A story about training
Sure, late life marriages are easier than first marriages, but they’ve got their issues, too. Emmy and I were lucky. When we married, we were able to pull our lives and households together pretty easily. It even was fun—except for one thing. She had a little white and brown Jack Russell terrier she’d gotten from the SPCA. I think that’s the same as what we called the “Pound” when I was a kid. She’d named the dog Angel, of all things. Emmy doted on that silly mutt, but I’d never had a dog and wasn’t much interested in them.
The pup was misnamed. She should have been called Imp. She was like a two-year old kid: overloaded with energy and always up to something. After I moved in, little Angel got me in her sights and focused that crazy energy on me. She was always sneaking around me looking for a trick to play. When I was sitting, she’d steal the handkerchief—yes, I still use a handkerchief—out of my pocket, or when I was undressing she’d grab one of my socks and run around sort of waving it at me. Emmy said the dog was trying to be my friend, but I wasn’t sure about that. I ran after her but finally figured that was exactly what she wanted. Then I ignored her instead, and in time she gave the game up. I’m still missing some socks. Just the other day I found one way back under the couch.
Angel was noisy, too—barking and yipping for any reason or for no reason I could tell. Everything was a big deal to her. I’d swear if a dinosaur had walked across our yard, she’d carry on just the same way she does when she sees a butterfly. It was her whining that really bugged me, though. I wished the dog had a “Mute” or “Off” button. What a pain in the neck!
I felt like swatting her when she played her tricks on me, but Emmy said that wasn’t good. We don’t swat dogs anymore, I guess. Emmy said it could make her afraid and maybe even mean. Angel was her dog, not mine, so I just left her alone. I don’t like swatting anyway and never did. I don’t like hurting things, you know. My wife said the imp and I would work it out in time. I wasn’t sure about that happening, either.
Putting up with her dog was little enough price to pay for sharing life with Emmy. We were happy. We lived quietly, doing what we wanted and enjoyed our senior years together.
Then one day Emmy just keeled over in the kitchen. The medics thought it was a heart attack and went to work on her, but she was pronounced dead at the Emergency Room, and I was alone again. I’d been widowed before and understood I could be left alone and I knew the drill. Emmy was an organized woman, so it wasn’t that much work to make the calls and arrangements and do the filings, but I’ll tell you, it’s hard to do. I hated it all. I just wanted my sweet wife back.
For her sake, I took good care of Angel while deciding what to do about her. It wasn’t easy. The feeding and walks and all weren’t hard, but the pup whined and looked around for Emmy all the time, and that was almost more than I could take. On the third day of my new solitary life, I made my decision and added “Take dog to SPCA” to my long Things to Do list. I told myself she’d be OK there. After all, it was where she came from.
The dog’s bed was in one of those metal crates, and Emmy used to tuck her in every night. She’d give the pup a little treat and sing a song about good dogs to “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” while she shut the crate door. I didn’t know the words, but of course I knew the tune, so when I put the dog to bed, I’d give her a treat and then hum it while I closed the crate. It seemed like a kind thing to do. On the fifth night after, well, after Emmy was gone, I was humming to the dog when suddenly the memory of my wife’s voice came back strong to me and I broke down. It’s the little things that get to you. Sometime they’ll hit me like tidal waves.
That was the worst wave of grief I’d had so far. I went right to the bed hurting, missing Emmy, feeling alone. In a while I heard whining and looked around. Right at the edge of the bed I could see the tops of a pair of folded brown ears, and I looked over the mattress edge. I’d forgotten to close the crate door. The dog was on her hind legs, stretching hard to get to me. Looking down into hopeful doggie eyes, I couldn’t help myself. I lifted her onto the bed, lay back and watched.
She walked around and around the covers, sniffing. When she got to Emmy’s pillow, she sniffed it a long time, then curled up on it and sighed. I didn’t know dogs could sigh but I knew just how she felt. I said, “I miss your mom too, girl,” petted her where she was for a while then fell asleep. Around two a.m. I woke up and there Angel was, off of the pillow and snuggled warm against me. When I went to the bathroom she jumped down and followed me and she sat politely by the door, then followed me back. I lifted her onto the bed again, then went back to sleep. It was pretty good sleep, the best I’d had since Emmy died, and I didn’t wake up again ’til after sunrise.
I spent that day working on the dreaded Things to Do list. When I got down to the note to take the dog to the SPCA, I crossed it off and instead sent them some money in Emmy’s memory. Then I went on-line and ordered a set of dog steps. Now Angel can get herself on the bed and I don’t have to pick the darn dog up all the time. Emmy would have liked that. Angel sure does. I guess I do, too.
photo from dogtime.com