I’ve never subscribed to the wedding-industry credo of “the one,” the idea that there is only one right man for a woman.
With personkind, as the PM says, it just doesn’t ring true for me.
But with dogs, it does: I have had dogs my whole life, and loved every one of them, but Obie Blatchford was my one: I was made for him, and he for me, and that was that.
He died on Tuesday, if not quite in my arms then at my feet.
He had a seizure, but these had become frequent enough that both of us were pretty good at handling them.
He’d crumble to the ground; I’d get down with him and talk and sing to him; my friend and neighbour Karen, whose dog Charlie was Obie’s best friend, would come running with a cold cloth and cluck over us both.
And sooner or later, Obie would get to his feet and we’d carry on as if nothing had happened.
I knew why he could react like this; he didn’t remember the seizure. But I was in deep denial, even as I could see the end around the corner.
At first, I was scared to death, but then seizures were our new normal and I began thinking that part of this was that he would always bounce back. He was so brave and resilient he fooled me.
But for two weeks, when I went to Scotland, we were together pretty much 24/7 since May. My longtime dog walker had moved out of the city, so I took the summer off to be with the big white lug, “magnificent bastard” as one of my friends once called him.
I realize now, in the awful still of the apartment, how attuned to one another we were. If I got up, he got up; if he got up, I was instantly alert and watched with a slit eye (anything more and he’d know I was awake) to see if he settled down. I moved with uncharacteristic stealth around the place, listening to his breathing, for his sighs and twitches and dog noises.
We spent the summer in the living room, me on the couch, him on a growing pile of blankets and pillows on the floor, or if I was lucky, on the couch with me.
By the end, he was held together by drugs, duct tape and will.
He had cruciate disease, which meant basically the ligaments in his back legs were shot, and his rear quarters dropped low and his gait was wobbly. He had kidney disease. And he had the seizures, likely, his great vet Ryan thought, caused by a tumour in his head.
(They don’t do brain surgery on dogs, so there seemed little point to getting a CT scan. Besides, I liked imagining whatever it was would go away; a scan would have stomped hard on that dream.)
My days were measured by a 12-hour pill, an every-eight-hours pill, and the ones he got morning and night. As long as they were covered in his reeking special-kidney-diet canned food, which cost more than steak, he took them without complaint.
But I wasn’t just his nurse and he wasn’t just a patient. He was still a dog. He was happy. Or that’s what I think and hope.
We took a tennis ball out with us at least once a day. He’d stretch out on the grass, nudge the ball with his nose and bat it about with his front feet, a far cry from the days of his youth, but it was something. We walked with Charlie and Karen every day; Charlie was his best medicine, because to him he was still a regular dog. God love Chuck; he still attacked him if he got too close to his food bowl.
We didn’t look alike, as the myth that owners and dogs grow to resemble one another has it. He looked like the actor Richard Gere, all lovely schnozz and small, smart, dark eyes; I looked like me.
But we were the same being. We looked tough, sometimes, but mush on the inside. The qualities he had in spades — goodness, kindness, clownishness — are nowhere near as abundant in me. I could only aspire to be as fine as him.
I am consoled somewhat by the fact he had a pretty big life.
We went to St. Andrews, N.B., a couple of times. He loved road trips, and would periodically bolt over the top of the passenger headrest and end up in the lap of whichever friend I was with. He loved hotels, especially the Lord Elgin in Ottawa: He’d bound into the lobby, properly confident in his irresistibility.
As an indication of how human beings can so resolutely believe in happy endings, despite all the evidence, I even found a new dog walker for him, Antoinette, because I’m back at work now. (I am of course haunted by the fear he knew that.) She had lost her own bull terrier, Stolee, last December; he was white, just like Obie, and she burst into tears at the sight of him.
She got to take him for all of one walk, on Tuesday. She videoed it for me: He was an outrageous show-off. Clearly, he wanted to impress her.
He was sleeping when I got home.
Two hours before he died, he was in the kitchen, barking at me for more lunch, leaping as best he could on those gimpy legs.
I had him for 13.5 years. Forever wouldn’t have been enough.
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