Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Passenger

When faced with mortality, memories start to flood in. It was a crisp day in New Hampshire when I spotted him (or her…I don’t know). He was laying on the ground in all of his teddy bear-come-to-life glory. His parents were enjoying an ice cream cone (or a beer -- again, I don’t know, I was too distracted by him). We were on our way to a bar to celebrate our friend’s wedding. After about an hour, I ran from the bar, chasing him and his parents down the street. They were by now on their way home and about a mile down the street. I caught up to them huffing and puffing, and screeched – “What kind of dog is that?” “It’s a Wheaten Terrier” they said. As I would come to find out, it was probably the thousandth time they’d answered that particular question.

I became obsessed. I had to have one of these dogs. The way his hair bounced when he walked. Those perfectly kind, almond-shaped eyes. The shaggy terrier-ness of it all, with a refined fluff that is now more common in the Labradoodle, which to my knowledge did not yet exist in 2002.

My boss wants me to go look at a bird. Birds are kind of gross as pets, I thought, but sure, I’ll go. We walked into a pet store, and they were yes, selling birds. But also dogs. I had no idea you could even buy a dog in a pet store anymore. There he was. The glorious, radiant, obsessable Wheaten Terrier. Sitting in a cage with his own poop. He was way too big to be in a pet store. I eyeballed him for a moment, and then walked along to see the bird. It was a “work” outing after all.

A month later, I dragged Troy in to see The Wheaten Terrier. There was no way he was still going to be there. He was. We took our “rescue” dog home to meet our two much larger beasts. He was true to his breed – a terror. Running at full speed and hitting his head on the step to the deck and knocking out one of his canine teeth. Spreading his 8-hour-work-day-load of pee and poop all over our kitchen floor. Traveling at lightning speed through underground draining pipes to the neighborhood next door. But, he would sit on the couch with me at night when I was scared and alone during Troy’s first deployment to Iraq. We ate Cheetos together, and I had wine. I lost 10 pounds. He sat there with me again during Troy’s second deployment.

In 2010, we moved to San Diego. He was our only child. He got to pick whether he rode with me in the car or in the U-haul with Troy on our cross-country journey. His life was a wonderland. Dog beach on Coronado Island. Baseball games at Petco Park with a parade on the field. Dinner on dog friendly patio after dog friendly patio. Runs along the bay. Everyone stopped to ask, "What kind of dog is that?" I considered getting him a T-shirt that said "I'm a Wheaten Terrier" just so we could walk in peace.

He was my only friend for two years. Troy had PTSD and wanted nothing to do with anything. So, I took him shopping at Nordstrom. He joined me for Salade Nicoise at Café Chloe or croissants at Tartine when I needed a girl’s date. He was my sidekick. My son. My co-pilot. My best friend. My passenger. 

Today we have three dogs and a cat. I have friends again. We have a great life that involves a lot of hiking on mountains, rocks and dirt. He does not like dirt. He can’t hike anymore. He can barely get around the house. My friend is not going to be here for much longer. I’ve never loved anyone like him. I’ve never had a friend as loyal. I’m not sure I ever will again.

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