Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boz Goes to Sleep

Today marks six months since Boz died. For posterity's sake, I want to write down a few things about him. Also for myself. So, a tale, one last time.

*****

The first night we brought Boz home from the shelter to live with us, he had a good meal and passed out from exhaustion on his new bed in our bedroom. He hadn’t had a bath in who knows how long, and he snored. We couldn't sleep. John finally moved Boz, bed and all, into the laundry room and shut the door. If Boz noticed, he didn't complain. He just wanted to be a good boy.

The next evening after we bathed him, I made a place for Boz under a table in my home office with his pallet, some towels and a toy. I said goodnight to him there and petted him until he fell sleep. He was still tired from all the big changes in his life. He still snored.

I began to pet Boz to sleep every night. After he’d been with us for about two weeks we were going through this routine when he opened his eyes and looked into mine. He wasn't challenging me. He was checking me out. I don't put human emotions on dogs, but he might have been trying to figure out how to categorize me or wondering why I was being so nice. Or he might have held my gaze because I was holding his, and he was a good boy and wanted to do what he was supposed to do.

"I love you," I said. He sighed and laid his head in my palm.

It was Wittgenstein who said, "If a lion could speak, we could not understand him." Part of the reason for my overflowing love for Boz was that I couldn't explain it to him.

Every night, either John or I sat beside Boz's pallet to pet him to sleep. We made it clear in our cooing that we loved him. Every night I said the words, "I love you." Whether or not he knew what it meant didn't matter. It was part of his ritual and he liked to hear it.

Sometimes he would raise a front leg to allow better access for the petting of his underside. The more endearing gesture was when he pulled my hand to his chest with a gentle paw, saying, in effect, "pet me." Or "love me." Tickling his chest was the highest expression of love as far as he was concerned.

In our ten years with Boz we heard his low, threatening bark very few times. Instead he vocalized in little moans, or sometimes he’d simply breathe loudly to let us know he had a need to be met. At night he would send up a moan before he fell asleep, "Come pet me some more." In the morning I'd find him curled on his bed by the heating vent with his nose tucked into one of his towels. (He had a collection.)

I came to know the mass of his skull with its silky, pussy willow fur; the fleshy folds of his neck; the powerful shoulders; the string of big beads that was his backbone; the joyfully expressive stump where someone cruel and ignorant had chopped off his tail long ago; the waxy, black scar from his knee surgery; the slender bones of his legs, so close to the surface. His tummy was hairless. So, too, the soft, meaty spaces between his thighs. Between his footpads rose tiny, gold tufts, and his paws smelled like warm, buttered sand.

When he was young, he was smooth. He acquired lumps as he grew older. He had a little bump where the silky flap of his right ear met his skull. His fur was once reddish brown with black on his face and paws. As he aged the red-brown remained though it became less smooth, and all his black turned white until the only black parts were his nose, his eyes and his claws. Boz had the prettiest feet.

I still expect to see Boz in his places, the spots where he liked to relax: by the heater on a cold day, on the porch when it was sunny, and especially at my office door where he helped me with my work. He had a bed at each spot.

But he got old. He got cancer and a tumor. In his last few days the tumor bled. We washed and rewashed his things until he didn’t need them anymore. After, I saved one blanket and one towel. Like a spirit rising from a body, the scent finally left the blanket. The towel still smells of him. I won't let it go until there's no ghost left in it.

He was my little one. I miss him. That's just the way it is. Sometimes when I'm alone I hold the towel and try to smell him. My missing him builds up and I need to purge it with tears. I go longer between purges now. I don't want to make progress in my grief, but I have.

The box of Boz’s ashes sits on the built-in next to the fireplace, with his collar and a photo. All except two of his tags from over the years hang on a chain from my bulletin board. John took Boz's city I.D. for his own keychain, and I took the personal one, with Boz's full name and phone numbers on it. Funny that a dog should have phone numbers (both land line and cell) and a last name.

There are spots of dried blood on the front porch. They remind me of Boz's misery in his final hours, when we stayed up all night with him in shifts, promising we'd take his suffering away as soon as the doctor could get there. The spots remind me of the morning he died when I found him in the garage, weak from blood loss and unable to stand. They remind me how much Boz needed us, how vulnerable he was, how I loved him. Like my grief I don’t want the spots to fade, but I know they will with time.

People told me we’d know the right moment to let Boz go because he’d tell us. We knew, but not because of any message from him. When I woke up next to Boz that morning he was looking at me, his eyes seeming to ask, “What happens next?”

And the doctor arrived, and she took his suffering away, and it was right. Which perhaps makes it easier, but I wouldn't know.

While he faded into sleep I told him I loved him. He knew what it meant. It meant he was a good boy.

40 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

Petrea, I can't believe he has been gone this long... You mention his two tags... which reminds me that the license could be the equivalent to our social security number... and the personal one- well, its just that, a calling card... I've got my Cairn's along w/her kerchief from the groomers... I know I don't have to tell you, you got the tears going here... I know animals have that sense when they are going, I got the same look you did... and I know Boz knows what you and John were doing... animals are so darn smart,unconditional,and most of all loyal.. Beautiful piece you have written.

from Madrid said...

I have had a dog "German Shepherd", her name was Lis. He has lived with us for 16 years, rare thing in those dogs that are great.
He died, but he still remember between us. I have a picture of it.

Tomás

Book Dragon said...

This was beautiful.

Dina said...

Thank you, Petrea, for speaking of real love.

William Kendall said...

That is real devotion and love. And grief for a pet runs as strong as any other family member.

He looks like he was a happy dog with you.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thank you all. I don't think I'll read through the piece again (it has taken six months to write it!). Reading your comments brings enough tears!

KBF, I know you know.
Tomás, thank you for visiting and commenting. I'm glad Lis got to lie with you.
Book Dragon, nice to see you, and thank you.
Thanks, Dina. That it was.
Thanks, William. This photo is one of my favorites because he loved to run. Especially in water, mud or sand.

savannah said...

You have my heart. xoxo

altadenahiker said...

Oh, I didn't want to read this, but now I'm glad I did. Your remembrance is both lovely and painful, and I'm glad the intensity of your love and your pain is easing just a bit. You're a good girl.

Petrea Burchard said...

I meant to say "Lis got to live with you," Tomás.

Savanna, thank you for reading.

Karin, well, this is something you've endured more than once. I read it again to see if it was any good, and I'm going to have to give that a few more months. I've got a cold so all the nose blowing is getting out of hand.

BettyS said...

Petrea, what a beautiful expression of your and John's life with Boz and mutual love for him. Boz was elderly when I met him, and now with Ra (15) and Winter (16) I cherish our time together and understand. Thanks for sharing this with us.
- Betty

BettyS said...

And I meant to add what wonderful photos!

Petrea Burchard said...

Be sure to take lots of pictures, Betty.

LONDONLULU said...

I'm glad I read this after wrapping up my workday as it got the tears flowing. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have those precious years with a wonderful, good boy. Dogs' lives are too short, their only fault, as they say. I'm so glad he got to experience such love as a part of your family, and you received so much from him. I love the photos. (And perhaps it won't be the last tale...)

TheChieftess said...

A bittersweet tale of such a sweet being. It so reminded me of our life with Daisy....I still miss her...even with our darling Kelly around!!! A poignant reminder of how special Boz was...hugs to you and John...

Ms M said...

What a beautiful piece -- writing and photos. Hugs to you and John....

Petrea Burchard said...

I promise not to do it again, Lulu. Just this one more time.

I know how you miss her, Chieftess.

Thanks, Ms M.

Sarah said...

Oh P. This broke my heart too.

Petrea Burchard said...

I didn't mean to break your heart, Sarah, but I meant to affect you, so thanks for saying so.

altadenahiker said...

It occurs to me I wrote several posts the month Phoebe died, and then maybe 3 months after that as well. And I've never been able to bring myself to reread them. I just now tried and, well, I can't.

Petrea Burchard said...

I remember wondering how you could write them. I would try, but I couldn't write about Boz. Everyone has their own way to deal. I loved your Phoebe pieces.

Ms M said...

Karin, I loved your Phoebe pieces, too, just as I love this Boz post, Petrea.

The Sage of Altadena said...

Just beautiful. I took my son and dog out for the afternoon. We were at the Brookside Park ballfields, and I let our dog off the leash. He romped around, and when he felt he got too far away, he turned and then came bounding back to be petted, big doggie smile on his face. There's nothing like the relationship you have with your dog, a being who loves you completely without guile and pretense without limit, and yet doesn't know your name. Thanks for sharing some of your life with that gentle soul.

Bellis said...

Love what the Sage wrote - he's really nailed it. I feel sorry for anyone who has never known the joy of owning a dog. It's sad they live such short lives compared to ours, isn't it? Boz was so lucky you found him. Thanks for the very moving tribute. I'd love to see photos of when he was younger, if you have them.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, all. I just wanted to get it off my chest one more time, one last purge, you know? Boz was like Phoebe, like Sage's dog, like your dogs, Bellis, and like all dogs in that he was a beloved member of the family.

José Mendonça said...

Wonderful post, Petrea! Thanks for sharing with us.

Bellis said...

You've probably heard me say many times,"Tessa loved this spot." My dear water-loving, tennis ball obsessed Tessa, born in Durham, England, died in Pasadena, CA. Her memory is with me whenever I walk somewhere that she really enjoyed. Our dogs live on inside our hearts.

Deb said...

Unconditional love is such a difficult thing to write about. You did a great job, and I love the picture of Boz's paws. I hope writing about him once more has helped a little.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

……and cats too

Now I understand why it was nights for you - and not mornings as it was for me.

Mourning is a process. In order to open your heart to the next one, it requires a form of amnesia to take over - and that amnesia can feel like a betrayal to the 'beloved.' Poured my heart out on five type written pages over the loss of Tulip (a little feral who came up from the LA river). 20 years later and I still can't bring myself to reread them. To raw

sonia a. mascaro said...

So moving and beautiful words of Love, Petrea! I had tears on my eyes while reading your post and seeing Boz running free and his paws. I deeply identify me with you.

Petrea Burchard said...

Bellis, you always call her "My Tessa," never just "Tessa."

Thanks, Jose and thank you, Deb. It was good for me to write it and I'm glad people are enjoying it.

PA, I don't know if I'll never re-read this or if I'll re-read it obsessively. Love for you and Tulip, who knew very well whom to choose.

Sonia, I felt the same way when I first saw the picture of you with your special pooch.

sonia a. mascaro said...

Thank you, Petrea!

Margaret said...

This is so sad but it was nice to read such a lovely remembrance

Shell Sherree said...

Dear sweet Boz. This is beautiful, Petrea. And I really understand about the blanket and towel. Much love to you.

Petrea Burchard said...

So many of us have or had a pet we love. I don't suppose my feelings are unusual. But to each of us our loves are special, so we get to have those feelings. I thank you for sharing them with me.

Ann Erdman said...

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Petrea. Your precious words touch many hearts.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Ann.

haircutting in high heels said...

What a lovely post, I feel your pain. I am impressed that you were able to keep his blankie, I threw everything out immediately as if it would mask the suffering entailed with the Cancer at the end. Thank you for sharing, I pray that a new furry friend will come into your life when the time is right. Love Boz's paws.
Gina

Petrea Burchard said...

Hi Gina,
I'm impressed that you were able to throw things away! I still have a few items besides the blanket that I can't let go of. Maybe I never will. Thanks for your comment.

Susan Campisi said...

Well, that just made me weep. So beautiful. I love the photos, too.

Petrea Burchard said...

Thanks, Susan.