Friday, July 31, 2009

They were never alone ... they had each other

Bill and Garth
soft pastel on 6.25x9.5 gray bugra

This is a quick, sentimental piece I did of two wonderful Chihuahua's that lived and loved with me. But their story, sentimental, is far from quick. They came into my life in January 1993. The first pet I kept, as an adult, from day one as a tiny puppy to death in my arms, was Paco, a 3 pound Chihuahua. I loved him so much that as I held his lifeless body, I said I would get a relative of his - AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

Paco passed away on a Sunday. On the following Saturday, my Mother and I drove home from Atlanta with 2 new babies, I only went for one, but what can I say! They were supposed to be relatives of Paco, but I doubt if they really were.

The kennel I got them from was deplorable. I couldn't tell you how many dogs this woman had, but I can tell you that in addition to the dozen or so that were in the room with us, a goat wandered in and out as well! There were 3 room sized rugs piled upon one another and the dogs would walk in a line and all take turns 'marking their spot' on, well, everything. I am not exaggerating, our eyes burned and watered with the ammonia level in that room! On the way home, we stopped at a fast food spot and Mom waited in the car with our new boys. When I returned and opened the door, I couldn't believe the - er - aroma! I had not intended to bath them on day one, but as we walked in the door of their new home, the water was warming and the towels were laid out! The breeder had given them a small blanket to carry the scent of their old home! I guess you already know that never comforted them in their transition either!

Bill was the youngest and the first thing my Mother said was, don't get this one, there is something wrong with his eyes. He was about 5 weeks old and as you can see, he had split brown and white splashes across his face. Before we left, Mom had fallen in love with him. She said she had been watching him and he had a wonderful, un-intimidated personality. For such a young puppy, he already knew who he was, sure of himself.

The other one, the black one, was apparently terribly shy, they called him Timmy as he was so timid. But he was a jealous fellow and because of all the attention the others were getting, the next thing I knew was he was sitting on my shoulder! Really! She told us he was 6 months old and had his adult hair and teeth. He weighed less than 2 pounds. I was delighted as I wanted a really tiny Chihuahua. Well he grew, he topped out at over 8 pounds and I often lovingly called him "gargantu-dog". At the suggestion of our Vet, I reassigned his birthday making him only about 6 weeks older than Bill.

Now, about Bill. Before we left this woman's house, I knew Bill was going to be - yes, I really did this, Bill Clinton! It was January, 1993, and the inauguration of President Clinton. I often remarked that I would get a new dog every time we got a new President, but in real life, that just doesn't happen. It did make a good story and a lot of good time planning it!

Bill lived up to his name. I don't know how I picked their names so appropriately, but Billy was the - um - how do I say this - the horny one! My standard joke was "I can go out into the back yard, shake my finger at him and say 'Bill Clinton, you horny little bastard' and be politically correct at the same time"!

He was sweet, loving, aloof and stoic. He was a one-of-a-kind, special! When he was only about 8 months old, my daughter called me at work and said he couldn't walk, something was terribly wrong. I was devastated, he was so special and I had just lost my beloved Paco and was still grieving over the loss of my husband. On the way home, I cried the cry of the deep soul pain. I tried to cry in between where I thought other drivers would see me, but as I was trying to be invisible, another driver started honking at me and motioning for me to roll down my window. This I really did not want to do as I was sure he was going to cuss me out and tell be to get off the road, that I had no business driving in that condition. Not knowing what else to do, I rolled down the window and this stranger, this man said to me with the deepest of compassion, "Lady, it will be alright"! Those are the moments that later in life you wish you could tell that stranger just how much they meant to you, that you will never forget them. I'm sure everyone, sometime in their lives, reaches someone else and never knows it. So for all of the people I could not tell, I now say with the deepest compassion, Thank You!

We ended up taking Bill to the Veterinarian Hospital in Gainesville, FL. As they walked him, they determined his back leg was paralyzed, he could not tell if his foot was up or down and his front leg was lame - another problem altogether. They were going to do the most elaborate tests to see if he had a tumor or other neurological problem. The cost would be staggering and then we could be facing surgery. Or, he could have a spinal cord stroke and after a month or two of bed rest his collateral muscles would take over the damaged area and he would return to nearly normal. My co-worker said to me "Beckie, when are you going to stop?" I didn't know how to put the limits on by myself, but with her support, I called Gainesville and told them I'd be over to pick him up.

We were lucky, it did turn out to be the spinal cord stroke and he did recover. He could not jump up on the furniture and was just a little gimpy. I did extraordinary things to support him. When I built an addition onto the upper level of our home where I lived, I boxed in the stairs so Bill wouldn't fall through. We had 2 sets of dog doors, all tile floors, special car seats, you name it and Bill got it.

Now about Garth. He was so loving and needy and yet timid of new people at the same time. Bill would go to everyone so Garth needed to go their too! One of my favorite memories of Garth's early time with us was when my brother Bruce came to meet them. Bruce was 6'4" tall and had really long legs. He was holding Bill and Garth was sitting at the end of Bruce's leg on his knees, leaning out away but he still had to be a part of the action. He eventually eased into our family and our lives and was comfortable with his life.

Here is how Garth got his name. On the ride home in that odoriferous car, I finally decided upon the name of Garth Brooks. Little did I know our Garth would turn out to be a singer! Oh, how he loved to sing and all our family loved to make him sing. He would through back his head like a coyote and howl through the perfectly round aperture of his mouth. He was adorable.

And no one had ever needed each other more than those two needed each other. Especially Garth, he went crazy if for some reason Bill was not with him. Once I took Bill out for a bike ride. I had all kinds of baskets and harnesses and clips to take them both, but it was just so much trouble, this time I took only Bill. When I returned, my Mother said "Don't ever leave Garth with me like that again, he was desperate".

Both Bill and Garth, also like our Paco, had congenital heart problems that shortened all of their lives. We would comment that Garth needed to be the first to pass, that he would be miserable if Bill passed first. Of course, that was not the way it turned out. Bill deteriorated over the last 6 months of his life. He lost all kinds of weight, looked like a puppy again. His hair quite growing and you just knew his time was near. Finally one evening, he filled with fluid and hung on with what power I don't know. Mom and I held him and cried off and on for several hours. I had given him extra lasix and he eventually rallied. I took him to the Vet the next day. They worked on him but we all knew his time had come. I never wanted him to go through another bout like he had the night before. I had him put to sleep. I brought him home and laid him upon a little blanket. By this time, we also had Erin and Annie, but they paid this process absolutely no attention. We brought Garth to Bill and let him sit and be with him. After awhile, I got a shoe box and placed Bill in a 'chili-pepper' dinner napkin inside the box. Mom and Garth and I went together into our yard and I dug Bill's grave. Garth sat with us, the thee of us forming a live triangle, and participated in the whole burial. We opened the box one last time, to make sure Garth knew that Bill was in it, and then buried him.

Amazingly, Garth really understood and never seemed to look for Bill. Garth was so smart. They were bonded as only soul-mates can be. They loved each other far more than they loved any human, and they DID love our family with all their hearts.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. "Pooh!" he whispered. "Yes, Piglet?" "Nothing," said Piglet, taking Pooh's paw. "I just wanted to be sure of you."
~A.A. Milne

Garth died in my arms, 2 months later. He was buried next to Bill in the matching "chili-pepper" dinner napkin, but in a much larger box! This time, it was my Brother Bruce that dug the grave and said the words with my Mother and me. They both passed away 3 months later.

To this day, I couldn't tell you which I loved best, probably Garth, but I don't know. They were one to us, Billy and Garthie, our boys, our bubbies. How can you love your dogs so much? More than just about every person you've ever know. Tears flow, the true sense of weeping. The love never goes away. The memories keep them in our hearts forever.

Garth Brooks, the dog
October 7, 1992 - February 18, 2004

Bill Clinton, the dog
November 28, 1992 - December 9, 2003

Thank you for sharing our story!


AutumnLeaves said...

Oh Beckie...Just what I needed - a good cry this morning. Such losses you have suffered. I am reminded of how I will have to go through these times with my two dogs and my three cats at some point in the future and it devastates me emotionally. (Well, these days, what doesn't?)

I love your portrait of your boys and think you've done a beautiful job on it. I also got a giggle out of your Bill Clinton comment there in the middle... ;D

elffeh said...

Beautiful...beautiful, heartbreaking, beautiful, (and funny). On my blog you may have noticed my "Tiki" as my profile photo. She is my long haired chihuahua and my baby. She is now 15 years old and I've had her since she was able to leave her mother. I will be devastated when it is her time. Even though I have other "babies" she is my "old lady".