Lana. Pronounced “Lane-ah”. She was ‘the love of my life’ at the time of her death; my only friend. We had lost so many others … and it wasn’t her time to die … and yet … it happened.
I had gotten Lana about a year and a half earlier; she was my ‘rescue dog’. Meaning that she rescued me from a lot of bad situations, and I rescued her from an uncertain master who was abusing her. We were into drugs at that time – hot and heavy using; intravenous needles and all that sort of thing … I was living with kind of a family … then something bad happened; I lost them … the woman who took my virginity (at 21) her two children and soul mate . . . nobody’s fault; just fate …
and then we were living alone…and then we had to move in with a friend as hard times got even harder ….
and then I got Lana.
She stuck with me through thick and thin; when things had gotten bad she’d stay at my side; licking my face until I’d come to … licking my arm where the needles had went in and stayed ‘stuck’ due to their hooked ends (we were using used needles at that time – talk about your hemotomas!!). We were trying to drown the pain in our lives; using . . . whatever. Didn’t matter as long as it would ‘get you high’ and ‘drown things out’ meaning ‘all those voices’ and grief and sadness in Matthew’s head sometimes…. curing the loneliness for awhile sometimes …. pretending druggies were my friends … and perhaps – yes – one or two of them were. One most definitely, though I don’t see him around except sometimes … when he needs a hand.
But then … things happened again … lost everything. Job. Car. “home”. All due to a car wreck … and had no insurance (though the insurance company – AT THE TIME – said “sure, you’re insured. Go ahead and take your passengers to the hospital” which we did … found out we were hurt as well … refused treatment (after all: no money, no job, and definitely no insurance to cover this kind of thing!)….
and then that was it. Be homeless or be nothing.
Being nothing meant going back to living with my folks.
Guess what we did.
Yup. You got it. Went back to the folks while finding time to get myself a job; get unhitched from drugs (did it all on my own, BTW; DT’s, everything; crawling into a hole in my room … but wait! couldn’t do that thing anyway; mom was there; constantly busting my ass on things…)
and one of those things was my dog. She lived in the backyard (parent’s insistence) … mom only this time (dad was gone … somewhere out of town; out of country … on one of those military things of his) ….
Every day … from sunup to sundown .. if it wasn’t something else; it was this:
“When are you going to get rid of that (my) damn dog?”
“The dog has been shitting in the yard. When are you going to clean that sh*t up?” (I had already done it twice earlier in the day …)
“I know the dog lives outside. But why do you have to keep it in the yard?” (And no, BTW – keeping Lana alive inside the house wasn’t an option. Lana was a big dog; my pet and things – I wanted a REAL dog; not one of those fluff balls that goes yap yap day in and day out driving men mad and all that sort of thing. And … I guess because it was MY dog and a reminder of why I’d had to come home …..)
“You GOT TO GET RID OF THE DOG.”
Get rid of the dog. Get rid of the dog. Over and over this sort of thing. Whining and complaining … and then “getting rid of the goddamn dog” and things.
“I’ll take her to the pound,” I finally said, giving in.
No. You can’t do that. You know what they do to them in the pound. I know what they do to them in the pound. And a five year old dog? Hasn’t a chance. I should know. I gassed a lot of them during my time in the animal labs.
And here’s the thing: the county that was gassing them? Wasn’t doing the right kind of thing; you could hear the dogs yelping and screaming inside; all of them pawing at the door … they were ‘suspended’ a few years ago for this … not gassing those dogs right and then burying them alive …. (shuddering; we’ve been buried alive before and that HURTS bad. Yes, another story or so in our futures and already I’m feeling sad … and sick and constricted in the chest … )
Plus … there’s those ten days of waiting … waiting for someone to come and rescue her …. pitiful dog in a cage; master (read “loved one; trusted one; cared for one”) gone ….
We have had 14 some odd dogs in our lives. Every one of them is gone … except my current two.
I have had to hold my dogs in my arms while they died; stare into their eyes with love in their heart and mind … and watch their light simply slip away …. while they slipped away in my arms and hearts and minds …
We have never cried; never for them. We are (it seems) incapable of crying. We should cry; but we can’t. That is the way of things….
But Lana. She was different. We didn’t get that ‘final goodbye’, not like that and things … no ‘slipping gently into the night’ … sorrowful sorts of things.
Here’s my ‘take’ on dogs: science has proven – dogs are (or can be) as intelligent as 3 to 5 year old human beings. To put a spin on this quite simply: we can (and do) train our children (here, me, mine) … with the simple ‘methods’ of reward and play as we do our dogs … until they hit that ‘more intelligence’ level … plus with the milk of human kindness …
But dogs? They are to us as four and five year old kids (depending upon the breed and intelligence level of our dog.) This one (Lana) was about four years old in the head. She would (like any four year old) run up to us in delight at the end of a hard day’s work and pounce on our chest with joy in her eyes …. loving us, too … you know a dogs love: they can love you kindly, unconditionally, for a long, long time.
Kinda like them little kids.
Kinda like our own.
So …. we called our best friends. We called ALL our friends. We even called folks we weren’t friends with at all …
We ran an ad in the paper (we were given a week to do so) … trying to ‘get rid’ of our dog.
And then the end. The deadline was simple.
“You either get that dog out of here or …. I’m gonna do something.” With mom that could have been anything – from throwing us out of her house, to fucking with our job, or killing ‘that damned dog’ – or even shooting us through our own head. Yeah; our mom’s that kinda sorta way. Mad as hell and twice sometimes. You should meet her if you ever want some true insights into someone’s hidden insanity.
So there, at week’s end … our choices were simple: either take the dog out to “die” (taking her into the woods and dump her … denial by starvation … her roaming the woods; getting weaker, thinner, stinkier … her looking – WAITING – for us to come and take her home (I’ve had that heartbreak before, too, myself and I .. another story; this one’s called “Wolf”) ..
Or take her to the ‘kennel’ (read “pound”) … where she would wait in the shit, piss and stink of other dogs; embarbed by kennel wire; haunches on a concrete pad … until she died … waiting for me to come … confusion reigning in her four year old mind … and I’ve known the cruelty of some zookeepers … they all are not kind (torturing the dogs; spraying them with water; horsing around … hitting them and things … we have seen this; we worked in animal labs and things … those persons were usually fired right on! … with a kick in the ass if I found them …..)
Or … we could do the ‘merciful’ thing. The ONLY option we could find left to us. … and meanwhile mom whispering (shouting, screaming, or simply raging or ‘making comments’) … about my ‘damned dog.’
The dog I would sit out by the steps with and whisper in her ear … she’d lick my face with kindness and concern …
The dog who; when my momma was ‘beating’ me with her ranting and raging (we’d gotten too big for the stick; though the broom handle worked once’t and awhile) … would come and comfort me; licking up my tears of anger and frustration ….
working. coming home. working some more for my mom. listening to her bitch and things … aching for needles in my arm … no where and no one to turn to; nothing … nothing at ALL…
And Lana … patiently waiting for and on us ALL of the time … she couldn’t help that she was a dog … loving and kindness; leaning into me; rubbing her head against my chest; big brown eyes staring up … I swear if she could talk she would have told me true:
“Matthew . . . master … I love you”
with love and trust in her face.
Like the day on which I shot her.
Very sad. I hope no one on this planet has to go through this kind of thing … knowing everyone did.
Or will, sometime in their lives ….
the loss of a friend.
But did it have to be by my own hand?
We will never know. But I’m sure YOU, dear reader, are comforted by this thing … knowing….
it will torture us always.
always and forever this thing.
(but we believe; and we always believe … that as long as her heart rests in my soul … we will meet again … playing on an endless green field … or trompsing through those woods … only this time there will be no shotgun in mind; and the joy? I’m hoping we did the right thing … knowing with a bittersweet sadness … nothing was right in what was done – either to us or by us in this sad sort of thing.)