A habit of creatures

Simon died two weeks ago today and I am still waking up at at 3:30 in the morning.

That was when we took our first walk of the day. We used to start the day at 5:45 when I got up for work, but when Daylight Saving Time ended in 2015, Simon never quite adjusted. Gradually he woke me up earlier and earlier until he settled on 3:30, give or take a half hour. By that time he was over 12 and he had been with me for 11 years.

Simon spent the last year in extra innings. Last spring he developed fluid on his abdomen and the vets found a mass on his liver. The specialist recommended surgery–but we decided against it. The procedure was drastic and the outcome not certain since they could not know ahead of time how advanced the tumor was. I was crushed by the thought of losing him, but could not put him through the pain with so little guarantee that he would be better off for it. The specialist had drained much of the fluid and Simon was more of his old self.

In June, Simon’s regular vet removed the rest of the fluid. I was with him that time. I’m more than a bit squeamish, but I learned to be brave–or at least act like it for his sake. His vet and I decided we would just treat Simon like any other old dog and schedule Senior Exams every six months. He made it through two of them. Dr. Mitchell called him “the miracle dog.”

He had a good last year.

Simon loved his daily walks–the blocks here are big and there’s a park nearby. Until February, he still campaigned for a longer route along the stream. He love ice cream cones from East Coast Custard. He love his rawhide chews. But he really loved his walks.

Over the past couple of years he finally learned to approach other dogs that we met in the neighborhood with a bit more self-control. He wavered between enthusiasm and anxiety. Simon was attacked twice in his driveway when he was younger (a nasty, foul-tempered chow-mix). About four years ago we were heading out for a walk in the rain and saw a woman with two German Shepherds at the foot of the drive. I turned around with Simon until they passed and then realized that the dogs were not leashed. They trotted quickly up the drive at Simon, who just had to bark at them. I tried to drag him into the house before they could get to him, but knew we wouldn’t make it. I attempted to use the umbrella to shield us and scare off the shepherds (and hollered for my neighbors to help). One of them grabbed his leg but I pulled Simon inside the house. Glad that didn’t happen often. Oh, the shepherds turned out to be nice dogs who got out of their yard a couple of blocks away and we were able to get them home.

Simon was a great car dog. If we were the only two in the car, I’d put his window (backseat, passenger side) down no matter how cold it was (at least for a little while). Until the last 6 months he still liked to put his paws on the door and his nose in the wind. Unless it was too hot, I took him along on errands whenever I could. There was a dog advice columnist who answered a question about car anxiety by writing, “You should take your dog with you often, not just on trips to the vet, so that he learns to know that trips in the car can be good. Now I’m not saying you should take him along every time you go to the grocery store. . . .” I thought, “Well what’s wrong with the grocery store?” I’d get out of the car and tell Simon, “Hold down the fort!” He would almost always take a nap while I was gone.

I’m over the worst of the grief at this point. Every now and then, something happens to make me tear up again. Picking up his ashes from the vet. Getting the sympathy card from the staff at the vet’s office. Cutting up a red bell pepper and not having a dog to share the scraps with.

When a person dies, there is so much To Do: arrangements, insurance, legal stuff. When a pet dies, they just vanish, leaving this void in your life. I donated the rest of his meds and food to rescue groups. I washed the covers for his beds and put the foam out to air. Washed his bowls and stored them. But–that’s it.

It’s the habits of creatures that I’m working through now. The waking up at 3:30 to a quiet bedroom without the sound of canine snoring. No more need to listen to be sure I could still hear Simon breathing. Now feeding time is limited to the cat, Callie. She’s adjusting to being an only animal and not having a dog to own. It’s a little hader for the humans.

But still–it’s still.

We’ve already decided we’ll look for a new member of the household this summer. I stopped by the doggy daycare, Dogtropolis, where Simon spent many happy days to thank them and drop off his food for their collection. I banked his remaining days for future use. Connie, the owner talked to me about getting another dog. She said, “Getting another dog is not a reflection on the value of Simon or how much you loved him. It just means you have room in your life for another dog and it will be good for you and good for them. And that’s a good thing.”

So here’s to Simon the Beagle Thing, my much loved Shmoo. Rest in peace, buddy.

5 comments on “A habit of creatures

  1. I’m sorry you lost your dog. It’s true there’s no real way to get closure after losing a pet. I still think of my dog, Misty, and she died 3 years ago now. I keep a big picture of her be my desk.

  2. Our pets stay with us forever. I’ve been fortunate to share the long lives of three great animals. My cat, TJ, lived to be 16. My GSP, Luke, lived to be twelve. We are currently dealing with the aging and failing health of our cat, Abby, who will be 16 in September. As I read your piece I am waiting on lab results for her.
    The days of grief and sadness gradually, at least for me, eventually becomes a well of thankfulness of time shared and good memories.
    Sounds like you have lots of those. Truly sorry that he’s gone but glad that he had you to love and care for him.

  3. Thank you all. I added the video I couldn’t get to work last night. Simon never met a sweet pepper, Brussels sprout, or green bean that he didn’t like.

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