and driving the dog crazy, I made an appointment to see his vet -- better to drive her crazy with my questions. At least she answers me.
Bottom line, Bubba's fine.
I'm the one who's not all there.
Vet says he looks awesome for his age (She did say "awesome", right Dan Dan? It wasn't "awful", was it?), he didn't have a fever, the twitching only means he's dreaming, he's not going blind and his weight is great.
Blood work came back normal and so did Bubba's diagnosis: he is a normal healthy 13-year-old dog with a paranoid human for a mother.
Boy, am I relieved!
Two important lessons learned here -- one by Bubba, one by me.
I learned that valuable time together shouldn't be wasted on worrying -- it's much better spent napping or eating.
Bubba learned to never ever turn his tail on the pretty blond nurse at the vets 'cuz if you do she'll shove that thermometer right.......well, you know where.
Tomorrow, Bubba gets a reading!
The big question was whether or not to take Bubba with me...should the reading be about my dearly departed Pinche? Or could something be on Bubba's mind that I needed to know.
For a week I debated it with Dan-Dan (the dog-discussing man) --finally deciding Bubba would come too.
So last Saturday, the day after we took Bubba to the vet, off we went to the pet psychic.
When we got to the bookshop in West Hollywood, there was already a line of leashes waiting to see her. On one end, happy doggies enjoying a weekend outing and on the other end, their humans waiting patiently.
In front of us, a pretty black Cocker Spaniel called Nestor -- named I am told after his owners grandfather.
Nestor plays with another pretty dog, a mixed breed -- they both invite Bubba to join them (after smelling him you know where) but Bubba says no, acting every bit the sophisticated and mature 13-year-old that he is.
Except of course, when he was in a very serious growl-off with the Boxer at the front of the line.
I notice that some people have no animals with them --- the bookshop's website said you didn't have to being your pet.
It also said the psychic could read for animals that were dead.
A woman gets behind us in line. She has no one with her and immediately I assume her pet has died. I quietly feel sorry for her.
Turns out she did have her pet with her -- a squirrel. In her shoulder bag.
This could only happen in Los Angeles.
I am standing in an hours-long line with my dog waiting for a psychic to read his mind as I stand next to a woman with a squirrel in her purse.
When it comes to pets, love knows no boundaries!
Back to Bubba.
We patiently wait our turn for almost two hours as one by one doggies and their owners went up on a porch and sat with the reader.
Finally it was our turn.
I shook her hand, introduced Dan-Dan and Bubba-Dog and pulled out some pictures of Pinche -- saying only that I would also like a reading for Bubba's best buddy.
She then said hello to Bubba, wrote his name and age down on her pad and began writing away.
The psychic is a channeler and this is how she gets her messages.
The first thing she read off her pad was that Bubba is the "king of the house" -- a term that we often use to describe him.
She then went on to say that wherever it was that we were taking him, he wanted us to know that he enjoyed it very much. The trips made him very happy. She thought we were taking him to work with us or camping -- I explained that we do neither.
She insisted on the trips and I explained that this last week he had several car rides and trips to the park (all part of the "spoil Bubba lots and lots" plan).
Again, Dan and I had just talked about Bubba's obvious delight in being in the car. We talked about it on the way to see the psychic.
She then asked if we had been thinking about changing his diet.
That same morning Bubba had his first can of "Senior" dog food -- something we talked a lot about that morning and had also discussed at length with the vet the day before.
We discussed nutrition for a while and then she said "can I see the pictures of the dog that died".
You may have noted that I never mentioned Pinche having died, only that I wanted a reading for "Bubba's best buddy".
For Bubba, she had written a half a page or so.
When she began writing for Pinche it went on and on. Page One, page two and page three.
I wanted to laugh out loud --- Pinche always had SO much to say!!
One of the first things she said when she stopped writing was that Pinche was a dog that always got his own way.
The tears came to my eyes.
Of course he got his own way -- he would bite you if he didn't!
But she had no way of knowing that.
Oh Pinche, is that you?
Among other things, she spoke of his love for me and how he appreciated the freedom he was given while on earth.
She spoke of Pinche being on the other side with a man who had a very big heart -- we went over this for a while but being from a very small family, I really have no male figures on the other side.
She was very insistent on this -- saying Pinche had the man by his side.
She concluded by saying that Pinche was trying very hard to send me a sign that he was okay. She recommended I let my mixed emotions of anger and sadness go so that I could see the signs he was sending. They were there.
Now I know that a skeptic could pretty much debunk every single thing that I was told -- and no, there were no big revelations about things that only I would know about Pinche.
In reference to Bubba, she told us everything we had just been talking about -- he's the "king"; his love of being in the car and car rides (something that he doesn't often get) and the changes in his diet.
For Pinche, the part about him getting his own way really hit home -- I mean, if she had said that about Bubba, it wouldn't have really been true.
Bubba may be the king but mom's still the boss.
With Pinche, it was his way or a mouthful of teeth in your face.
He got his way. Always.
In the end, I'm glad I went.
Oh, and as for the signs, wait till you hear the story about the smell of gas -- and I'm not talking fuel here.
I look at the return address on the envelope and a knot forms in my throat.
That ache -- the one in my heart -- slowly starts up again.
And the tears...those dang tears, the ones that should have dried up by now, are again flowing freely.
I know what's inside and under different circumstances, I probably would have been relieved, even happy, to receive it.
But the circumstances are what they are and what could have marked the successful and healthy end of Pinche's battle with cancer, now just marks the end.
It is the last bill from the radiology center that had been treating Pinche.
I appreciate them waiting almost a month to mail it and the discount they graciously included.
But it hurts nonetheless because it is so final.
Because I would gladly pay and pay and pay some more to have Bubba's best buddy lying here.
I would pay for just one more afternoon to spend in the sunshine with Pinche and Bubba.
The credit card would be whipped out for another car ride, a trip to the park, a ball game or even two.
There would be no limit to what I would pay for that super-sized box of large milk bones that Pinche just couldn't get enough of...or how about a special treat of chicken or steak -- I'd even pay for both.
I would beg and borrow to pay for a roll of film to take just one more picture of Pinche.
I would pay and pay away for another day, another hour -- just a few minutes would be worth oh so much.
Yes, I would gladly pay for those too.
For if I could only buy a few seconds, I would use them to whisper "I love you boy. Bubba loves you too...we all do. Don't be scared, Pinche. We love you."
If only I could.........
Yesterday marked one month that Pinche fought his last battle -- the one that he lost when death came a calling.
I have been out of town on business so Dan-Dan (the dog-sitting man) kept Bubba-Dog busy all weekend with car rides, trips to the park and picture taking sessions.
It's funny but I used to think that I took way too many pictures of Pinche -- especially during these last months.
Now, a hundred pictures seem too few. There are not enough images to satisfy the need of wanting to see him again.
So, my friends -- snap away. Buy a camera -- or two. Record the bark, the meow -- capture the essence of your furry friends.
For while the memory lives on in your heart and head -- it's nice to be able to hold something in your hand, to see in bright and vivid color the moment when all in life was well.
Especially when all in life is not well.
As he strolled and sniffed away, I looked up at the sky and saw just a sliver of the moon....so thin but yet so bright.
In my mind, I asked "Pinche, where are you? Are you up there looking down on us? Where did you go?"
Oh, I thought, how I wish he could tell me.
What is "up" there? Where is "up" there? Is there really a bridge? A rainbow? Are you floating on a milkbone-laden cloud? Are the angels using your spoon to feed you, boy?
Or have you already come back as a furry little puppy?
Can you hear me? See us? Do you talk to Bubba?
So many questions about the "other" side....no answers.
And as I stood there having this silent conversation with the moon, I thought of an email that I received today from a dogblog reader who recently lost her two dogs back to back.
Needless to say, her heart is heavy. Her waking hours seem like a bad dream and when she closes her eyes to sleep, a nightmare with no end in site begins.
I feel for her.
In the email, she asks "why" -- why so much pain? Why take both dogs when both were apparently in good health?
Why? Why? Why?
It is the one question that we probably have all asked at one time or another.
And most likely, the question went unanswered.
So many "whys" -- not enough "because...".
So I thought I would share with you one of my theories -- well, actually more than a theory, it is my most sincere hope.
I hope that when we "cross over" to the "other side", upon arrival we will first be escorted to the "Answer" room.
There we will get to meet our "maker" and receive the answers to all of our questions.
Every single one....no doubt to remain. No question too big or too silly. Ask away.
"Did a UFO land in Roswell?"
"Where did all those black socks go?"
"Who was Pinche and where did he come from?"
"Why did you take him after helping him survive everything else?"
"Why, why, why?"
We would finally understand if it was destiny or an accident; faith or fortune.
The questions would be answered and we would finally find peace.
I hope that we are all still far removed from that day when we finally "get it".
Until then, I will continue to have late night conversations with the moon.
And I will continue to wonder and to ask why.
During the months that Pinche valiantly waged his journey, I shed many a tear as I read your messages of support.
From the folks in Canada who promised to leave their porch light on until he was out of surgery to a lovely lady in Massachusetts that sent him cookies; from the people who prayed and prayed to a tough old California cop who also sent Pinche a "care" package.
I cried when Liz in Canada sent him an embroidered scarf and when one lady said she had put his picture up on her computer screen.
I sobbed when reading a stranger's offer to send me money to help pay for Pinche's doctor's bills (a generous offer that was not accepted)....
I pretty much cried as I read each and every word, each letter that you wrote.
Oh, how I cried...
And today, as I read a new email, I am again in tears.
Here, an excerpt*:
they are affiliated with Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
am running my next one in San Diego on June 6th in honor
it be okay with you if I add his name
Stacey, who never met Pinche or me wants to do something for us -- something to honor one old dog!
Now tell me, is that not truly amazing?
I am overwhelmed at the outpouring of love but not surprised, and I'll tell you why.
All of you who read this have been benefactors of the unconditional love that a furry friend gives.
And in turn, you also have that ability -- that wonderful gift of loving and giving back unconditionally.
Thank you Stacey.
I would be honored to have you add my old boy's name to your jersey.
I think all of us would be honored to know that you are running for Pinche -- who in one way or another stands for all our four-footed friends who have had to fight canine cancer -- the ones that won the battle and the ones that lost it.
on March 24th, the night before Pinche died.
Today is Pinche's
fifth day of radiation and so far, so great!
The place was as quiet as any doctor's waiting room -- until the dog with his own website walked in and livened things up.
Everyone and their pets turned to see who the loud dog was -- meet Mr. Pinche, everyone!
He must have looked at everybody straight on -- greeting each and everyone there with a "woof, woof, woof".
He even jumped up on two legs to greet the nurses behind the counter. All ninety pounds of him standing on two legs, his front paws knocking everything down -- it was a sight I hadn't seen in years.
And then he saw Gladys, the Airedale Terrier.
Suddenly, his loud triple woof turned into a finely tuned medley of angelic-like "woof's".
A gust of wind swept thru the lobby as Pinche's tail broke the wagging speed limit.
Puddles quickly formed as he stood there with his mouth open -- drooling over the ravishing redheaded terrier.
It was love in the lobby.
As for Gladys, I'd say the lady was a little smitten herself as she woofed right back at the handsome mutt with the funky haircut.
Having woofed away all formalities by now, they quickly threw caution to the wind and right there for all to see, they kissed.
Tongues were flying, tails were wagging and all was good. Really, really good.
A man commented that Pinche "was a real dog -- a man's man". Everyone laughed.
Suddenly, the entire waiting room was laughing, the room had come alive.
It was the "Power of Pinche" -- in action once again.
A nurse came to get him and with one last lick for Gladys, he was off.
Being Pinche, he never even looked back at me. Or at Gladys for that matter.
Off he went, tail a wagging, to be cured.
"Don't worry about me. I'll be ok, boy", I said out loud as the door shut behind him.
The room laughed again.
All was good. Or so I thought.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The clock was ticking away and I had no idea.
Off to work I went, chatting happily with Dan Dan on my cell phone as I told him of Pinche's new lady love.
I make a mental note to write about Gladys tonight.
That afternoon Dan picked Pinche up and brought him home. He was fine.
I called to check on them around 6 pm and I could hear Pinche loud and clear in the background..."woof, woof, woof" he repeated over and over while watching Dan prepare the special dinner I had left on the stovetop for him and Bubba.
All was good and then suddenly things began to change.
It was the beginning of the end and we had no clue.
A few hours later, Dan sent me an email at work...."funny but after all that barking for dinner, he didn't really want to eat. I don't think he's feeling well."
We discussed it on the phone. Poor boy, we thought. Must be the radiation.
I came home at 11:30 pm. As I entered, I could see Pinche standing outside drinking water. I thought I saw a slight tremble in his legs.
I open the sliding doors and Bubba rushes in -- Pinche lays on his pillow.
There is a pile of vomit nearby. His bowl is almost filled.
He won't come inside so I leave the door open. I can tell he's not feeling well and again I discuss it with Dan on the phone.
All of a sudden, he's inside the house -- drinking water. He lays down by the front door and I'm relieved that he's come in.
Must be the side-effects from the treatment or the anesthesia, I think. But at least he's drinking water. It seemed to be a good sign.
I sit with him for a while and then Bubba and I go to bed, leaving Pinche in his spot.
Before going to sleep, I say a prayer for Pinche.
"Please God, look out for him. Please."
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The clock was ticking away.
Pinche had less than ten hours to live.
And I had no idea.
Chapter 7 ~ May 2004