It seems that blogs are often a repository for grief, especially for grief attached to the loss of a pet. People seem to accept as a given that a post about the death of a pet will find like-minded eyes. Me too. This is one of those posts.
If we lose a human loved one, we expect to garner sympathy far and wide, I think. But the loss of a pet seems to occupy a netherworld in the landscape of solace. If you sit up at a bar in a tavern, spilling your heart out about the death of your dog or cat, the guy or gal next to you may weep right along with you. Or, he or she might roll the eyes and think, “What’s wrong with this guy? It’s not like he lost a brother or sister.” That’s just the way it is. If you think of a pet as part of your family, you get it. If you think of a pet as just an animal, you don’t.
Rhonda found Gomez hiding in the shrubs near a restaurant in April, 2000. It was a colder than normal day for early spring, it was raining, and the little puppy was tiny and shivering. She tried to beckon him with food, but he was scared. That’s saying something, because Rhonda is like a magnet to dogs, cats, and kids.
Rhonda came home to tell me about the puppy she’d seen. She cried in the telling. She’d found him in a parking lot near a busy street, and she feared he would be killed before she could find him again.
But the next day, there he was, hiding in the same spot under the shrubbery. She’d brought a hamburger patty, and the little puppy came to her, hunger outstripping fear. She fed him bits of meat, talked to him, and petted him. Soon, he let her pick him up.
She called me on the way home. “I have him.”
I waited for her in the driveway. She drove up, lowered the window, and opened her coat. Inside, snuggled up against her, was the puppy.
I laughed. He was so cute, it hurt to look at him. And, after riding inside Rhonda’s coat for twenty minutes, warmed by her body heat, he didn’t look scared at all.
We put a found ad in the paper, and tacked up flyers around the neighborhood where Rhonda found him. No answers. After a week, we realized that we had a new addition to our family. We named him Gomez. He was obviously part Chihuahua, and he just looked like a Gomez.
I took him to the vet to get him checked out, and almost didn’t get him back. Everybody who worked there wanted to keep him. The vet said he was about four months old, and in good shape other than having a slight case of malnutrition. She guessed that he was indeed a Chihuahua mixed with something like a Miniature Pinscher. He weighed four and a half pounds.
For the first week he was home with us, it scared him to be petted. He would shrink back and blink his eyes. He obviously hadn't benefited from human affection. It took several days, but he did grow quite used to getting petted, especially in someone's lap.
Our son Dylan was born several weeks after Gomez joined our family. We’d heard horror stories about little dogs getting jealous over human babies, but Gomez was fascinated with our little human. If we took Dylan from one room to another, Gomez would follow, stationing himself where he could watch over the baby. You could imagine him saying, "He's my boy, and I have to watch him."
Gomez wasn’t an aggressive dog, but he surprised me one morning at dawn by tearing after a small female black bear getting into our trash cans. The bear ran off, and Gomez came prancing back, for the moment feeling like a Rottweiler trapped in a half-Chihuahua’s body.
The years went by, and Gomez seemed healthy, although he was overweight and had been that way since we had him fixed. It was a dark day when we learned that he had a heart condition. Still, for the last couple of years, he enjoyed a good quality of life.
Until yesterday, when he died.
He was a sweet, loyal dog, a great companion, and about as little trouble as a dog could be. It was really difficult trying to be strong for my son last night, especially when I felt eight years old again. But, I’m grateful that a certain funny little dog joined our family for his time on earth.
So, now I say goodbye to my son’s bodyguard, who liked nothing better than to snuggle up against one of his humans, except maybe barbecued chicken. I say goodbye to a pint-sized threat to black bears everywhere. I say goodbye to my little friend.
Gomez: January 2000 - May 2011