Today my baby turns 14. I can’t believe it; if he was (slightly more) human he’d be off to high school in the fall, though he’s smart so I’m sure he’d have skipped a grade or two, maybe even dropped out, gotten his GED and gone to trade school for something badass like underwater welding. You know, because he’s so smart.
Luck is also sensitive. Two days ago I had a busy day, and he spent a lot of time in the car waiting for me to be done one place or another, then I did a quick turnaround and flew out the door to go work my five-hour massage shift. After work I stayed out to attend one of my favorite Missoula events, Tell Us Something, where I told a story four years ago about “How I Got Lucky.” This link is HERE
Because I went out after work, Lucky was home for eight whole hours by himself. He has no clue that many dogs live this way day after day, week after week. I fed him before I left and left lights on. He had his two beds, his couch, my bed and his rubber chicken that I brought home (gift wrapped and everything) from Barcelona.
The previous night a friend and I made delicious chicken drumsticks, and six of the bones were in the garbage. Lucky has never been a dog to get into the garbage and I didn’t even think about it. It didn’t even occur to me to put the garbage up or secure the door “just in case.” Lucky isn’t very naughty, but he is very sensitive. And chicken is his absolute favorite food.
I didn’t see the mess at first. Lucky wasn’t waiting for me on the couch, but was in the dark in my my room on his own bed. I could tell from his body language that he was crabby—mad that I’d been gone so long—and didn’t want to get up. I figured if I went to the kitchen to fix myself something to eat he’d follow, but he didn’t.
I flipped on the light and saw that he’d opened the cabinet under the sink and helped himself to a chicken drumstick buffet. I searched all corners of the house for bones, but he’d completely consumed them. He’d also licked the smoked oyster tin clean, and—always the optimist—I was grateful he hadn’t also devoured the tin itself.
I called the emergency vet and told the sweet girl who answered what had happened, but I prefaced it by saying that he’s eaten chicken bones before (scavenged from the streets of NYC and the beaches of Honduras) and been just fine. “But six legs is a lot,” I said, and she told me that making him vomit would double the danger of the splintery bones and the best thing to do was make sure he’s still eating (he scarfed down his third dinner) and keep an eye on him.
I was fueled by a mother’s adrenaline and suddenly wide awake, when I’d been ready for bed when I walked in the door. I washed a few dishes and hugged the dog. I folded some laundry and spooned the dog. I washed more dishes and stuck my nose in the dog’s ears. He burped in my face.
I got down on the floor with him and held his face. I told him he did something very naughty, but that I loved him very much. I told him that he’s done an incredible job taking care of me but that the job isn’t quite done and I’m not ready for him to go. I told him that if he gets sick in the night that I’ll clean it if he can’t make it outside, but that he knows how to wake me if he needs to.
I told him that he’s a healthy, strong, old boy and it would be a shame for him to die because of something like gluttony. Shaming wasn’t going to save him, so I went back to hugging.
I OCD-cleaned as a way to assuage my fear. I had a lot of good talks with myself about love, about loss, about grief. I thought about how I’ve never lived so completely and happily in the present moment as I have this winter, loving my old dog and doing lots of old-dog things.
Luck still gets on the mountain to hike a few miles miles almost every day and loves to be the leader. I take a picture of him almost every day. Some of them are great, some of them not so much, but I do it “just in case.”
Lucky is a survivor. He not only survived the over-salted streets of NYC but also the humiliation of me making him wear booties. He also survived eating rat poison in New York.
In Montana he had a chunk of his heinie bit off by a dog one time, and another time ripped his entire inner thigh open on barbed wire when a bigger dog hip-checked him into it. He tried to hide the barbed wire incident from me, thought he could tuck away in a corner, lick it, and clean it out himself. It’s amazing someone so sweet can also be so tough.
He survived being dragged all over the country by me and sleeping in a lot of different places. Lucky will make himself at home anywhere.
He also knows how to take a moment for himself—just in case—because he never knows what kind of shenanigans his mother has up her sleeve…
Luck survived me leaving him for three months so I could go to Europe—though it’s an understatement to say that he was in good hands with his grandma—and so far it looks like old Luckydog has survived eating an unprecedented amount of cooked chicken bones.
I wrote that last line—the one about him surviving—well after midnight when I wasn’t sure if either of us would make it through the night. I’d already called in reinforcements, asking a friend if he could do his work from my house while I went to work, just in case. Another friend texted and said to call her if Luck or I needed anything, that she’d come get him or check on him if I needed her to.
Just in case.
Just in case is not my preferred setting, though it’s the setting genetically hard-wired into most of the women in my family so therefore in me. I don’t like to live with my finger on the panic button, and my Osteopath recently told me that I’m actually allergic to worry. But still: I worry.
In between checking Luck’s belly for pokey bits and making sure his nose was wet and his paws were warm, I scrubbed the bathtub, (over)tweezed my eyebrows, and paired my socks.
Just in case makes me uncomfortable. I prefer a laissez-faire strategy; a cross-your-fingers, say a prayer, and light-a-candle-if-things-really-feel-dicey approach. I don’t panic in emergencies, and if the shit hits the fan I’m the friend you want on deck. Except with Lucky; with Lucky I worry my little brains out.
Because just in case.