• Mel Jones

I'm Alive

This past week has been tough.

Taz, my dog, developed the blahs late Sunday afternoon. He wasn’t sick, just blah, lying about, not playful, not excited when people came in the door, just blah. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, Meningoencephalitis. It’s a disease that affects small dogs, not 140lb bull mastiffs.

When he first became ill, in January 2017, we took him to a Veterinary-neurologist, who gave him days to live based on the condition he was in when he first saw the vet. He was wheeled in on a gurney, semi-conscious, drooling, and incontinent. The vet was nice but clearly didn’t hold much hope.

Taz had fire in his eyes—fight—so we did the tests, paid the insane fees (on plastic), and decided to have that fight with him. He left the clinic with medications, he was to take 16 pills a day. Sixteen.

He had to be brought to the vet monthly for the administering of a nuclear medication. Prior to that $300 monthly visit, he had to go to his regular vet and have blood drawn to test liver and kidney function. After the nuclear meds, he could not be touched for 24 to 48 hours. We repeated this process for seven months while gradually decreasing his meds from sixteen to one. He was a miracle. Against all odds, his disease went into remission.

We maintained that pill daily.

So, when he began acting blah, we went into high alert mode. Nothing was wrong—but nothing was right. We watched. He ate, he pooped, he laid about all in his regular fashion. The Senate impeachment trial was playing in the background to Taz’s blasé mood. Doctor Who didn’t answer any of the thousands of questions I had from the week before. I continued to work on my novel at a feverish pace. I taught English and Communications. Did routine paperwork. Bought groceries.

Years ago, as a family, we decided we wouldn’t put Taz through the trauma of medical treatments if the light in his eyes died; we would keep him at home and surround him with love. The decision was one of love. If we “fixed” him again, who would we be doing it for? Taz or us? Love, done right, is not selfish.

The president was not removed from office on Wednesday. The Senate’s vote didn’t surprise me, but it was so disappointing. Who knew Mitt Romney would rise to the occaision? I wouldn’t have time to process that information.

Thursday morning, Taz rallied. He woke us so he could go out. But when he came back in, he didn’t climb to his favorite spot on the sofa, with his pillow and blanket. Instead, he laid down on the floor, eyes glassed over. He was very still. He was ready. We took turns sitting with him, talking to him, petting him, telling him he was a good boy and that it was okay to go on. Shortly before 2 pm, he did just that.

My heart was broken. But as an adult, I had to go to work, put on a brave face, and do my job. I applied my make-up four times before I pulled myself together. Others buried him in the yard in the pouring rain.

I came home from work and no one ran to greet me at the door. No one followed me into the bathroom. His dishes were cleaned and put away. Medicines put away—out of sight. His toys all neatly collected in his basket. His Doctor Who blanket wasn’t draped across the sofa. It had become his shroud and he was buried wrapped in it. I ate a bit of apple and a chicken wing. It was all I’d had all day.

For the first time in years, I locked the door; I locked it before I went to bed. You don’t need to lock your doors when a bull mastiff is in the house. You just don’t. Taz was a force to be reckoned with, for better or worse. I posted about him regularly on Facebook, I was unaware of how many people had been impacted by his giant personality. Hundreds of people posted there, sent me emails, texts, even phone calls. My students stayed after class to give me hugs. I need time to process—but it was time I would not get.

No one followed me to the kitchen for a sip of the milk I put in my coffee on Friday morning. I spoke with my oldest son, he had sharp abdominal pains and was going to the doctor. Cool. Again, I went to work. I tutored and taught for seven hours. By the time I left work, my son was in surgery having an appendectomy. My stomach was in knots. After being assured by his girlfriend that my son was okay, I promptly developed a migraine and went to bed.

And Saturday, my body rebelled. Headache; stomach pain that required a heating pad. I didn’t make the bed. I didn’t write, I didn’t watch TV, no music played in The Room Formally Known as Ian’s. Facebook was open. I ate some soup. I had no one to give leftovers to.

When I woke this morning, as I walked to the kitchen to make coffee, I looked expectantly at the sofa for the eyes that always said good morning, and had to readjust my thoughts. Coffee. A new day. The same awful man in the White House. A son recovering in Boston. And an empty sofa. I will have many mornings replaying that scene. Taz was huge: he was physically imposing; he had a personality that overshadowed everyone and everything around him. A part of my country died on Wednesday, a part of my heart on Thursday. Friday, I held my breath all day. Saturday, I crashed and burned. Today, I am adjusting my focus. Alexa has chosen Jackson Browne’s, I’m Alive to play at this particular moment and it’s onward to tomorrow.

Love all the beings in your lives: your country, your kids, and your pets.

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