A bottle of wine and a cat: Surviving the first dogless days


Tuki & Sweetheart, relaxing. This was after she’d reached the point where we let her on the couch and before the point where she couldn’t get up there by herself anymore.


The house is so quiet. No one needs to go outside before we go to bed. There are no clacking feet in the middle of the night, the prelude to a trip down the stairs and outside into the dark. No one needs to go outside first thing in the morning. And no one is chasing Sweetheart out of the driveway when he leaves for work.

How things went

Four of us left the house to go to the vet on Saturday morning. Three of us came back.

Tuki and I sat in back of Talia’s SUV. Sweetheart sat in front. T had put the seat down on Tuki’s side and spread blankets out, so she could lie comfortably. She’d also bought a bag of freeze-dried duck hearts for her Best Girl. I spent the ride feeding them to the grateful recipient.

When we got there and got her out of the car, Sweetheart took her over to eat some snow. It had snowed the night before. Fitting, as it had done the same thing the first night she’d been with us all those years before. That morning, she’d been in constant motion, dancing all over the yard, sticking her nose in the snow and tossing what she didn’t eat, openly delighted at this toy that spanned everything she could see.

I walked into the office. Joanne was sitting behind the counter. She’s been the receptionist there since before Tuki was born. I put my head down on the counter and burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s the hardest thing we have to do.”

She took us into the exam room and got a blanket so Tuki wouldn’t have to get up on the table. Tuki, never one of Park Pet’s grateful patients, stayed true to form, growling at the vet. Dr. Poehlmann told us what would happen – first a shot to send Tuki into the Happy Place where Everything is Wonderful (or that state of mind where, as Talia said later, Tuki would be doing things like staring up and saying things like, “Wow! My paws are SOOOO big!!”). Then, five minutes or so later, she would shave Tuki’s back leg, insert an IV and inject the drug that would stop her heart.

Sweetheart held and petted Tuki, so she was distracted when Dr. Poehlmann put the needle into her left flank. The vet stepped out. We got Tuki settled onto the blanket, and Talia and I laid on either side of her and stroked her. We talked and sang to her.

When Dr. Poehlmann came back, Tuki was unconscious. Dr. P shaved Tuki’s leg. She told us that the knee was very swollen and that Tuki had practically no muscle in that leg.

“I take comfort in biochemical information,” Talia said. “Can you tell me exactly how the drug works?”

I don’t remember what Dr. Poehlmann said. It had to do with interrupting some process or other.

Pho and tears

After it was over, we dropped Sweetheart at home. Talia bought pho for lunch, and we ate at Oldest Daughter’s house. We hugged Layli, my granddog, and talked about Oldest Daughter’s impending baby (yes, I’m going to be a grandmother, which feels very weird although I’m told by all my friends who have grandchildren that it is amazing). And, of course, I cried some. But it was easier because I wasn’t home. Then, I was. I spent the rest of the day sobbing.

I was a little better on Sunday, though not much.

“You need a bottle of wine and a cat,” Sweetheart said at one point.

On Monday, Sweetheart took the car to work. I managed to get all the dog things – water dish on a stand, food dish, food container, grooming tools and toys – gathered up and put away.

Then, I picked up her bed. She slept, ala “The Princess and the Pea,” atop a dog bed under which several blankets were piled.

I am not ready to wash it, or throw it away.

A walk in the park, and why there should be an Academy of Cashiering Arts and Sciences

So, the Academy Awards were this weekend. We watched a bit of them, which sparked a thought about the day before.

Sweetheart was at work and I was performing my weekly “take a lame-ass stab at bringing some order to the Landfill I Call Home” exercise in futility when the phone rang.

It was R, calling to see if Tuki & I wanted to meet her and Bailey at a nearby park for a walk. The day was perfect for a walk. Sunny. Warm (temperature above 20F (-6C) for the first time all week). So I leashed up my girl and we headed out.

Bailey is an eight-year-old Samoyed/Golden Retriever (we think) mix. He was jumping and pulling with excitement even before I parked and we got out of the car. Except for Tuki falling out of the back seat getting out, we had a great time. (I was corralling the leash and my purse and didn’t get to her fast enough as she tumbled onto the street. She bounced back up right away, but it was an awful moment. We were on the driver’s side and R & Bailey were on the sidewalk, so they didn’t see.)

Bailey, me and Tuki
Bailey on the left, Tuki on the right, and me in the middle.

Sweetheart brought R into our lives. They’re both arborists who speak fluent Tree. Walking with the two of them, I’ve learned about different types of trimming, picked up some Latin (R refers to trees by their Latin names) and a bit about urban logging. She works for a city (Sweetheart is a utility arborist). The extreme cold has cracked the trunks of some of her city’s streetside trees, so they have to be removed before spring. If they aren’t, they could fall and do some major damage. Some residents are upset about losing their trees. Rut R said this is actually a good time to do removals, because then she can get new street trees planted in spring.

After our walk, I went to my local food co-op. I’ve been a member since the mid 1980s, when there was only one location. Now there are four, including one relatively close to home.

Sometimes the checkout lines get pretty long. Like most people, I look for the shortest one. Before Middle Kid grew up and left home, we had a system. She’d hit one line and I’d hit another and whoever got closest fastest would signal the other to move over.

Those rules don’t apply at Local Co-op if Z is working a checkout line. The smile alone is worth the wait, but there’s more to Z than a cheerful smile. She’s one of those people who radiates well-being, and I do not mean that in a sanctimonious “crunchy granola” way. It’s more like a happiness bubble with a doorway. You step inside and trade in whatever might be bothering you for a few minutes of joy while she’s ringing up your butter and milk and lettuce and toothpaste and eggs and you chat about nothing.

Z, brightening the day of the customer ahead of me.

At this point, Z and I know enough about each other to ask about work and school (she’s back in school where I work, and while I have no idea if my endless pestering had anything to do with getting her to go back, I’m thrilled). We also, as it turns out, are connected through my neighbor Linda, because Z and Linda’s son were high school classmates and friends.

There’s no Academy of Cashiering Arts and Sciences. But if there were (and why shouldn’t there be?), Z would be right up there with Meryl Streep, nominated annually and winning more often than not.

Tuki: My heart on four legs

Things are a little hectic here in Flyover Country at the moment, so I am going to post a photo of my dog inspecting the bouquet of birthday flowers my sister and her family sent Mom, who turned 87 this week.

Tuki and flowers
My dog, on Mom’s floor, contemplates the the birthday flowers my sister and her family sent from Canada after a dinner of chicken and rice.

Mom is not the only senior citizen in our family. Tuki, the aforementioned dog, turned 14 this past September. I’ll tell her full story when things are a little calmer, but here’s a bit about the dogs of my childhood and how Tuki and I came to be a pair.

When we were kids, my sister and I dearly wanted fuzzy pets. But Debby was allergic to cats, Dad was not an animal lover and Mom had gotten her fill of animals growing up on a farm. By the time we came along, the only animals left there were Duke and Penny, a pair of dogs. We liked Penny, but Duke, a German Shepherd, was a tad scary. Later, Aunt Bessie and Uncle Sam, who lived nearby, acquired Prince, the ultimate in canine home security. Prince didn’t care who the humans welcomed. Everyone was the enemy. One night, Aunt Bessie, dressed in her nightie, bent down to feed him. Guess where he bit her?

It’s mildly ironic then, that Tuki, who started her life with me as a fuzzy round fur ball, grew up to be a Shepherd mix. She has long legs and a long, slender frame. I always tell people that if I looked like my dog, I’d be Naomi Campbell.

She was a stray when I found her. She was three months old, gamboling in the side yard at my friend Ann’s office with Ann’s dog Lucas. Ann rented offices and my employer at the time was housed there. I was running a night meeting and had to dash out to pick up a kid.

“Who’s the other dog?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said. “I’ve never seen it before.”

The puppy was having a lovely time playing that game where you get just so close and dash off. Ann’s neighbor Rodney walked up behind it while it was distracted by the game we were playing. He scooped it up and put it in my arms.

“Madam,” he said, “you have a dog.”

I tossed the puppy in the car and went to pick up the kid from First Husband’s. I’d gotten her the CD alarm clock she’d been asking for forever and was looking forward to her joy at getting it.

The puppy (it turned out to be a she) was quiet as long as I had my hand on her head, stroking her as she sat in the passenger seat. I prayed that she wouldn’t pee there. She didn’t. But whenever I took my hand away, she whimpered. So, when I wasn’t shifting gears, I was stroking her head.

I got to First Husband’s and can now testify that a CD alarm clock is irrelevant to a kid when you show up with a puppy.

I’d already called the Dog Lost and Found, because I wanted to make sure she wasn’t somebody’s beloved lost pet. They picked her up the next morning. We signed a “finder’s form” that would allow us to have first dibs on adoption if no one claimed her.

“C’mere, you cute little stinker,” the DL&F guy said, adding there was a good chance she’d be claimed.

I picked her up. I looked deep into her eyes and she into mine.

“I hope your people come for you,” I told her. “And if they don’t, I hope you get a wonderful home where you are loved and cared for.”

Then, I handed her over.

As it turned out, she was somebody’s beloved pet. I already loved her. Then, Providence smiled upon us. As Second Ex was deciding whether he wanted to adopt her during her week at the DL&F, our house got broken into, bolstering one of my arguments for why it would be good to have a dog. Her owners had a week to claim her, and the break-in happened in the middle of that week. As soon as the detective left, I called to see if she was still there. She was, and the woman on the other end of the phone told me that if no one had claimed her by now, they probably wouldn’t.

Sure enough, she became ours. We named her M’tukah Ruth Gettelman. M’tukah, because it’s Hebrew for sweetheart, Ruth because she was a stray (“Whither thou goest…”) and Gettleman because the Gettelman Mansion is where I found her. We called her Tuki.

Within a week of bringing her home, she almost died from bacterial pneumonia she’d picked up at the DL&F. I was beside myself at the thought of losing her. I was madly in love with this sweet little creature who adored me as openly as I did her. I have never stopped being grateful to the vet who saved my puppy. (In one of our rare areas of disagreement, Tuki has never forgiven him for those needle sticks and whatever else it took to get her well.)

My friend Grace, also a dog lover, summed it up perfectly when she called her dog “My heart on four legs.”

That is absolutely how I feel about Tuki. There’s only one way I have ever been able to bear the thought of knowing that dogs don’t live as long as we do and I will likely outlive her. It’s knowing that it would be harder for her to live without me than it will be for me to live without her.