Today I found out my sad little dog died. She was such a dog that nowhere in my files of photos is there a single picture of her. We adopted her from the pound back in 1999 and was stunned to find her unable to leave the confines of the bathroom. The bathroom floor was where she preferred to stay all day and all night, coming out briefly to eat or relieve herself. She would then return to the bathroom and lay there. Most people who encountered her thought that all she needed was a lot of love and care and she would come out of her shell. The poor little dog was all messed up in the head, though, from years of abuse; she was head shy and, from the looks of it, crate-trained, meaning, she was raised being confined to a crate either by a creep or by someone who just didn’t know better. She was probably beaten constantly for barking or whatever else. Whatever happened to her I’ve never seen a dog like her.
When I made a go of a relationship with a French film producer we moved into his house in the Woodland Hills (really and truly hills of, not just Woodland Hills). He loved dogs and thought my dog, Josie, was a sweetheart. He didn’t realize she would find her place at the second landing of his staircase and never move from that spot except to eat or relieve herself. We took her for walks; she rode in my car. She was a dear, harmless, sweet but vacant animal. Once she ran out of the house and ended up sitting in a tree in the forest behind his house. In the rain. We brought her back and there she lay, on the landing. When I broke up with the film producer (he is one of a handful of ex’s I regret leaving) I couldn’t take Josie with me to my small apartment in Santa Monica. Emma and I decided Josie should go live with my mother. My mother, though, decided Josie should go live with her friend, a hairdresser-turned-chef. They also tried to give her the tender loving care that would supposedly break her out of her shell. It never worked and many years later they gave her back to my mother where she would reside, sleeping only on her designated bed or else under my mother’s bed. She would occasionally emerge to eat or relieve herself.
My last memory of Josie came last weekend when I saw her. She’d been bitten on the nose by a rattle snake a couple of weeks ago as my mother had taken to bringing her and her other dog to her land she owned a few miles down the road. Josie loved to run the hills and my mother washed her before bringing her back. Her face was swollen three times its normal size after the rattle snake bit her. But she seemed okay when I saw her last. I had slept in her bed, after removing the dog blanket cover and pulling back the clean blankets. After I was done with the bed, I’d made it and pulled back over it the dog blanket. Somehow Josie had known that her bed was put back together as I saw her laying on it soon afterwards. She would get yelled at if she got on it before the dog blanket was put back on. But it was funny, the way she was laying. She was stretched out on her back playfully and she was almost smiling at me. I cooed to her and pet her.
A few moments later I looked back at the bed and she had gotten off of it and was under my mother’s bed. I “You disturbed her,” my mother said. “She’ll never go back now.” But I called her and she did come back and she did sit back on her bed for a time. But soon afterwards she’d crawled off of it and was back under the bed.
My mother once drove Josie out to her land and left her there overnight with the two men she’d hired to live on the land and take care of it. I couldn’t believe my mother would do this to such an obviously neurotic dog. But my mother never did that again and Josie lived most of her remaining days relatively happy.
When she died my mother said she heard yelping. She found her struggling to breath on the bathroom floor and a minute or so later she was dead.
The poor goddamned dog.
I call it the death and dying phase because people I know, pets I know, are about to start dying. In forty years or so most will be dead.¬† This is the part of life that renders it unbearable. And this is the incredible lightness of being – life is so fragile, really.