The Buddy System

On October 6th, 2011 (I give the year because it's almost over), my dog Daisy died. If you have any concept of who I am, you likely know that because I haven't stopped talking about it. Based on the past couple of months, I don't think I ever will. I've written previously about how talking has helped me cope with her death. And I have to take that previous point of view for what it's worth, because now I'm a month and a half removed from saying it, and I can tell you now, on December 6th, 2011, that I can hardly stand to think about my girl, let alone talk about her.

I'm still very upset. And I'm very angry. Not in general, I should say. In general, I think I'm pretty okay, but when it comes to my dog, I'm very, very angry.

Being that I aspire to someday have a career based on my writing, I usually try to revel in ANY extreme emotion, and given how extreme I become when thinking about Daisy, I've tried to write from this mindset. I can't do it. It's too much. I'm so overwhelmed by how much I'm hurt. If that weren't enough, I'm actually annoyed at myself for letting my hurt turn into anger.

We adopted a new dog, partly because the house was too empty without my big goofy girl, partly because we needed someone new to focus on, and partly because of our OTHER dog, Harley.

Lately, out of the blue, I've begun to slip. I'm calling people by the wrong name. More specifically I've been calling our new dog Daisy. Her name is Penny. I slip and call her Daisy. Somethings wrong. I've lost a girl who should have been a long term family member. She was my pet, my friend, and my family. And my brain is trying to reintroduce her, because I can't quite stand life without that stupid fucking dog pouncing on me.

Worse than my interpretation of her death, which is inherently more informed because of my human brain (and because I was there), is what seems to be happening to poor Harley.

Harley is approximately 12 years old. And I have to approximate that age, because, just like all of our pets, he was a rescue. I don't intend to get on a high horse here, but I kind of do, because I'm proud of my family for always adopting a pet who NEEDS our help. There will always be people who buy from breeders, and there will always be people who just shop at puppy stores, but not as many people will welcome an older, potentially abused dog into their house. But those are the dogs who need a home. Daisy was one of them. Harley is one. We don't know what happened to him, but when we got him, he was approximately 3 years old, and was very nervous around men. I have to assume that he was hit by a man.

To take a quick tangent: If you are a human, and you are reading this, and you have EVER abused an animal, you are actually an inhuman fucking monster. One time I was at a party with my friend Bobby, where we saw a guy put his foot down on his cat's neck in some bizarre joking/frustrated manner, and we were inches from fucking killing him. Don't abuse animals. I'm going to turn into a real-life Batman who defends animals. My story parallels Bruce Wayne's: His parents were murdered in front of him. I had a doggy who died and I found out later. Chilling similarity.

Anyway, Harley has been in our family for 9 years, and in that time, he has seen many animals come and go. And he's always been a great dog, but he's been aging. When Daisy showed up 3 years ago, he suddenly got a good burst of speed, and somehow he seemed to be really interested in that girl. He kept step and pace with her, running around in the backyard, despite the fact that Daisy was 4 times his size. She kept him young. Now that she's gone, he's slow, sluggish, and man does he look old.

With any luck:

We're born into a world where we have an established family. We're born into a world where we have parents, siblings, and extended family, all of whom have a distinct love and interest in us. We're coddled as babies (because there's no such thing as some weird, self-sufficient baby), and then during our formative years, our families take care of everything for us. We have homes, clothes, food, an education, and in the unfortunate circumstance that a member of our family dies, magically a funeral has been planned, and all we have to do is show up. Maybe. If we're too young, we probably don't even have to go. Basically, we're accounted for.

At some point, though, we start to expand our interest outside of our families. And I should say that I don't limit "family" to blood. Our family is whoever takes care of us. At some point, we expand our interest outside of those who take care of us out of a sense of duty. And if we're lucky, we meet someone who will take care of us because they want to.

Think about it for a couple minutes, and you'll realize that your parents are nothing more, and have never been anything more than two people who like each other. It's a basic analysis, but it's true. Our parents are two people who like each other so much they wanted to spend most of their time with each other. They liked each other so much that they had children. They maybe liked each other so much that they decided to live in the same house, and forever sleep in the same bed.

Our parents are not obligated to each other necessarily. They just really really like each other. They're what we aspire to not only because they are our reference point for how we're meant to structure our lives, but because family can only go so far.

I love and respect my family. Every member. And in my family, each and every member is particularly interesting (or I'm bullshitting), but the world we're born into is limited. Most of the people we meet the moment we're born are already adults. As we grow up, they're getting older. I don't mean to be grim (which is to say that I'm not being grim for the sake of being grim, I'm being grim because the concept I want to explore is inherently grim), but these people are likely going to die before we do. It happens generation after generation. We should know that. I've tried to. It's fascinating and inescapable, and the fact that it can truly happen at any moment is major bullshit.

When we get to the point that we are expanding our interests outside of our family, we're met with absurd trepidation and apprehension, and rejection. We accidentally make new friends and form complex relationships, and we stumble into traditions and layers of responsibility toward each other. We date a lot, and we try each other out. And it's awkward and dramatic and fun, but eventually we get to the point where we truly want/need to settle down. We build a group of people with whom we hope to share our time in the future, and it's because the world we've always known inevitably has to fall away at some point. In all of these relationships though, most of us obviously hope to have a relationship with somebody that we can create a family with. We want to have children who can one day theorize that their parents are just really tight friends. It's nature. It's ethereal and spiritual. It's evolution. It's done out of love and fear. I can safely say that without the woman I love and without the family and friends I love, I'm an old man. I'm an old man yelling at you to get off my lawn.

Everybody who I care about and who cares back keeps me young and sane. I've seen what happens when you lose your anchor.

It can ruin you. It can turn you into a shell of who you were because you were so invested in their life, and they were so invested in yours. It's disheartening to watch. It's heart breaking. But it's a true testament to the power we can create and share with each other. And it should be comforting to know that people can be so capable of loving one another. I can love all my friends as much as I can stand to, but no matter how much I pour out, I'll still be a shadow if I lose it all.

Have a big satisfying meal. But in a few hours, you're still going to need breakfast. Does it cheapen the meal you enjoyed?

I hope not. But I'm feeling differently. I've mentioned that when I walked my girl, I made her pause and sit at each intersection. The truth is that I really hoped she would connect the street corner with the sound a car makes. I hoped that when those two pieces of stimuli occurred at once, she would respond by sitting and waiting, as I made her do. I was invested in her future. I enjoyed her at the time. I loved her without end at the time. But here two months later I feel less than empty. I feel vacuous. It isn't that there is "nothingness" in my heart as a result of her loss, it's that the space in which she once resided is actively yearning and trying to fill the space. It can't be filled.

I come back to Harley. I am able to intellectualize my loss. I am able to question why my pain is here. I can write a repulsively long blog post dedicated to the feeling. But my poor old Harley is simply vaguely aware that there used to be another animal around. Maybe. Who knows how a dog's mind works, let alone that sad abused boy. Maybe he doesn't remember feeling so happy running through the grass with Daisy. Maybe he doesn't remember rolling and playing with her, but I'll bet that the opposite of those feelings is registering heavily with him.

Daisy was a dog. And she was a good one. But she was a dog. And as hurt as I am, I can reason out the pain. I can riddle out the reasons. I can think. But for Harley, she was there when he woke up and went to sleep. She focused on him. She loved him. She played with him. And he loved her. And without her, he's reeling. Harley lost his buddy.

It's all just some kindergarten buddy system on a global scale. Harley needed Daisy and without her, he's falling. I loved her, and I wanted her forever, but she was always going to get away from me. If life had played out the ideal way, Harley would never have to know a future without his friend.

I don't know where this is going. I can't cap off this theory in a nice clean way. I'm 25 years old, which is a short span of time when gauged against the time of the people around me. I'm inexperienced. I'm a child. But simultaneously these 25 years have been an enternity, because they're all I have known. I'm lucky. I love my family. And I've picked my friends carefully. But I'm still trying to stand up after having been sucker punched by the car that hit my Daisy.

We all need our buddy. We need someone to check in with. No one is obligated to care for us, and I'm one of those who has been lucky enough to find someone who is invested in my happiness and in my health. I hope I don't take it for granted.

I'm sorry that I'm not being very funny right now. But this is a massive side of my personality that I don't want to shelf in favor of writing quippy, sarcastic posts about people I hate. I'll get back to that soon enough. I haven't written a single blog post in over a month, but it's about time that I should try to "speak" again. This is what I have to say right now.

I wish I could say that this is the last time I'll talk about Daisy, but I know for a fact that isn't true. Someday I still have to tell the full story of the night she died. It's a story that I need to tell and which needs to be told for how shocking, horrible and FUNNY it was. It was all those things. But I will say here that I owe a significant debt of gratitude to Bobby Koester, Michael Costa, Allie Palmer, and my whole family for helping me to survive it.

I'll put that off for a while.

I guess if there's anything I truly want to say with this post, it's that I think it's okay to need someone's help. And it's okay to talk. And that as much as I talk about how you need the people in your life, the flip side of the coin is that those same people will likely need you one day.

I also want to say that, across the board, I think women are stronger than men.

Coming soon: jokes.

Sorry guys.