robbie-and-shredder I realized this morning, as I find myself awake hours before the sun comes up, how am I going to sleep without you here to wake me up at 3 AM? It’s been so many years that we have risen together- you first, me second- for our middle of the night romps for water and bathroom breaks.

I am looking at the disarray around the house, for what seems like the first time in days. I guess it’s time to put things in order and to get things back to “normal”, not that our house has ever been “normal” by most people’s standards. We are eccentric, some folks have said, which I think simply means we are not afraid to embrace our own uniqueness.

But really, it has never occurred to me that there is any other way to live…

All my scatter rugs and runners from the kitchen, the hall, the bathroom- even the little door mats I bought for getting dirt and mud off our feet when we walk in from the back yard (because of course, my “eccentric” little house has nothing so practical as a mud room)- all these rugs have been placed on top of every slick surface in my house, creating little paths so you could travel safely from the den to the kitchen, the kitchen to the living room and from the den into the hall to our bedroom without losing your footing that became so precarious in the last week since you became really sick.

The sofa pillows have all been removed from the sofa and chairs and placed under tables and along the wall to prevent you from becoming trapped in the crevices and inaccessible areas of the house where you might get hurt or where I might have trouble getting you out. I came home from work yesterday to find you’d wiggled yourself under the cocktail table. I know it’s instinct for you to want to hide when you are feeling so bad. I’m sorry, but it was for my own peace of mind, I couldn’t simply leave you there.

All of the small ceramic bowls seem to be dirty, filled with bits of water and melted ice cubes that I placed around the room recently, should you need them at your disposal. You were not able to get up and use the stainless doggie bowls but a cereal bowl fit right between your paws and you really did not have to raise your head too much to drink from them. I’ve gathered them and up and placed them in the sink to be washed. (If anyone is afraid of dog germs, know that I will wash these bowls but if you are really afraid of doggie germs, you have your fair warning. You may not want to come and eat here again.)

My summer robe is laying in the floor. I put it there beside you the last night you slept here, just in case you got cold. Also so that in case you woke up feeling lost and confused and couldn’t remember where you were, you’d smell me in the cotton fibers and feel a bit of comfort.

My winter robe is also dirty because I’d done this same thing another night and it became soiled. I guess it’s a good thing it is warm this morning and I do not need a robe.

I also need to clean the floors because I’ve brought in so many leaves, the floor is a mess. The walk off mats were not there to do their job because I’d removed them and placed then winding helter skelter all over the house. Since I’ve had to carry you in and out to use the bathroom these last few days, my slippers are lying there too, along with the leaves. They have been there since a week ago, when I heard you outside yelping, as you had a seizure the morning before Valentine’s Day. That was really scary and I ran out in my bare feet and scooped you off the ground that was wet with rain (or was it a heavy coat of morning dew?) and laid you down on these same rugs to recover.

Later, I gave you a bath, so most of the towels in the house are dirty, too. I was so glad you relaxed and seemed to enjoy as much that, as much as you were able. But as you know, I have been less concerned about the floor. My point is that now that you are gone, I guess I will have to keep up the cleaning a little better.

Oh, I see another spot on the kitchen floor that needs cleaning too. I found you there one morning over the weekend. You’d gotten down and couldn’t get up and so I picked you up and added a few more mats. I cleaned those spots up at the time but it looks like I missed a few areas.

There’s the meds, of course. Still out on the kitchen counter. I placed them in the cabinet this morning with the other doggie and kitty meds that we always save but never usually reuse again.

The refrigerator needs to be cleaned out too. The pot of chicken and rice I cooked for you that you wouldn’t eat. The special items I purchased for you, the sliced American cheese, the deli lunch meat, the special dogfood. There is the jar of peanut butter, still out. All the tricks of the trade I used for hiding pills and trying to get you to eat that just didn’t work.

Yesterday after work, I needed to run an errand to Costco. Brennen, had called a few times during the day and I had missed his calls. But really, I guess I was a lot like you trying to hide under that cocktail table; I didn’t really want to see or talk to anyone. Even my own son.

As fate would have it, I passed him driving up Wendover Avenue. A good-looking guy in his pretty blue sports car with a scruffy beard that his mama says “hides his handsomeness”. We were literally side by side on that stretch of road but unable to speak to one another. I waved and drove on, but do you know he followed me to the Costco parking lot? He said that he was headed out to pick up dinner and to get me flowers but because of our chance meeting, he told me to get into his car. “I’m going to buy you a milk shake instead, ” he announced.

That boy knows his mother’s heart…

“Mom, you need to get a new dog,” he said. “Now that I’m gone, you need a reason to be at home more.” I assured him that I was fine and that there would be a time in the future for another dog but this was not it. Getting the wrong dog or even getting the right dog at the wrong time in your life is a recipe for disaster that I planned to avoid.

Such a sound and practical response, I thought. “Besides,” I said,” We have Milly and the cat. It’s not like there are no more fur babies to love in the house.”

But I know what he means. I have to admit, the house feels very lonely this morning without you here for my 3 AM bathroom and water break. The slice of pizza I bought at Costco last night must have been really salty. Or maybe it’s the tears? I’ve cried a few, more for me than for you.

Brennen is right. I am sure there will be another doggie in our future, but just not now. This lifespan thing of 15-20 years for you and 75-80 years for me really sucks. At the moment, I’m just not ready to commit to that kind of discrepancy again.

When I went to bed last night, I remembered how before you became sick, you slept on the floor beside my side of the bed most nights, right between me and the door. It was sad to think of you not being there anymore. You were such a sweet and beautiful boy. Everyone knew that you wouldn’t think to hurt anyone.

I realized then that I never thought of you as my fierce protector but I think I was wrong about that.