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adventures of Manni the wonderdog

Tag: death

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I now only ever seem to write on December 10 and that makes it three years now. Three years or a lifetime. I feel like a completely different person with a whole other life – but then again the world around me has changed just as much.

I sometimes feel older than my years and when I imagine you, Manni, it feels like I am looking out of my Granny armchair, with a checkered woolen blanket over my knees, remembering the way the world was then, in Technicolor almost. That’s because it does not feel like the two of us together would ever fit into the world right now so it’s more like revelling in the memories of my youth.

Today, I look out from my armchair and in my mind’s eye I see the first gently falling snow of three years ago, I hear in my mind your quiet whimper early in the morning telling me that the pain is getting too much even for you to bear, I see the painful way I try to make smalltalk with the vet through my held-back tears, I see you hopping into your yard to feel the first snow and I see you, or what once was you, lying peacefully, head slightly sideways on your one front paw, having taken with you everything that defined me.

I let my mind wander back another two years, the two years that broke so much of me and all of you. I see you being taken in for an MRI, after a horrible night of morphine, to find out what was wrong with you and thinking that maybe you just had a thorn in your paw, like the little lion that you were. Two years back to when I had to make the decision in 15 minutes of whether or not to take the leg of an animal that was born to run;  to the nail-biting five days you spent at the clinic with me wondering how in the world I was to know what the right decision was for you and not for me. Getting you back in the sterile surroundings, out of your head on meds and missing a leg. Hearing you scream, loudly, for the first time when I try to get you in the car and then crying my eyes out.

My younger self is shaking a little, eyes getting moist. I tell my mind’s eye to get back to the present and shake off lingering ghosts and horrors. I open my eyes and I see Thilo, in whose eyes I can do no wrong and I am glad he doesn’t know. I see the latest addition to the household, little Erna, who is just so ridiculously cute that it’s almost absurd. I see our new house and am briefly reminded that I purposely left your dissolvable urn in the old yard because it was your yard, really, and you would have wanted to stay.

Scrooge slowly turned into a better person by being visited by his ghosts. What made me a better person, Manni, was you – whatever that makes me now.  And so I once more welcome both your front paws on my knees with the checkered blanket. I hold your head and bury my nose into the silken fur behind your ears and take in your scent. And then I let you go. Again.

Until next year, Baby,

Ich lieb’ dich.

everywhere you go.

 

December is when winter came to stay.

It’s winter once more and I have always, passionately, hated this season. Nothing good has ever come of it and I don’t think I’m made for it at all.

But here I am. 12 months on. I guess it’s one of those dates where I should write something, right?

  • Three years ago today I made the decision to take one of my dog’s legs.
  • Two years ago today I desperately celebrated that said dog was still with me and not in too much pain.
  • One year ago today we got the first snow of the season and as happens in winter things died.

Manni died, big parts of me died, all the flowers in my yard died, happiness died, empathy died, light died. I kept feeding the birds in my yard so they wouldn’t die on me too.

The birds survived and their offspring brought sound back to my garden, my flowers came back eventually, too -spring does that, I heard.

Happiness and empathy pop in occasionally to see how I’ve been but they don’t usually stay for coffee. I should probably tend to them more.

Little rays of sunshine try to bring a little light, one of them has a name and has warmed me up some.

Manni is still dead though and that’s a part of myself that I will never get back.  He was an asshole, up there with the best of them. He was independent, opinionated, pig-headed, very physical and a danger to himself and others, a show-off and a loudmouth. He would do anything to have his way.

Which means he was exactly like me. I saw myself in him all the time and even when I was at my wit’s end with him again and in absolute exasperation once more I was smiling on the inside because I knew exactly what he was doing because I would have done the same thing.

Manni would also have gone to the death for his friends, he was extremely quick-witted and clever and all the smart-ass thinking-games we got him only kept him occupied for a while. He was an over-achiever in all dog classes we ever took and people would comment on how extremely well-behaved he was -until the class let out, I opened the door and the dog took off not to be seen again for 20 minutes. Manni could have given lessons on exuberance -not that he would have wanted to. He knew of the importance of physical and mental exertion and he didn’t handle being bored well. In the last six months of his life it became so hard on both of us to fulfil these needs but sometimes it’s enough to bring your noses to the same level and literally smell the roses together.

During his last months Manni became more dependent, he didn’t just tolerate physical contact more he initiated it and had to be touching me most of the time.  He also came to me for protection. While before I would always say that his ego was five times the size of his body and I never had to be scared anywhere, even in the dark, it was now I that protected both of us and Manni came to seek shelter between my legs. Even before the last diagnosis this should have given me pause because it was so unlike him. Looking back today there are many things I wish I had done differently. Not everything, because I do think I did a pretty good job of researching, trying, not outwardly giving up, and also of trying to make every day an adventure for my adventurous soul. I know that guilt is part of the grief process I only  thought I’d be over that after 12 months. However, I am still hoping I didn’t put him through too much, didn’t let the pain go on for too long, didn’t make that original decision for my own sake.

My life has changed so much in the last 12 months that, when I pause to look around me, Manni wouldn’t fit in it anymore but maybe that is why I decided on this path: it gives me less time to look around. I sometimes sit on my windowsill, taking a drag on my cigarette and I feel my eyes fill up. I have come to realize that I use Manni as an excuse a lot to let myself fall into a little bout of deep sadness. What I mean is that something happens during the day that makes me unhappy and I use memories of Manni to let myself fall deeper into the hole of the day. I realize how unfair this is to him and I will try harder to stop doing that. Sometimes, however, I have been able to “conjure” him. When this happens he comes running toward me, on all four of course because that’s how he was always meant to be. He comes to say hi and then eventually he takes off running. When I am on the train now the rails take us through many a field and I always picture Manni in those open spaces – he would have loved that so much. That’s the one good thing about winter maybe: it’s always dark so I don’t have to look at those fields as much anymore.

I took the day off today although I am not really sure why. The better to stare at the patch of dirt that we put the urn into, wondering if it has dissolved yet and if his ashes are part of the ground now? None of it matters, really. I will just clamber on in my life, as we do, trying to make myself appreciate all the little rays of sunshine and striving to tend to happiness and empathy and sometimes to stop and smell the roses by myself. When I am not busy doing that I miss Manni.

Alone at last.

Thank you everybody for the numerous comments, condolences and your kindness. I can’t even begin to express how much it means.

A new year has begun and right now I don’t even care what it brings.

Manni made it to exactly two years after his amputation. Maybe one day I will be able to celebrate this huge achievement of having shown both cancer and statistics my middle fingers but right now I just can’t.

Manni was my constant companion. And I mean that very literally. If at all possible I took him along. During his life he was in different countries (he had his own pet passport), used all methods of transportation you can imagine (boats, public transport, cars, trains, RVs, elevators, ferries…), he was an office dog, he went to all restaurants with me, he was at Christmas markets, in hotels, in vacation rentals, at all my friends’ houses, in barns, on horse pastures, he played with goats and cats, he went to nose-work classes (lost people searches) and excelled in them and he even participated whole-heartedly in the dog-Paralympixx. You name it, he was there.

In short: wherever I went, he did. He was never afraid of anything, he took everything in stride even though some of the things I made him do must have been a challenge.

The problem with having your dog with you everywhere is that once your dog is gone there is not a single place you can go where you don’t miss your dog. That’s where I’m at now. I feel like I am the one missing a limb now. All my friends would always say that Manni and I were so symbiotic it was unreal. Now, this is exactly what’s come back to haunt me. Now, I am alone at last, as I expected to be for exactly the last two years.

Manni was not a perfect dog, in fact he was very far from being a perfect dog. He chased after every moving object if you weren’t careful, he didn’t like strangers, he didn’t like cuddles, he counter-surfed no matter where we were, he stole food off colleagues’ desks, he got stuck in a waste basket once trying to reach food, and he was the most strong-willed creature you could find. I can’t even count the number of times he left me absolutely exasperated and at my wit’s end. My mother would always say: well, you get what you deserve…

However, let me show you what it meant to me to have him around. Look at my face. Can you see the absolute bliss?

 

Time is my friend, they tell me. I’m sure they’re right. We’ll see.

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