Friday, June 28, 2013

Charlie at 9 months. Actually, 10. And Aunt Annie and Uncle Andy visit.

So, what makes the most sense, I think, is to update you about Charlie, and then update you about Annie and Andy's visit, all the while photo-bombing the heck outta you. Do you agree? Good.

Charlie, at 9.5 months, was 16 lbs 10 oz and 26.5 inches (if I remember correctly). So he's still a little guy for his age, right around the 5th-10th percentile for baby boys his age. But, as usual, he is plenty active and curious to make up for his slightness. He started taking steps when he was between 8 and 9 months old, but now he's a pretty good walker. He can cross a room, for example, though he wobbles like crazy the whole time. Holding someone's hand and with some shoes on, he can walk for quite a while. Which is simultaneously exciting, delightful, and exhausting. He is a little reckless and, in the middle of all our packing, Mike and I are on constant high alert as Charlie tries to unpack glass jars, climb bookcases, and eat scraps of tape he seems to conjure out of thin air.

Speaking of climbing, some lovely friends who sometimes watch Charlie for us have taught him to climb stairs! See the video below. Somewhere. Thankfully, we do not now, nor will we in our next place, have any stairs to worry about. Phew.

We will have two bedrooms in our new duplex, huzzah! So Charlie, I love ya kid, but you are on your own! At night, anyway.

Charlie also loves to applaud himself, and others, at the slightest accomplishment. He can wave goodbye. He is fascinated with tongues right now, often walking around with his hanging out, and constantly sticking his  fingers in people's mouths to see if they, too, have tongues. Charlie is observant and has picked up my fake light laugh with almost-closed eyes and scrunched nose. He now does that all the time and it is too adorable.

He's getting a little more sensitive to noises and unusual situations, too. A few days ago, Mike stretched and made a big growling noise while he did it. Charlie jumped 6 or 8 inches up, then his mouth slowly turned down to a frown and his eyes got big and watery. He fought back tears for a few seconds and I thought, "Charlie, what do you want, I will buy you anything!" I am in trouble. He's much more attached to me than he used to be. He's developing some serious stranger danger instincts, and that is fine by me.

As for teeth, Charlie has six: his four front teeth, plus the tooth just to the right on top and on bottom. Cute and lopsided. That pretty much sums him up!

Okay! So then, Annie and Andy came to visit us for Annie's birthday. It was so fun to have them down here, especially since our San Antonio window is closing very soon. We went to La Villita and the Riverwalk, where we took a boat tour. Of course, the day we decided to go downtown, the temperature spiked to precisely six trillion and one degrees, so after the boat tour Charlie and I excused ourselves to the air conditioned car while Mike showed A&A around the Alamo.

We also hit up Rudy's for some most delicious barbecue.

On Annie's birthday we visited Austin, checking out some funky shops on Congress Street and eating some really delicious pizza and deep fried cheesy polenta balls (yes, go back and read that again, it really was amazing).

Thanks to Anne for taking a lot of these pictures. I had my hands full with Charlie and Annie really has an artist's eye and took some lovely pictures on my camera. Thanks for visiting you guys!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

Sammy on his last day.

Sammy came into my life in the fall of 1999. My sisters and I had been asking my parents for a dog for a while. We had had two cats and innumerable hamsters and gold fish. But our felines were always outside pets and the smaller creatures weren't cuddly and never stayed long. We knew another family with a pug, and he was gentle, quiet, and generally content to sleep all day. A pug seemed like the appropriate choice for a family with five young girls.

Sammy and me in, I'm guessing, 2000. Hello, middle school.

Sammy hailed from the exotic land of Maine. From good pug stock, he himself was not totally up to breed standards because of a slight dark stripe down his spine and a dark ring on his tail. Ah, well. We did not want a show dog. We just wanted a puppy to play with.

Can we go for a ride? Please, oh please?

I remember meeting Sammy for the first time. The oldest kid at the wise age of 12 years, I circled around with my sisters in the mud room as my mom lay newspaper down and a terrified, wobbly little rolly thing eyed us with trepidation. Annie and Mom had picked him up from the airport on a cold day. He reportedly burrowed behind the small of my mom's back (this was in the day of bench seats in Chevy Suburbans) and stuck his little curly tail in the air, whimpering loudly the whole time. Poor pup.

I would like a taste of hummus, s'il vous plait...

Sammy did warm up to us and gained more courage as he grew. We watched him destroy molding, pee on bedding, poop on carpet, chew up Mary Jane's hair, chase school buses in the snow, run frantic and pointless circles in the yard, and generally demolish anything he could fit in his trap. He learned no tricks, obeyed no orders, and gained a reputation for being simultaneously adorable and totally obnoxious.

Sammy and Mike, his favorite.

He was neutered, and we were told this would make him more docile and less hyper. We found, however, that this was not the case. He really didn't slow down until he was about ten years old.

Sam had several Nantucket dog collars. Classy canine, that one.

When kids started leaving the nest and my parents accepted a three-year missionary assignment, Mike and I offered to take care of Sammy for a while. I understood that we might have to face his death during that time. At almost twelve years old, Sammy was deaf but otherwise in good health and with just the right amount of energy for us to handle. He was game for walks, but otherwise calm and happy to snooze in our small apartment.

Sammy being exceedingly patient as Charlie treads upon his precious cat bed.

We added a baby to the mix, as you all know, and I was concerned at first that Sammy wouldn't adjust well to the new member of our family. Sammy had been mauled plenty as a puppy by equally young human pups, but it had been a long time since anyone had yanked on his ear or poked him in the eye.

Sammy bulldozed over Charlie a few times as a small baby, much to my dismay, but in no time at all, Charlie was mobile and pretty bent on harassing Sammy in an attempt to love on him. Sammy, bless him, never once nipped or barked at Charlie. And Sammy's deafness came in handy; we never once had to deal with an animal reacting to a crying baby. Thank goodness.

Faithful navigator.

Sammy's health declined rapidly this year. His back legs started to wobble, so we took him to the vet, who diagnosed aggressive arthritis in his spine. We decided to manage the pain with steroids, but in the end, his legs and his bowels would eventually fail him. He wouldn't last through the year.

We ultimately had a tough choice to make when Sammy wasn't able to pick himself up anymore. He would lay on his side, breathing heavily, eyes fixed in the distance. It was clear to me that his time had come. I think Mike knew much earlier, but I had a harder time conceding that his last day was drawing near.

Sammy trying to stand on his last day.

Trish was able to be with us when we took Sam in to be put down. We shared funny Sam stories all the way over. The vet and her assistant were kind and listened to us tell some of those same stories again. I think we were stalling, whether we knew it or not. The procedure itself was so fast. In the middle of it I felt a surge of panic: I was willfully ending the life of a companion animal. Me. This was happening.

I often dream about having chickens, for eggs and for meat. For me, killing a chicken for stew meat after its laying days are over is not a big deal; it is exactly the proper way to make sure a utility animal is as useful as possible.

But what about an animal whose sole purpose is to provide friendship? Amusement? I had agonized over making this call for months, and in the moment of watching my dog breathe his last breath, I wanted more time. It was too late, of course, to reverse what we had decided to do. And in the end, it was the kindest thing for the poor old guy. He had been in obvious pain for a few weeks, and the vet agreed that it was his time to go. But I was still conflicted about deciding it was time to say goodbye.

All these emotions were compounded by the fact that I had been in a state of emotional preparation for months. Some days I was sure we'd wake to find that Sammy had passed during the night. Then he'd have a great week without any sagging or wincing. I found I almost came to resent Sam for hanging on and lingering, for dragging me to the depths of sadness and helplessness, then rebounding with almost puppy-like energy and cheerfulness.

This resentment, I think, made it hard for me to act because I was afraid of putting him down out of spite or frustration. I was glad my sister could come and provide an outside opinion. She was shocked at his state, though we had been really transparent with my whole family for months about his health. That helped confirm to me that Sammy was ready. Looking at the above picture, I see now how obvious his suffering was.

It's been nearly a month, and Mike and I agree that while we miss the happy, peppy Sam days, we don't miss the 4:30 am potty breaks and the smelly accidents of his last few months.

I feel Sam's absence strongly in strange ways. I have to sweep now. I know it sounds nuts but pugs are veritable vacuum cleaners. He trailed behind Charlie with dedication, picking up every crumb he ever dropped.

We don't have little white hairs everywhere anymore, and I don't feel the compulsive need to vacuum every ten minutes.

I don't know when I'll be able to open my heart to another dog. They are so much work, and they draw so much from me emotionally, something I didn't realize until my dog was gone. I'm glad I did know Sammy for almost fourteen years, and I'm especially glad that Mike and I could experience caring for a pet so early in our marriage. And all the good laughs! Can't forget those. So thank you, Sam, for the good times, and for what we learned in the not-so-good times. We'll see you on the other side.

How I always want to remember Sammy. Happy and eager and kind.