Friday, May 27, 2016

eevee

I don't want to write this post.

Because I know if I do, it's real. If I do, this is the end. If I do, then I will have surrendered my right to ever speak mournfully of Eevee. ("God, didn't she get it out of her system with that 10 page long blog post?? Get a fucking grip, it was only your dog." That's what the critic in my head sounds like. She's a real bitch).

Eevee Hammond Tuesday Campbell-Kalkauski (or Eevee Tuesday Hammond Campbell-Kalkauski, depending on what order my brain put it in that day), was born April 11th or 13th of 2008. I'm notoriously bad with dates. It took me like five or six years to actually remember the birthday of two of my best friends and it's the same goddamn date because they're twins. I still don't really know if my anniversary is June 26th or June 27th. I'm pretty sure Eevee was born on the 13th but it's totally possible that because I think that number is cooler than the 11th that I just overrode the truth in my head. According to the Google calendar, she should have actually been born on the 15th because I used to always tell people she was born on a Tuesday. She wasn't, though. I just really like Tuesdays.

On May 19th, 2016, the tl;dr is that Eevee died. Her spleen ruptured and the whole fucking thing is surreal and crazy. It happened a week ago and yet it seems simultaneously like yesterday and a million years ago. Either way, I can barely comprehend it. One moment I'm giving her cheesy cookies and walking her to the vet, the next she's limp on the table at the vet's office with little shaved patches on her leg where they tried to give her blood and fluids intravenously. I remember the moment they took her away. So scared at seeing her wilt on the cool tile as the office rushes back to try and perform tests on blood they struggled to take, I pushed myself past a vet tech and leaned over her face. Kissing her on the cheek through tears as her eyes struggle to stay open, I whisper what I don't expect to be my last words to her: "You're going to be okay."

I didn't lie intentionally. And I suppose "okay" is pretty vague and could technically be a fair interpretation of death. Although you'd never say that about the people left in death's wake (ahhh, graveyard humor; I'm full of accidental puns to the end). The fact that she was a dog makes the whole situation even more ridiculous because most humans automatically see other animals lives as less valuable than humans.

I'm the kind of person who struggled for five minutes to catch a spider in a cup (which scare the FUCK out of me, and it was so fast, holy shit), so I can put it outside rather than crush it. Definitely one part of it is my belief that all life is equally sacred but I think more of it comes from a place of tremendous empathy. I've spent such a great deal of time truly sitting and imagining the world from the perspective of the various creatures I encounter. If you crush a bug you notice on your windowsill, what was the last song it heard? Was it heading back home or away from home? How long was it alive?

I did the same thing with Eevee. Constantly as I spent time with her, I'd try to understand what the world looked like through her eyes. When she watched me scream at the TV, what did she think was upsetting me? Did she come to learn that it wasn't anything to be truly afraid of? Did she actually know the person on the porch was the same one every day and bark anyway or did was she genuinely startled? When I was gone for a week on vacation, was she afraid that she wouldn't be able to make it until I returned? Did she think I left for good? Did she wait to die until I was back? Did she know how much she was loved?

Eevee was truly my best friend. I told her everything. She never judged. She wasn't always patient but she was always good. She was the most incredibly intelligent non-human creature I ever met and in many ways, I think she was smarter than some humans. Her vocabulary easily spanned at least 200 words and she could read anyone in a second. She loved us so incredibly much and made me feel so safe. I miss her more than I could ever express in words.

I used to use Eevee as a metaphor for how much I liked someone.

I'd always incorrectly call it "my very own Sophie's choice" even though it's completely inaccurate and I've never actually seen that movie. The scene I'm actually referring to is from The Good Son. Spoiler alert if you haven't yet watched this 23 year old movie and still want to: at the climax of the film, the mother has her evil biological son clinging to one arm and her good stepson(?) clinging to the other as they dangle off the edge of the cliff. The mother realizes that she can not save both and must let go of one in order to pull the other up. If you have not seen it, it features Macaulay Culkin and Elijah Wood as children and I'd really recommend it.

The comparison I would draw would have me in the same theoretical situation, except I have Eevee clasped in one hand and so-and-so in the other. Besides maybe four or five people I knew, I would always drop the other person to pull up Eevee. Sometimes in these hypotheticals I would maybe be swayed by a utilitarian argument that the person has the possibility to live longer and therefore should be the one to survive but I think if I was ever really in this situation, I would say "fuck your usefulness to humanity" and drop them like a 20lb bag of Russet potatoes.

Eevee saved my life. More than once. I remember the first time, though. She was still a tiny chicken nugget of a puppy, no bigger than a gallon of milk. When we first got her, we lived in a puny one-bedroom apartment and walked her frequently as a result. I had just had some kind of awful interaction with my then-boyfriend's father and felt that if I couldn't be with him, there was no point in being alive at all. Fraught with emotion, I walked to the end of the walkway at the local marina. It overlooks the harbor where Lake Michigan begins and in this moment of despair, I considered filling my pockets with rocks and walking to the bottom a la Virginia Woolf. I hear a tiny whine of boredom pulling me out of my melancholy and I look down at this little fuzzball. As I stare into these warm, emotion-filled brown eyes, I say to the puppy, "How the hell would you get home?"

Maybe understanding, probably not, the pup squirms and chirps at me in response to my intent gaze. She begins to pull the leash back in the direction of home, looking over her shoulder as if to say, "Let's get out of here."

I break down crying and her little paws patter on over to me, confused. I scoop her up and bury my face in her fur. I start to walk with the black fluffball that would be my silent voice of reason over and over after this day.



After a couple of years, I would come to be able to tell what Eevee was thinking just based on the tone of her bark or the expression on her face. I'm sure she felt the same way about me. A particular grumble would mean she was being irritated by someone, a sharp bark indicated she was frightened. Earlier in her years, she was very talkative. Less so as she got older but I didn't really need her to be in order for me to know how she was feeling. It got to the point where simply the position of her ears or the dilation of her pupils could explain it all.

Dogs are incredibly social. It's been proven that not only does petting your dog release the same bonding chemicals that are present when a mother holds her baby, but dogs actually receive more of a chemical reward when interacting with a human than they do when interacting with other dogs. Studies have revealed how dogs, just like humans, scan our faces from left to right and top to bottom in order to decipher our emotions. They respond to our tone and body language the exact same way a child does. The way that humanity has socialized this particular species of animal is unparalleled.

This makes it all the more difficult when they die. Eevee wasn't just my dog. She wasn't just my companion. I treasured her in the exact same way I do my mother, my husband, my friends. There is no separation in my mind. She was my family. For eight years, she was there for everything and not once did she try to hurt me or scare me. Even when she would get a little aggressive in her territorial behavior, I knew without any doubt that she would listen to me. She didn't need to be on a leash because she always came when called. True, she knew a great many tricks and even learned things we didn't teach her like how we would get her food or water if she brought us her bowls or that if we forgot her outside, she would come under my window and bark at me.

She went on so many adventures. Mckenzie and I took her to swim in the great expanse that is Lake Michigan last summer, tossing this awesome floating pheasant toy I'd gotten online. We buried it in the sand, covered in pheasant scent, and watched her find it, no problem, every time without help. Eevee and I went on many car rides after I got my license, visiting the pharmacy, banks, the pet store, the hardware store. Everywhere we went, every day we walked, at least one person would tell me what a beautiful dog she was all the way up to the end. She loved meeting new people. Other dogs were of little to no interest to her. She never barked back and she listened intently. Without me calling her, she'd come to me when I was crying. She'd let me pluck out the one white hair that grew in the same place on her back over and over. Grooming her was a pleasure. She gave the absolute best kisses because she knew it was all about a short, sweet hit on the chin. Peanut butter was her all-time absolute favorite and I still feel shitty that I never got to bake her an awesome two-layer peanut butter cake in the shape of a bone.

Eight fucking years. This sounds like a long time but it was way too short. I try not to have regrets because I know that Eevee had a pretty good life. She could go into the backyard, which is pretty spacious, any time she wanted. We went on a lot of adventures and of course I'll always wish there were more but there's nothing I can do about that. I try not to beat myself up about going on vacation just before the end but there's no way I could have known. And Eevee wouldn't have wanted me to miss that, if she had the capacity for that level of thought. I know she did want me to be happy. I know she loved me. I can only pray that she knows I felt the exact same way.

If one year is seven years to a dog, that means a day equals one week. This thought came to me a lot in the past year. Likely triggered by the death of T, a cat whose life almost entirely overlapped my own, I began to truly consider loss. I knew intellectually that my German shepherd only had so many years. Never did I expect to have to really face that fact so soon.

Appreciate every moment with every important soul in your life. As much as it still hurts me to remember that Eevee is gone, I'm so incredibly grateful for the memories we were able to make together. She touched so many lives outside of my own. Anyone who spent time with her knew she was special. Those who saw her instinctively knew as well. Wherever she is now, I'm blessed to have had her while she was alive. Thank you for saving my life, Eevee. Nose car garage.


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