Bad teeth, bad dogs, bad weeks. And Puerto Rico.

The world offered up to me a week of minor insults–an emergency trip to the vet, a date that didn’t go as planned, a several-days migraine, a nasty email, a flat tire, ridiculous lines at the fabric store, a work meeting on Saturday morning, and a broken disposal on Saturday night that spewed water, cilantro, and various other semi-rotten vegetables all over the inside of the under-the-sink cabinet.

Meanwhile, Puerto Rico.

By which I mean (yes, of course) multitudes of people without food, water, homes, power–but also, everything wrong in our country right now that’s wrapped up in the reasons for Puerto Rico and that’s come out in all kinds of other ways over the past week. You know:  racism, corrupt/inept leadership, seemingly willful ignorance, our ability to be distracted and divided by lesser things, and–maybe most of all–our collective weariness and inability to be truly surprised/shocked by anything that’s going down any more. (Or is that just me? )

I found myself so longing to return to a time when I could feel free to share on Facebook the petty slings and arrows flying my way and gather sympathy in response. I did indulge in sharing a pic of the flat tire, but later that night when I thought about sharing the garbage disposal mess, it just didn’t seem like the thing to do. Because:  Puerto Rico.

I mean, how can I complain about the things bringing me down when I have food, water, shelter, and power? When I am not the target of so much that is wrong right now? When my problems, literally, would not exist if I didn’t enjoy the privileges I do?

I heard from three different friends this week that all their friends seemed to be having a particularly bad week. But it’s not a full moon and Mercury’s not in retrograde until December 3. Remember when that’s the kind of reason people looked for when it seemed like everyone was having a kinda hard time all at the same time?

What you get when you Google “is mercury in retrograde”

I know part of the reason I started crying when the vet asked, “So, how are we doing this morning?” was that I was afraid she was going to tell me that we’d have to put Daisy down and it would mean I am a shitty dog owner for letting things get so bad, and I could feel the migraine coming back for the third day, and I didn’t know how I was going to get done for work the things I’d promised to get done (I didn’t), but I think it was all of those things and Puerto Rico.

Daisy is one of the two canines living in my home that one of my children refers to as “your divorce guilt dogs.” The label is not entirely unfair. I hope I didn’t say to the child something like, “We’re going to totally disrupt your life and make you live in two different places (thereby no longer having one real home), but hey! Now you can have the dog you’ve long wanted!” but I can see how this child might have heard it that way.

I’m glad she didn’t see that I also wanted those dogs because I knew I was going to need a reason to come home on dark winter nights when there would be no homework to supervise and no squabbles to referee and no one to care if “dinner” was an entire box of Kraft macaroni and cheese eaten straight from a saucepan.

Daisy and her compatriot Rocky aren’t particularly good dogs. Because they pee and shit at will in our house despite my many attempts to persuade them to do otherwise, we’ve had to remove all the carpet from our home. (The other child and I once created a parody of the Commodores’ “Brick House” about Daisy, which opened with, “Oh, she’s a bad dog / She’s mighty naughty, just poopin’ all over the house.” ) Because they are Dachshunds, they’ve cost me thousands of dollars in dental surgery. Because I somehow didn’t believe what I read in the nano-seconds of research I did before bringing them home that told me such dogs are notoriously difficult to housebreak and and are prone to bad teeth, I have been surprised by these things.  In addition, Daisy lets us know pretty regularly that she doesn’t really give any fucks about a lot of things we care about. Like not whining all through dinner, or not eating Rocky’s poop, or coming when we call her and she is looking right at us.

I love her anyway.

She doesn’t do a lot of the things I’d like her to do, but she’s ours. The song-writing child, not long after I’d moved to a house filled with mis-matched things cobbled together from garage sales, thrift stores, and craigslist, once looked around and said with disgust, “Everything in this house is used. Even our dogs are used!”

It was true. I found them on craigslist, and Daisy wasn’t mine from the beginning, but she’s mine now. I love her, and despite the fact that she disappoints me on a regular basis and has never been quite the dog I envisioned for my children or myself, she’s the dog we have and dammit, I don’t want her to die. Not yet.

When I let one of the children know that I for-sure wouldn’t be coming for a maybe-visit in November because I’ll be paying for doggie dental surgery instead, even though the lower portion of Daisy’s jaw has so deteriorated that it has detached from the upper and cannot be repaired, she asked me, kindly, when I’d know it was time to let go.

“I mean, what’s the amount that is too much, Mom? She is just a dog, you know?”

I don’t really know, but not yet. I mean, yes, she’s just a dog–but she is also love and hope and dreams and history. Not unlike my country, which I love in ways not unlike the ways I love my dog and my kids:  Imperfectly, irrationally, deeply, unconditionally.

Even when it’s been a bad week. Even though Puerto Rico.

Because they’re mine.

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Bad teeth, bad dogs, bad weeks. And Puerto Rico.

  1. K says:

    It hurt my heart to read the line “I mean, what’s the amount that is too much, Mom? She is just a dog, you know?”
    When we view any living being as “just” an anything, it reminds me that we, as a society, need to work on our compassion toward others. I think it is too easy to devalue many things, including people and animals, with the “just” reasoning – he is “just” an illegal immigrant, she is “just” an old woman, he is “just” a weirdo, she is “just” a dog.

    • Rita says:

      I understand what you are saying, and I don’t disagree. It hurts me to have to think in such terms, too. It hurts me that my daughter does. However, we are all making such calculations, all the time, and I think it would better serve the world if we were aware of that and honest about it. The reality is that there is an amount that would be too much–an amount I cannot pay. Because I will prioritize the well-being of my kids and myself, even though it would hurt to do so. One of the points I was trying to make in this piece (and maybe failed to?) is that we’re so often unaware of our privilege. It’s a form of privilege to be able to say that all lives are of equal value and should be cared for equally, and to suggest that doing otherwise is a failure of compassion. Lack of compassion is not what ails this world. Grossly unequal distribution of resources is. If everyone had enough of what they need, we’d see a lot less suffering among all forms of life.

  2. Lisa says:

    My sister has a 14 year old daschund named Oscar, and he is also dying (we’ve expected him to die many times this year, as he is currently in renal failure, and he keeps making a comeback). He also has no teeth–he was a rescue dog from some lady who had 50 dogs in her back yard, and when my sister adopted him he had some kind of green stuff growing on his teeth and needed 8 teeth removed (her first dental bill for that dog was $$$$$). He has a cataract in one eye. H has broken his spine by falling off a sofa, and has dislocated his own stomach by eating too much (I wish I could italicize that last phrase) (emergency stomach relocation surgery is also $$$$$). He also has mange, has no hair left except on his head, and wears an assortment of jaunty sweaters and tshirts to keep him warm/stop him from getting a sunburn. My sister loves that dog and I am dreading the day he goes.

    I am sorry for the bad week. I wish you a peaceful and love-filled time with your Daisy.
    Lisa recently posted…purple bedroom inspirationMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Well, Rocky (Daisy’s sibling or son, we’re not sure which), has a cataract in one eye, and he had a terrible problem with his back that was going to require $$$$$ surgery, but we tried some at-home rehab (super-restricted movement for awhile) and he didn’t have to have surgery. And, if we let our dogs eat as much as they wanted, they could totally do that dislocated stomach thing, easy. They will eat until there is nothing left to eat. Ours do have hair, but it’s getting mighty thin in spots–tails, ears, and necks. Lately, I am feeling as if loving these dogs is not so different from loving my country–not as easy as it once was. When I was a kid, you just had a dog. It seemed a lot simpler than dogs seem to be now. Maybe it really wasn’t, and I just couldn’t see it because I was a kid. Maybe it was, but only because we all practiced a kind of almost-benign neglect. I dunno. I do love that dog, but as soon as I close my laptop I’m off to clean up the remains of a poop smear I discovered a few minutes ago.

  3. Kate says:

    I am sorry for all the things flying at you. Yes, there is suffering all over the world and at times it can make us feel bad for feeling bad about a flat tire and a broken garbage disposal and a sick dog, but your feelings are valid. I’m guessing you already know that.

    It’s hard when it feels like the world is going to hell and we feel miserable for the people in misery and then have our own miseries to contend with as well. It doesn’t seem to let up.

    Wishing you a better week and a hug.

    • Rita says:

      Thanks, Kate. I’ll take both. What you say is true, but also–having so much other suffering going on in the world right now has made it easier for me to accept and deal with my own comparatively minor problems. When I say I’m missing the days when I could vent about them on Facebook freely, it’s not so much about how I feel now as how I felt then. I miss the way I used to feel. But even that isn’t simple; I know I had those feelings then not because it was some kind of better days in which the world was humming along in a much better way. In some ways, yes, but also I was more oblivious to the suffering of others. You know that truth about how you can’t un-see truths? Lotta that going down over the past year.

  4. Marian says:

    With regards to what you said to K, I did, very clearly, get the point you were making about privilege and the awareness of that privilege. I too believe there IS, already, plenty of compassion in the world. (I’d even go so far as to say MOST people are compassionate beings who want to help others and alleviate suffering. (But that could be my Canadian roots showing; maybe with everything going on in the US right now, “most” isn’t a word you would use anymore…))
    I don’t know if this last bit will make sense, but I think what we need more of is PRE-compassion — as in, we need for people to recognize their privilege BEFORE it smacks them in the face with its obviousness. It’s dead easy to recognize what a privilege it is to have electricity and running water and fully stocked grocery stores when the news is filled with hurricane coverage and lives have been lost and countless others are struggling because they have no shelter, no food, and no water. What would be the difference in our actions if NONE of us took any of that for granted, even when times were good? Would we be more careful not to waste food? Would we bother watering our lawns? Would we appreciate each other more? Could pre-compassion/pre-recognition of privilege maybe make people think twice about whether or not they really need to take yet-another vacation that will spew yet-more carbon into the atmosphere and contribute to the causation of yet-more hurricanes or sea level rise that will submerge island nations? (I don’t have answers, and I don’t expect you to have answers either, Rita. Funnily enough (not haha), my last post touches on just this — the evolution of the stories we write with our lives (what they used to be and what they are now) and recognizing the cost (and meaning) of these privileged stories.)
    Another thought regarding compassion: I completely agree with you when you say it’s a form of privilege to say that all lives are of equal value. Heartbreakingly, terrifyingly, I believe we’re rapidly approaching a time when compassion will be a luxury; when climate change will make our planet so inhospitable that we will be unable to grow enough food for millions of climate refugees, when we will have no other choice but to close our eyes.
    Marian recently posted…StoriesMy Profile

    • Rita says:

      Marian, I always so appreciate your thoughtful responses. I’ve got one I want to give you, but it’s my bedtime and I’m really trying to uphold my health resolutions and I need to look something up before I can respond. So, I will tomorrow.

  5. TD says:

    Rita,
    I was in tears, so heartfelt, and I related too much to all that your organized words presented to my ears. By the time I hit, “Even when it’s been a bad week. Even though Puerto Rico.
    Because they’re mine.” I was balling searching for tissues!

    The timing of me reading your post and the fact that literally I just hung up the phone from canceling my vet appointments for both my dogs dental maintenance that would total about $700 because I struggled with the expenses I would be incurring; just after spending for both dogs $600 for annual vaccinations, checkup, heart-worm and flea prevention meds, and a total of eight shots with five skin growths removed from my tiny 4 yo 5 lbs Yorkie and maintenance health care for 10 yo York-a-chon, just yesterday. It is so tough making decisions, what and when, prioritizing financial responsibilities.

    Yes, I knew exactly your point with “and Puerto Rico.” A month ago we (me and my two dogs were hunkered down in the shower waiting for Hurricane Harvey to pass over our island for 15 hours, then dealing with the aftermath of as you say, no power, etc., witnessing the order of what happens and how long, seeing and dealing with people’s belongings, shelters and now called debris, the seaweed raked and piled so streets are drivable, feeling the devastation of neighbors, and to date dealing with what happens from that, and the emotional triggers, the body’s responses that roll in as we are still getting from the here to the there; through it). I know, and yet, “and Puerto Rico” is completely unimaginable to me.

    Then Vegas happens and the only thing I can keep reminding myself to stay sane is that the universe gives us our dogs as precious gifts of unconditional love and we do love them no matter their tiny accidents of poop and tinkle in our homes.

    Trust yourself. You will know when it’s the appropriate time to let go. I know from experience, we just know when, it’s just a knowing that comes to you. We will be thinking of Daisy, of you and your family with love.

    It has been exactly one year since the results of the election, so much news to absorb, reflect, sort, deflect, distract, escape tv shows, fiction books, movies, sunning, rest, recharge, exercise, clean or let it be, and transition to a new way of being in a complicated world of unrest. I’m American, it’s all that I know, and yet I feel lost in my own country, old at 57, unemployable, using my life savings. Like so many others I can only take one day at a time, focus on surviving whatever our tomorrow brings. Keep working to sort through to find personal solutions. My dogs get me through, love, protecting and support. The three of us take care of each other.

    You are an incredible talented writer. Your structure of story telling, the words you choose, the rhythm and transparency, brings in your genuine heart and for some unknown reason to me your stories are always so relatable for me and teaches me more than could know. Thanks for writing your stories about life and sharing such depth!

    • Rita says:

      Thank you for all of these kinds words. I’m glad that Harvey didn’t impact you more than it did–what you describe is something that is hard for me (who has lived in the northwest my whole life) to fathom.

      Daisy is doing much better. She had surgery on her mouth yesterday. No more teeth now, but she’s doing better and she’ll be all right for a while longer now. You know, I wrote this post before the shooting in Las Vegas. Just goes to show you, things can always get worse. I know that sounds negative, but in a paradoxical way, reminding myself of that helps me better weather whatever the current challenge is. Helps me keep things in perspective.

      Take care, and thanks again for letting me know that the writing here means something to you.

      • TD says:

        Best wishes for Daisy through her recovery. With Rocky by her side and your caring love, I’m confident that Daisy will be up to her good self, wearing a cute little hoodie jacket soon! Sweet!!

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