Sunday, November 06, 2005

The end of an era

My dog died today.

I cried.

He's been sick for a while (see previous post) and I really expected it. But it still hurts.

He was one of the last tangible aspects of another life that I had left.

He was her dog.

But then he was mine. And my parents'. Ours.

I didn't make Morgan the butt of jokes. Morgan made Morgan the butt of jokes. But I think he enjoyed it. He loved attention. He needed attention.

Morgan entered my life because I wasn't paying attention, and to indulge my fiancee, I let her wander around the pet store. I got distracted, and when I looked up, she was gone.

Well, she wasn't gone. She was in the little pet-tryout room, playing with a dachshund puppy.

The little room had a bench, and Michelle was sitting on the bench, and this little runt puppy-mill puppy was running in circles on the floor, building up momentum.

Then he'd leap for the bench.

And he'd hit, about halfway down his little body, and the front paws would scrabble and scramble for purchase. And then his eyes would go wide, and he'd fall backward, slow-motion movie style, still flailing at the air, and land on his head. And then start running around again, sure he'd make it this time.

I finally told her to sit on the floor before she broke him and I'd have to buy him.

So she sat on the floor, with her purse, and he immediately grabbed it by the strap in his teeth and started running in circles again.

Shortly thereafter, I was $1,000 lighter and one dachshund, plus equipment, heavier.

Morgan was never what you'd call bright. But he was enthusiastic, curious and shockingly clever. Not to mention loyal.

The crazy lady who lived downstairs from me and Michelle hated him. But she didn't always take her medicine.

And when she didn't take her medicine, she hated Michelle, too.

And while I don't think Morgan really cared that she'd threaten to poison him, when she'd yell at Michelle (loud enough we could hear her through the floor), he'd growl at the floor and bark and bark.

One day I actually had to pull him away from her, she was screeching that he'd bite her he was growling and barking so loud.

Mind you, this is a dog about a foot long and 10 pounds. Not very intimidating, except that he had a big bark for a little dog.

He had a big dick, too, relatively speaking. Something I noticed because after about a month, he'd greet me and Michelle when we came home, with a raging erection. You had to back off, stand there a bit, and THEN you could pick him up.

You can't get dogs fixed until they're 6 months old. He got fixed on his half-year birthday.

Oddly, he was never a humper - except other dogs - never legs, nothing. He was just happy to see us, I guess.

At least by that point, he was staying barricaded in the kitchen.

It took about three years to housebreak Morgan. In the beginning - after an ill-advised attempt to follow advice and lock him in his crate, where he allegedly wouldn't go... the theory being you don't shit where you sleep... proven wrong when we found him covered in poo, along with everything else in the crate - we barricaded him in the galley kitchen (only one way in/out) and newspapered the floor.

That was a hell of a run-on, eh? Well, I'm drinking.

So anyway, the first thing we did was block him in with his crate. That worked about twice, and sure enough, I got home from work, and he was standing at the top of the steps, wagging his tail and waiting for me, having pooped on the rug and eaten everything he could reach (including, in one incident, the earpiece of my glasses and an ENTIRE HAT BRIM).

Turned out he'd finally gotten big enough he could leap onto the top of the crate, and hop down on the outside.

We caught him when we put the laundry basket on the other side of the crate - thinking he was somehow moving the crate out of the way - and he was yipping before we even got out the door. Having, of course, hopped on to the crate, gone to hop off, and promptly fallen into the basket, where he couldn't get out.

So we bought a baby gate.

By the third time I found him at the top of the steps (wondering how in the hell he could jump 4' in the air when he was only about 8" high) I realized that I, a college honors graduate, was being outsmarted by a dog with a brain the size of a hacky-sack.

I finally caught on... he'd chewed through the gate, just enough to wiggle through, and wiggled.

I duct-taped the gate. Both sides. The entire gate.

By the time Morgan went to live with my parents, the duct tape, top center, was being pulled from the wood frame in such a way that it was obvious he was so desperate to get out, he was literally hanging from the duct tape by his teeth.

About a year after we got Morgan, Michelle and I broke up. And I gave her the dog. He was her dog, after all.

She had him three days before he pooped on the rug and her new landlord told her that either the dog went, or she went. (By went, I mean, had to go, I don't mean the landlord thought she pooped on the rug.)

Morgan, by the way, is named after my favorite liquor, Capt. Morgan Spiced Rum. Michelle had a friend who named her dog Kahlua, and insisted we give the dog an alcohol name.

She called him Morgan Jay Foofpuppy Dog (he was Morgan Jay Dog, like her favorite cartoon, Michigan J. Frog). And I called him that up until the last time I saw him. Not all the time. Just when we'd talk about her. I really do think he missed her. He remembered things. He barked at everyone who ever came to my parents' door, for eight years. He never barked when I came home, even though I see them maybe once a month, if that.

He was a foofpuppy.

Anyway, Michelle had to get rid of the dog. She cried, too, when she gave him back to me.

Of course, by then, the crazy neighbor lady was speaking to me again. (Later, a few months after Michelle had left, she asked me, "whatever happened to your wife? I liked her." I damn near punched her in the mouth.)

I should point out that while the crazy neighbor lady hated him, and he her, the little girl up the townhouse row, whose mother had just died of cancer, loved him, and he her. She'd pull his ears and his tail, and he'd chase her around. I'd like to think it helped her a little. They moved away eventually, but he was always good with children.

Aside, Morgan was a black-and-tan shorthair. So there was this big rottweiler who lived in the complex, same coloring and marking. And Morgan used to follow him around, and I always thought Morgan must have been thinking he was going to be that big when he grew up. Later, he always seemed sort of disappointed when he saw bigger dogs, I guess because his puppyhood ambition went unfulfilled.

But there I was, just me and the dog, again.

He had one friend, my buddy Pat's cat, Mocca. They were about the same size, and he'd chase Mocca around, until he caught her, then he'd try to bite her on the head. Then she'd claw him, hiss, and start chasing him.

He was never really a traditional dog. I bought this bitter apple stuff that you're supposed to spray on wires so dogs won't chew them. So one day, when I was trying to train him not to bark at something, I sprayed him in the mouth with it, just a little squirt. I figured that'd teach him. Instead, a couple of barks and sprays later, he was licking the nozzle of the can. He liked it.

Frankly, he never met anything he didn't like to try and eat.

I'll never forget an angry vet, on call at 7 a.m. Christmas morning, the day Morgan rang in the only Christmas I ever spent with Michelle by waking us up at 6 a.m. to show us how much a small dog can vomit at once.

She gave him a carrot while making Christmas Eve dinner. Guess he didn't like it.

Then there was the time Michelle dropped a jalapeno popper. If there was one word Morgan accepted as a challenge (and Lord knows, it wasn't "sit" or "fetch") it was "No!"

Well, we both yelled "NO!" and he still scarfed it down. One bite.

I've never seen an animal's eyes bug out before. But it's a good thing he could run, because he was off to the water dish in a flash!

Anyway, so that whole fiasco with the neighbor lady is how he ended up living with my parents. I moved, and couldn't find another place that would take pets. So they kept him. With them being retired and all, no more being locked in the kitchen for eight-plus hours a day.

And they gave him a better life than I ever could. He had a small bladder, and they walked him every three hours whether he needed it or not. They're good parents. I've said that before.

I could tell stories all day.

Morgan used to fall off their couch. He'd roll around and around, and thud. And he'd get up, shake himself, and then jump back onto the couch.

He'd walk under the coffee table, and hit his head.

You could even make him do it. And he'd wander out the other side with this sheepish look on his face.

See, he always popped his head up when you said "Mor-gan!" Or pretty much anything in that sing-songy two-syllable tone. For about the first three months of his life, I think he thought his name was Biscuit, because that was the only way to get him to stop doing anything. Food.

So if you said his name right when he was under the dangly part of the coffee table, he'd poke his head up and THUD!

He was a licker. If it was bare skin, he'd lick it. Ankles, arms, faces. His own nose. Constantly licking. When not chewing.

Then there was the time he found a dead squirrel outside. I had to reel him in on the leash. Dachshunds were bred to hunt small animals (the name is German for badger hound).

And in one of his last adventures, he was out for a walk with my Mom - he once took her all the way around the Bloom U campus, then collapsed within sight of home, all four legs out to the side, SPLAT. Mom had to carry him the rest of the way.

Hell, with those short little legs, he used to run laps of my parents' house - he probably got more exercise in a day than I get in a month.

But on that fateful walk, he suddenly started digging under an orange construction barrier on campus. From the other side of the barrier pops up a black-and-white striped tail.

Good thing Mom was walking him, because as I've established, Dad doesn't run. And Mom ran. SKUNK! He'd have ripped the thing to pieces, but probably would have smelled bad for the rest of his life.

One thing Morgan never got - heck, one of many things he never got - was what I called "leash dynamics." As a puppy, he'd run in circles around the legs of whoever was walking him, hog-tying them so they couldn't walk. Michelle actually fell on her butt once - she fell down a lot - and it was funny as hell, at least until she caught me laughing.

But he never understood that a leash was finite. He used to wheeze occasionally, almost like an asthma attack, and the vets finally figured out he'd dented his esophagus by running full speed until the leash YANKED! and he flipped up in the air and landed on his head.

Morgan, in one of his oddest characteristics, would look back over one shoulder while he pooped, all embarrassed, as if he didn't want anyone to see.

Morgan moving in with my parents made their cat's life hell. But Shadow, who also died this year, was much smarter than Morgan. And she'd lead him on a merry chase. She'd wait until he was dazed on the couch, sneak down from upstairs, then hit the tile floor running for the basement. He bolt up and start running, but he never caught her.

Except the time he snuck upstairs (past my parents' industrial-grade baby gate) and was wandering around their room when he happened upon a paper grocery bag, and wondering what it was doing there, stuck his face inside.

It was there because it was the favorite napping place of the cat.

Next thing you know, they're both racing down the hallway, so startled neither was actually chasing the other.

And Morgan could run. I always thought he would have made a great weiner dog racer. Stand at the end of a track with a biscuit, I'm thinking, and you'd see he could outrun some greyhounds.

So my parents were never really keen on walking Morgan, especially in the rain or in winter. He hated the rain and sometimes wouldn't even make it out of the front yard before heading for home.

And in the snow, he'd hop like a bunny, trying to keep his tummy dry and relatively warm.

Being a purebreed, he had a very noble profile, but face-on, he always looked like a puppy to me.

And whenever I went home, he'd curl up in bed with me. As a puppy, he loved the soft spots. He'd sit between my legs and rest his head on my stomach. But with Michelle, he'd sit on her stomach and rest his head on her chest. What can I say, 36C. I liked resting my head there, too.

But boy, if I was showing her affection and he wasn't involved, he'd bark up a storm. Good thing we were in the downward spiral - whenever we'd have sex, he'd bark like a fiend - and he couldn't even see us, being as how his crate was at the foot of the bed. Nothing kills an erection like an old woman screeching, "Will you shut that goddamn dog up?" through the floor while you're trying to get a little quality time.

In the end, it was Morgan who had the girlfriend. Some people up the street from my parents have a miniature dachshund girl, and they'd run and play together a lot. He'd always walk up to their house, and if she wasn't outside, he'd bark, experimentally, to see if she'd bark back. But when they were together, they'd chase each other in circles.

I think she'll miss him. He missed Shadow, my parents said. The first while, he'd go looking for her. I guess it's true what they say about how many spouses don't live very long when the other spouse dies.

It's funny how the people/animals with the big hearts always die of broken ones.

Morgan had a huge heart. And in the end, it failed. It only got broken once, like mine, and I think he got over his "mom" better than I ever did. But I know he thought of her until the end. If you even said Michelle, or Mommy, he'd perk up and look around. I guess people and their pets aren't that different after all.

My parents used to take him to visit the nursing home where my Mom's aunt lived (before she died), and he'd entertain the senior citizens. So he was good with everyone, young and old.

My parents almost gave him away once, when the dachshund of a woman Mom worked with died in an accident. They would care for Morgan, and their little daughter would climb into the crate with him. When their dog died, I suggested they could give him to them, since he was a burden on my folks, but my father, of all people, wouldn't give him up. He spent 15 years trying to get the cat to sit on his lap, and Morgan did it so much, he probably spent the better part of 8 years trying to get the dog OFF his lap.

Morgan used to like ice cubes. My Dad would give him one, and he take it and run off and hide it. They never realized he was hiding them (because sometimes he'd just crunch them right up) until the day they found him staring mournfully at the damp spot on the carpet where he'd left his snack for later.

And he used to sit on these blankets - my parents covered their light-colored couch in them - and curl up and sleep underneath them. So you call his name because you couldn't see him, and up would pop his tail, usually the only part not under the blanket, and it would start to wag. So if you said "Morgan" again, up would pop a part of the blanket - his head, like always, looking around. Then he'd struggle in circles 'til he found his way out.

If dogs could smile, he'd be smiling all the time.

I can't type anymore. I'm crying again, and drunk.

I miss my puppy. I always said when his tail stopped wagging, that would be the end.

It stopped wagging this morning, at the hospital. He fought to the end, wagged his tail to the end, then he went to sleep.

Then he was gone.

I miss him so much. I never got to go home to say goodbye. I thought I would at Thanksgiving. And just like when Grandma died a few weeks before I was going to see her.

I just wish I could pet him and talk to him and play with him and just sit there with him, in the dark of night, curled up on the bed, and miss her together.

I hope all dogs do go to Heaven. And I hope there's a big wide open field, and he's running and running, chasing bunnies and squirrels and barking and jumping and wagging his tail.

And I hope St. Peter doesn't mind when he licks his ankles. And I hope the little children love him.

He never understood the concept of the road. And I worried every day that he'd get hit by a car. Thank you, God, for keeping him from that. He died peacefully, and didn't suffer.

And other than that day he said goodbye to Michelle, I don't think he ever suffered. He was a good dog, and happy.

He was registered in her name. And he lived with my parents. But he was mine. And I loved him. And, just like her, I always will. But more, because he never let me down.

• Morgan Jay Foofpuppy Dog: 1996-2005.

Somewhere, in heaven, a long black tail pops up from a cloud, and starts to wag.

1 Comment:

Stewie said...

It always sucks losing a good dog, man.

Pull through.