Memories of Diego

Another reminder of what our dogs mean to us.

Or, more specifically, what Diego meant for Laura Bruzzese. (This will be the second in the series We Shall Not Forget Them.)

ooOOoo

Dog Love In August

collarAugust is the start of the dying season. Garden things begin their slow shrink into the earth, the days grow shorter and cooler, lazy ocean- or mint-scented summer days snap into rigid schedules of work and school.

August is also the month that I lost Diego, my first dog. You can get acquainted with Diego here, a post I wrote a few days before he died. But I would like to share a little more now, on the second anniversary of his departure.

Diego was a poser, in a very literal sense of the word. He loved having his picture taken; in fact, he insisted on it whenever he saw me holding the camera. This picture, for example: it was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the day after 21 hours of hard labor produced an eight-and-a-half-pound baby who actually stopped halfway out of my body, looked around, and scowled before resuming her reluctant journey onto the planet. (She was 12, twelve days overdue, FYI all you mothers out there who can surely feel my pain.)

There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.
There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.

I laid baby Isabella down, stepped back with the camera, looked up, and there he was: Diego, staring. Fifty-eight pounds of solid, unmoving dog. Insisting that I photograph him, too, with this creature that he wasn’t sure if he should guard against or lick. This child who personified the singular emotion of furious for the first nine weeks of her life (if she was not sleeping or eating, she was screaming).

Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.
Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.

When my doula told me that the colic or distemper or petite innards or whatever it was making Isabella so unhappy would resolve itself in about nine weeks, I said oh, that’s nice. But I won’t be alive for nine weeks of this. I’ll be in an asylum acquainting myself with a selection of opiates, or at the bottom of the mighty Rio Grande; so behold, an orphan.

But somehow, I survived. And Diego was part of it.

You see, from the very beginning, it was just us — the two of us, the three of us.  I was abandoned by my husband before Isabella was born, a painful time that I don’t often write about.

Within a matter of weeks, the married-and-expecting life I’d known was gone, and I was left to fumble around with the pieces, a wreckage sitting on a pile of broken glass in the dark. The small hours of it were the worst, waking up alone and panicked in the middle of the night wondering how (or if) I would live through the next weeks and years. And Diego was always there, a silent and comforting presence curled at the foot of the bed or coming up to lick my tears if I was crying, which was basically all the time. He was always there.

dog-and-babyI have a teenager now and those days seem ancient. While I rebuilt my life, Isabella grew up and Diego grew old. And finally, in his sixteenth year, he began to deteriorate to the point of pain. I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer and I had already called the vet to ask her how it worked — when do you know it’s time? Do I take him to the office, or do you come to the house? Will he feel anything? I planned to schedule an appointment soon; I hadn’t had to make this decision before and it was a very painful.

On the morning of August 9 before I left for work, I told Diego that we would have to say good-bye soon because his body wasn’t working right anymore. I told him that I loved him and it was okay for him to go. Over and over I told him I loved him.

Less than two hours later, he drowned in the pond.

I think it was his way of avoiding the vet (he hated the clinic), and maybe sparing me that particular pain. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t devastated. But rather than remembering the urgent phone call at work from Isabella, or the vision of him when I got home, or my step-father struggling to carry the terrible weight of him away, I like to imagine Diego simply being received by the fish and toads. Delivered from his pain by warm water, wrapped in a blanket of lilies.

lilyAnyone who has cared for pets perhaps knows that there is one, a special one, who will always occupy the largest piece of real estate in your heart, though others may follow. That was Diego for me.

But now we’re lucky enough to share our lives with another dog, the rascally, neurotic, road trip-loving Velma. I’ll end this post with a short video of her that reminds me of exactly what I love about dogs: their absolute and abundant connection with life, free of judgement, agenda, or desire to be anything other than what they are. That’s what I think of every time I see Velma in her Writhe of Exquisite Happiness. Perfect contentment of being.

ooOOoo

Laura wrote and published this back in August, 2012. But her words, emotions and feelings are those that never age. Indeed, I would add her courageous words.

25 thoughts on “Memories of Diego

  1. Laura- I am so sorry about Diego. He sounded like a wonderful companion. I think dogs have a way of coming into our lives when we need them the most. At the time of your daughter’s birth, he needed to be your protector and your rock. As the years went by, he could feel that you were coping and that you had someone who could also be a companion to you.
    Personally, I think he wanted to spare you the visit to the clinic so that you wouldn’t be devastated. Perhaps that was his final gift to you. I am glad to hear that Velma has come into your life. Remember, Diego is never far away for he resides in your heart.

    1. Oh wow, I’m just seeing this. Have been away from the computer for a while. Thank you so much, Susan. I really appreciate your thoughts and I think you’re observations are spot-on. I like to think Diego is still with me… he even visits in dreams sometimes. ❤

    1. Thank you Paul, this is very kind. It sure brings back some memories for me… once again, your blog is a brilliant place for people to share stories with others that have had similar experiences. Group empathy. xx

  2. MY of y, Diego was a handsome dog. I am so sorry that he went the that way but perhaps he knew best. I so hope you have another dog. You seem like a lady that would love a dg- especially one that needed to be rescued. It would be a wonderful honor for the wonderful Diego.

    1. Yes, you are correct, Paul. I still have Velma — 10 years now. We adopted her from the pound when my daughter was 8, walking in with our list of what the perfect-for-us dog would be. And she filled every hope! She’s turning into a white-faced old lady. Always hard to watch, but she’s given so much and is dreadfully loyal. Love her to pieces.

    1. Thank you Sue. I can honestly say that that time in my life was probably the worst I have ever (or will ever) live/d through. Diego certainly helped me survive. I’m glad his story has also resonated with you.

  3. Thank you for re-blogging this Paul. It was a sweet and unexpected surprise. Hopefully I’ll have more time this year to get back into reading the best & most brilliant from my friends, an even do a little writing. xx

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