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A Dog’s Life by Andrej Kasić, flickr

I discovered Squeaky Car Wash after dropping my dog off at the vet on a sunny, cool December day in my central Florida town. My dog has an enlarged heart and needed shots and a checkup. During the pandemic, pets are dropped off with an assistant at the curb and there is no face to face contact with vets, only a doctor’s follow up phone call.

As always, I wanted the cheapest carwash possible and found it was the five dollars as advertised on the road sign. So many financial pressures were mounting but a dusty car felt a bit demoralizing. A few weeks before Christmas, a rental moving truck had crushed the back end of my car. Though it was not my fault, my insurance company had decided not to waive the remainder for repairs. And I could not afford to make up the difference, especially now in a pandemic with my own health issues much less my pet’s. Luckily my car was operating, including the rear light. But cosmetically, it looked a bit less than the glory of yesteryear.

A bearded, middle aged man stood at a kiosk outside of the drive thru wash. He took my credit card and offered a membership in case I lived or worked in the area. I told him I was only there today because I took my dog to the vet. He expressed his concern, saying he hoped my dog was ok. I thought it was a little strange, not to take my response as a matter of course. Then I realized it was a pretext for talking about his dog who died only a week before, just before Christmas. He had discovered the death upon waking. The animal was already cold. Then he relayed his emotion about breaking the news to his daughters.

Honestly, it did shake me up. Behind my aged and stretched out Tiffany sunglasses I had once enjoyed in an era when I thought I had money, I felt my face steaming up around my eyes. I told him I was sorry. I told him at least he was the one to discover his deceased dog before his daughters did. He also made a definite attempt to convey he had a wife. When I am friendly to men, they always seem to slip that in early as if there is some ulterior motive behind our conversation, or could be. A few years ago, I had come to the conclusion I was demisexual so if this were a different conversation, not about dogs, I could have told him to relax, there was no chance.

I felt a little strange about the conversation, honestly, as I quickly closed the sunroof before the mechanized tracks guided my bright yellow Ford hatchback into the dark cover of an assault of water, soap, and blue scrubbing strips. I realized sometimes I am bothered by this kind of thing as unfeeling and selfish as it may sound. I felt like I couldn’t afford the burden of a another person’s bad experience with something so similar to what I was experiencing. It was like when I took my dog to a favorite groomer when I lived on the other side of town. Somehow we talked about my new breast cancer diagnosis then the groomer started to cry about her daughter dying from the selfsame illness. I drove home in shock and a fresh new compounded worry and grief. And now, an ever present pandemic magnifies all grief and worry.

My dog and I have made it through the Christmas holiday, though there are days she has some troubling symptoms. Still, I am not quite ready to have that quality of life meeting with my vet. My dog’s breed suffers separation anxiety and these days, she has done weird things when I leave her alone for any amount of time. She still charms the vet and her new groomer, though I myself am feeling wary about leaving her anywhere except with a doctor who could help her if something happens. My mood goes up and down with each new turn and some days it feels almost more than I can bear.

For Christmas, my son and I gave her a little stuffed lamb that looks almost exactly like her. The little lamb is stretched out as if she were sleeping on her belly. I try to remember to place them together when she naps on the couch and on the bed although at times I find her snuggled up next to it. I am glad we have done this last little thing for her as well as making sure she is in the best possible health she can be at this time.

It is hard sometimes to track the level of her awareness but I have never thought an animal should be in pain and there have been indications of that. I don’t know what will happen. I am not sure I can wake up to a deceased pet. But in the Episcopalian tradition, we have a service for the blessing of the animals, which means God cares for them. I know that no matter what happens, God will see my little girl home.