for the silence this week; it’s been a tough one. What time I’ve spent in the kitchen has been
devoted to cooking not for us but for Zoë.
is our 12 1/2 year old shepherd mix, a gorgeous lanky girl who back in the day
could run like an arrow, pluck a tennis ball out of the air, and keep on going
into tomorrow without missing a step. Stationary
she was gawky and uncoordinated, but once in motion she was a canine ballerina,
slim and muscled and graceful to watch. Her penchant for racing after deer
caused us to install a couple of fences, but eventually it was old age, not
chain links that slowed her down.
days arthritis keeps her confined to the couch, or the blanket under my desk, arthritis
and the kidney failure she was diagnosed with nearly six months ago now. That
diagnosis came two weeks after we lost Daphne, one of our sweet yellow labs, to
liver disease. Daphne’s primary symptom was that she would not eat and though I
cooked her every good dog thing I could think of, she just turned her head away. Feeding, of course, is what I do, what I need
to do. But for Daphne I could do nothing
at all but hold her and love her and say goodbye.
Daphne died, and then Zoë got sick and at first it looked like we would
lose her right away. She too lost her
appetite, and there was I, back at the stove, trying to concoct just the right
mix of ground beef or roast chicken with rice and broth to get her juices
flowing again. By the grace of a good
vet and a little internet research we got her stabilized and relatively healthy
–- a three month rally that was a total joy. From the middle of May to just a week or so ago we could practically
pretend that nothing was wrong with her, except that we were cooking a lot of
chicken and buying huge sacks of rice at Sam’s because chicken and rice is all
she would eat. But eat it she did, and this
summer was good.
said a friend, hearing of our culinary efforts on Zoë’s behalf and clearly
thinking we’d gone over the edge, she is one lucky dog. Maybe. Not as lucky as we are, though, and for all that these furry guys have
given me, I’d roast a whole world of chicken thighs and simmer an ocean
it’s true, as all dog lovers will understand, that every dog who has lived at
our house has been wiser than I in some fundamental way, and has shared that
wisdom with unstinting doggy generosity, asking only the occasional, stinky
pigs ear in return. Max, beloved little
schnauzer dogging my steps, taught me about faithfulness and loyalty, Clio
about scrappiness and the value of telegraphing don’t-mess-with-me right from
the start of a difficult encounter. Daphne Alice was the essence of fun, a joker of a dog, and she
taught me not to be afraid of playing the fool once in a while if it makes you
feel good and gets you a laugh.
oh my dear Zoë, has taught me about gusto and zest – not just for bread and pizza
but for hugs and kisses and every good thing that comes your way. Regina Marie (Gina for short), Daphne’s
litter mate, is as queenly as her name, though age has given her a less than
regal limp. Gina reminds me of the
importance of dignity and boundaries, and of knowing when its time to cast both
aside. Ginger, dog of my heart, has a fearless soul, an intrepid spirit (except
when it comes to thunderstorms, when it’s my job to protect her from the big
dog in the sky.) When I need a role
model for guts, I carry Ginger in my heart. Bandon, little bear of a dog, tells me to speak in a loud voice and to
be sure I am heard. He’s louder than
I’ll ever be, but it something to aspire to.
saved a lot of dollars in unneeded therapy with this pack of dogs I have loved. Lessons learned, hurts healed, tears shed and
more laughs than I can count. I don’t
know how I’ve deserved it, but the luck is all mine.
Zoë the summer’s respite is over. She is
feeling crappy and very little tastes good to her. I shred some chicken, cut up some roast beef,
pull apart some bread (once her favorite), give her the crusts of my pizza
broken into tiny pieces (this for a dog who once scored an entire fresh tomato
pizza off the kitchen counter all by herself.) She is still sweet and affectionate and clear-eyed, but she is teaching
me yet something else. You’ve fed me
well, mom, now it’s time to let go.