"I've put relatives in the ground with fewer tears." — my mom
Last Sunday night we had to say goodbye to the gentlest soul I will probably ever meet. I've tried to figure out how to write this since then but it all comes out as a jumble so I'll try just starting at the beginning. Lacey came to us as a foster dog through the beagle group Michelle worked with. I didn't think anything of it when she showed up. We'd fostered a couple of other dogs at that point and the idea was to keep them happy just long enough to get them adopted out. Frankly, my immediate reaction when Michelle brought her home was, "That's kind of a homely dog." I am a stupid and shallow person (and Lacey was 150% of the weight she was later on). That thought was quickly replaced by, "Holy shit, Abbie is attacking her" as Abbie, a giant coward, leapt on Lacey's back before the poor girl could even get in the house. Thankfully that was the only time they ever had a problem, which meant two weeks or so later we started the process to adopt Lacey. The thought process went like this:
When people asked about the new dog, my short-hand for explaining was this: if a group of Buddhist monks showed up at the door saying they thought Lacey was the 15th incarnation of the Buddha, I'd happily hand her over so she could assume her role. I also started saying some day a half century or so from now, a young couple would be adopting her telling the story of how she'd lived with this older couple all her life and was about 10. The real problem was at some point I internalized that story and began to believe it. She seemed to be an unstoppable, self-regulating machine. She knew what she needed and made sure she got it. She ate a tissue a day. Once in a while two, some days none, but basically a tissue a day. She didn't always consume them, but one needed to at least be rendered or we had a problem:
This was driven home after we came back from London: she'd been boarded for 8 days and upon arriving home, she consumed about 8 tissues that afternoon. She was a garbage disposal: put anything you wanted (more accurately, anything she wanted) in, get a single, over-sized brick out each day. But none of that really mattered. The thing that was so special is so hard to describe. Everyone thinks their pet is special and everyone should, but I've been around enough dogs to feel confident saying this one was special. To say she was a little person doesn't do it justice. I can't quite phrase it how I want, but say this: she's the only dog I've known whose opinion mattered to me. Obviously you want to do do right by a pet, but with Lacey I always felt like she was quietly grading your performance, laying just out of sight on whichever bed struck her fancy that day with one eye cracked to see if you were planning on eating anything.
She's the only damn dog I ever suspected of being intentionally funny. Lots of dogs are goofy and amusing, lots of pets seem to have comedic timing, but this was a straight man on par with Buster Keaton (see about 8 seconds into the video above). If nothing else, she was aware. Always aware. She's the one dog I've had that actually buried things like in cartoons. Give her a treat that was wider than her mouth or give her a toy she decided to care about and she'd be at the door wagging her tail to go out, like so:
Once outside, the burial was a process: because she went out without a line, you had to keep an eye on her but you couldn't be seen doing so or she'd stop and wait. If she had already buried the item, she'd dig it up and go find a different place. So we'd hide at the door and peek around corners until she'd finished "burying" the thing (which usually amounted to finding a pile of leaves or grass deep enough to cover it with so she could easily retrieve it later).
I intended to write about her various illnesses and the things we went through in order to get them on the web and possibly help someone searching for a weird confluence of conditions in the future, but having gotten this far I don't really have any interest in that right now. I just want her back. The last week's been such a struggle not just because of the loss, but because it doesn't hit in any obvious way. You don't walk past a dog bed and get hit with a rush of emotion; missing Lacey is missing something subtle in your day. A sort of leitmotif (for lack of a less pretentious description) that sits unnoticed but improves things immeasurably all the same. We hit the end of the day and time to feed "the dogs" and that about does it for me. Like with losing my mom, the biggest bitch of the thing is the one person I want to help me through this is the one I don't have. I want for all the world to get one last "mind meld" with her when she'd sit still and let you rest your forehead against the top of her head and if you couldn't find peace there, there wasn't much hope for you at all. I don't know where I'm going to find another grief counselor like this:
Her remains will come back to us today or tomorrow in a box, just like Abbie's that still sitting on my desk. I never quite figured out why we hadn't buried Abbie under her quince tree, but I think I get it now: they should go there together and I promise to make sure the carrot gets buried deep so no one else finds it Lace. Bye.←