Thursday, March 10, 2016

Daily Dose #73 Goodnight, Sweet Prince

Huckleberry checking out the new kitchen floor at "The Sedge Wedge"

Last November, after a year of tumult where at one point I was living in spartan hotel room with three dogs in the Adirondacks, we finally settled into our new home in Syracuse.

Traveling, and being responsible for a menagerie of two aging Shih Tzus, a young 80 lb rescue retriever with a boundless source of dog energy, and a cat that sometimes resembles a criminal mastermind capable of great evil mischief, is not without its challenges.

So all of us here at the Sedge Wedge were pretty relieved to finally take possession of our new domicile and finally start our lives, all together. No more hotels, no more disruption. We may have been surrounded by a pile of boxes, but contained within were the familiar smells of our old home, and our old routines.

Huck and Doo dig Elvis
We barely made it all together across the finish line. Doodle (Huckleberry’s litter mate and little sister) took ill over the spring and summer. Being the runt of the litter and kind of snatched from the jaws of eminent death as a little tiny puppy, she had a few genetic / physical defects; primarily a little hole in her heart that got progressively larger through thirteen human years. Her heart sounds like a out of balance Maytag washing machine in the throes of an agitation cycle from hell. Her little ticker has a tendency to slosh fluid into her lungs, causing all sorts of problems, including passing out from oxygen deprivation.

So this became part of life last year. Emergency Vet visits, and a pretty complex daily chemical cocktail to keep her alive, pain free, and relatively healthy and happy. The pill pocket people (and the dog pharmaceutical distributor) love me, and probably have a portrait of Doodle hanging in the vestibule of their front offices, an engraved brass tag attached reading “Our Benefactor”.

We did in fact, finally turn the key, and the corner; or so we thought anyway.

But we didn’t. Huckleberry suddenly came up lame in his right front leg. This wasn’t exactly abnormal, as Shih Tzus are notoriously jenky in the joints, and there have been many dislocations of shoulders and legs; particularly when Huckie decides he’s super dog and calculates he can negotiate soft landings after launching himself off the bed and becoming airborne as he attempts to save the free world from...the epitome of all that is unholy, the cat!

After shopping for a new vet, transferring paperwork, and going through several visitations and second opinions, I got the bad news. This was no jenky joint. Basically he was suffering from degenerative bone disease, and was slowly becoming paralyzed, from front to back on his right side, and eventually, in total.

So the new house became a hospice care center, as I tried to allow him to squeeze as much life out of this world as he could, relatively comfortable and pain free.

Our days were spent with him by my side in the man cave, him listening to me practice the piano. Something that we used to do quite a bit in New Orleans, but not so much during my time up in CNY. He likes Beethoven Piano Sonatas, tolerates my butcher job of Chopin, and prefers the dirty boogie woogie. His tail wags telegraphed the tale of the scale. 

Huckie truly loved munching on his "snowbies" (His cue word for snow)
 My nights were spent ferrying him cradled in my arms, taking him outside every hour on the hour. He didn’t necessarily have to do his business (Although that did become problematic over time; How are you supposed to pee when you can’t lift your leg without falling over? This became a source of painful confuzzlement). Basically, he just wanted to eat as much snow as he possibly could, and I was happy to oblige. It kept me from having to subcutaneously hydrate him with an I.V drip bag and a needle; a task neither of us looked forward to.

So basically, I’ve been a 24 hour on call nurse, and haven’t had a night’s sleep in two months. My sleep deprivation is so severe that I’m in a constant hallucinatory state. Forgive me if this blog doesn’t contain my usual verbose flourishes.

I didn’t want to flick the switch on Huck out of personal convenience. I ushered him into this world, and he trusted me to take him out on his terms, not mine.

He fought right to the end. His spirit? Indomitable. Inspirational, really. Of all the gifts he gave me over thirteen years of love and loyalty, this last lesson he taught me may be the most valuable.

We had a pleasant last day. The weather broke, so he could smell the onset of Spring and the aroma of the dirt wafting up from it’s Winter slumber one last time. He got to sit in the sun some.

Huckie's Last Supper
He laid next to me all day, licking the thin veneer of shaving gel off my face and neck (Edge shaving gel: Puppy Crack). Sloppy work but what the hell. Doodle and Gingy joined us for a last supper of freshly cooked bacon, his favorite treat.

And as the hours ticked down my anxiety ratcheted up. As the knot in my stomach commensurately rose into my throat as we got closer to having to leave for the vet, it was all I could do from totally losing my shit. Driving while crying isn’t exactly a good idea. Huck always knew when I was in trouble and turmoil. I tried to shield him from the disturbance in my heart and mind the best I could for his last day in the material world.

I can rationalize to infinitude concerning my ultimate decision: ("He's in a better place", "You did the humane thing", "He'll be there on the other side waiting for you"....). All of those rationalizations ring hollow today.

He was my constant; my little rock that amazingly kept me tethered to the earth's surface for 13 years and three months, preventing me from floating off into the ether. All the shit that life throws at you (and life is capable of heaving enormous piles of shit), little Huckleberry was right next to me on the front line, a loyal soldier taking fire. He never wavered. He was my raison d’etre, because he was my responsibility, above anything else. He loved me without question and I him.

Swaddled in his favorite fuzzy green blanket, nestled comfortably in my arms, he didn’t know what hit him. He was gone five seconds after the shot was administered.

A big chunk of me left with him today. Life without my running partner of thirteen years is a great unknown. It’s too soon to make a total emotional damage assessment, but I’m afraid it’s going to be more critical than I could ever have originally projected. Time will tell.

I’m extremely grateful to be surrounded by the love of my remaining furry children, my family, and my partner Michele. They surround me and prop me up when I'm about to dive bomb into the abyss.

We never got to have that wing ding in Hawaii (More on that later; stay tuned kids). My hope is that he is surrounded by Hula girls, munching on spit roasted swine, with the strains of slack key guitars and ukuleles softly lilting through the gentle ocean breeze. 

Goodnight, Sweet Prince.

Huck and Doo at a Lua at the imaginary "Million Dollar Bash" in Hawaii 

My best friend, ever. Huckleberry Rossi (12/10/02-03/08/16)

"You may shoot for the stars and end up beaten and bloodied in a back alley behind Pluto, but at least I dare to dream; that’s better than being Earthbound mired in the muck of mediocrity".

I judge my forward progress and success by the crushingly epic nature of my failures.

The more epic the crash, the more I’m convinced I must be doing something right.