the smell of my desperation has become a stench

I Wish You Could Have Held on for Another Day, Part Two of Two

I thought I was going to be able to write the rest of this story the way I wanted to, the way I had intended and Coco would have wanted. Although, now? I don’t know. Things have suddenly changed in the most profoundly sad and unexpected way. I didn’t anticipate this, just like I didn’t anticipate the speed with which my dog left my side. But I guess the wildfire of my grief has supercharged every other emotion I am feeling. And the majority of that is anger. Savage and untamed. Rage.

I am going to be okay. Please don’t express your concern that I need to seek help because someone else already has that totally covered. Hi. I see you. This rage is only directed at Ben McAdams, that piece of shit. So calm the fuck down.

CAN YOU HEAR ME, BEN? YOU ARE A COWARDLY PILE OF BABOON DIARRHEA INFESTED WITH THE TEARS OF PARENTS WHO REFUSED TO VACCINATE THEIR CHILDREN AND NOW HALF OF A STATE IS DEAD. Quote me, motherfucker.

And I am not talking about you, you bitch slut. [inside joke, guess what, I was getting out luggage today and guess what I found, bitch slut, you are going to be so excited]

But? Turns out that grief can have this effect on your other emotions, it can use them as tinder. And it can actually be healthy. Because so much I didn’t know was there has boiled to the surface. And I am ready to rip open the fiber of the fucking earth. If you need a giant hole yanked from the flaming surface of the sun? I’m your gal!

My therapist would tell me to run right into those flames and write down every noise that followed. But I can’t. I deserve to be able to, absolutely. I will claim that privilege. Everything that has happened between me and that dog, every single detail, all of it—I should get to celebrate it and mourn it and write every syllable. But it turns out grief can open up a hole in the earth where you thought your life once was.

I will end this story with two things.

One.

Zuzu’s owners had so many stories to tell about the time they would housesit for us, stories of Coco’s personality and idiosyncratic habits. And they could not go on enough about how unique a dog she was. Never had they been around a dog so… weird? HA! Weird is the perfect word and I will not attempt to replace it. The one story that you need to hear most correlates to the silence she exhibited in the car on the way to the vet. That awful, terrifying silence.

I forgot to tell Zuzu’s owners that Coco cannot get into a car and shut her mouth. It was, according to the French physicist Henri Becquerel (of course he was French, EYE ROLL), impossible. I’d say I didn’t warn them because it slipped my mind? I guess? I’d say oops? BUT, NO. NOT THAT AT ALL. I had made it a point years ago never to go anywhere in a car with that dog unless absolutely necessary. If she’d broken a bone, I was like, um… what if we hire a magician to come here! Or a MORMON! YES! A Mormon! With fresh Heavenly Underwear!

No car ride! Everyone wins! The Mormons would win! My mom would be so proud and would bring them funeral potatoes and green jello with shaved carrots. GOOGLE IT.

Coco would howl and scream and jump over seats and turn acrobatic feats in the air. IN THE EFFING CAR. No matter where we were going, and she would not stop. Not even if you tased her—not that I ever did, was I tempted, COME ON! She’d loved to be tased! DO IT! MORE FUN! She’d ask, “Why have you not tased me before? That screaming was so satisfying. I’d like more.”

They were relating this story in the hours before her death, and I could not help but remember all the hours and hours she gave me at this one specific park in the city. I thank her in my book for walking with me after I would write for hours. We’d walk for a few miles every single day around the jogging path at Liberty Park, and I guess? I guess they attempted to take both ZuZu an Coco there one afternoon? Except, Coco sort of did Coco.

You know the dude.

The guy at the party who gets so drunk he falls into the pool and you have to call the cops because he passed out and he might drown and maybe (??) you want want him to (??) but you’re a better person than that.

They said they’d never in their life heard a sound like that. Never. Not like the one that came out of Coco’s face. And yes. Of course, it was was Coco, but it was also… The Park. That was where we formed our bond so strongly that if anyone of any age had tried to come between us she’d have mauled their face off and screeched, “MY BUSINESS PARTNER DOES NOT APPRECIATE THE INTRUSION, YOU LICKSPITTLE FART OF INGROWN TOENAIL MOLD. CAN YOU EVEN STAND TO LOOK AT THAT TINY PENIS OF YOUR—” and then I would quickly, quickly shush her. Because, come on, Coco. It’s not about the size, Coco. It’s about his taste in music. Period. Does he like the right country music? Because she and I were both like, if they don’t know the right kind from the wrong kind? They’ve got a stockpile of ammunition in their trunk. And really, REALLY like to say that they have a right to use racial slurs when singing along to rap music that they do not understand whatsoever. Both she and I dated those men. They had really, really small dicks.

Oh, do come for her. Except, guess what. She’s dead.

And, SO!

Two.

What was going to be the second most important part of this story.

Because I can’t write the rest of it—I may have got it all wrong. I thought the date of her leaving meant one thing. It may have meant something else entirely. And so this has become the most significant component of it to me. Today. Right smack dab in the middle of the night as I write this. Because who can sleep when the one companion who knew how to use “lickspittle” in the correct context had to leave? The companion who would hide under my legs because of the vacuum cleaner but would pursue and bite a chunk out of the leg of a teenage fucknugget who broke into my car, ran, and thought he could out-pace Usain Bolt. God, I hope his medical bill was outrageous. Maybe he got infected. Lets hope! Fingers crossed! And my mother put this on the temple prayer list because little asshole VIOLATED THE CAR OF A SINGLE MOTHER.

Mom, do not be cross with me. The Lord is smiling down at you with Coco beside him. And they are cackling.

See? I am avoiding it. It just hurts so much and I don’t want to hurt like this anymore. I cannot withstand this pain. I want it to stop, but I can’t. I have to run straight into the flames.

What Coco asked me before she would let herself go. There. Here we go.

Marlo was holding Coco’s head, I was cradling the midsection of her body. The vet told us that he’d first administer a sedative so that she’d be relaxed enough not to feel any pain. This is not at all how it happened with Chuck. That vet gave him both the sedative and the agent of euthanasia at the same time. I felt him go limp in my arms within three seconds and had no idea it’d happen that fast. And yes, the speed of that was devastating. I would warn anyone going through this to ask for a thorough explanation about EVERYTHING first. Trust me, okay? Because I am obviously coherent and making total sense.

This vet said we’d let Coco relax for about five minutes, so I knew I would at least get to feel her lungs fill with air on my arm for a bit more. And I asked her out loud to please look at me. Please. You who have been more of a partner to me than anyone in my life. Please. Please. Please.

Everyone in the room could hear me.

And she did. She looked me square in my eyes.

The co-host of my podcast and I recorded an episode about all of this yesterday, but in the last 36 hours things have so drastically changed that I can’t let it live in the world. A lot of it is a bit warped now. And so no one will ever hear that pain in my voice except my dog and my kids. But my co-host brought up a great point about dogs and their inability to look you in the eyes when you want them to, and I started laughing so hard. So hard. This is so true, anyone who has a dog is nodding and laughing and crying. Dogs are such shits.

Horrible, awful, lovable shits. The best shits on the planet.

When you’re like, “Look at me. HEY! HEY. Look at me. LOOK AT ME.” They dart and squirm and will hold your eye contact for all of two milliseconds before darting and squirming again. Because they think, oh shit. I did something wrong and I can’t count how many things I’ve done wrong? Seventy million? Probably double that? Not including the time she doesn’t know that I ate her red silk panties and vomited them up on the neighbor’s doorstep, except… I had not chewed them up very well? So they were very identifiable as red silk panties? OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD. So I have NO EARTHLY IDEA which infraction she is going to scold me about now, but I love her love her love her love her, and I am so sorry. SO SORRY. But, here’s the thing OH GOD I am going to do whatever horrible thing it is she’s mad about again and again and again.

“PLEASE LOVE ME AS I LOOK IN THE OTHER DIRECTION. IT DOES NOT MEAN I’M GUILTY BUT IT MOST CERTAINLY DOES.”

[it most certainly does, she knows it, she knows it, HOW DOES SHE KNOW IT? HOW?]

… pause…

[darts eyes]

… pause…

[squirms]

… pause…

[looks at me for all of a blip to say, “MAYBE YOU CAN PRETEND I DID NOT VOMIT YOUR SILK RED PANTIES IN THEIR LACY ENTIRETY ON THE NEIGHBOR’S PORCH. SMILE.”]


But she looked at me. That alone was so significant.

And I put my hand on the top of her head so that I could feel her pulse in my palm. And we stared at each other for a few seconds before I said out loud, “Coco, I love you so much and I need you to know this. This one thing. This very ONE thing.” I knew we did not have much time.

So I hurried.

“I want you to know that you were the very best business partner I ever had. The best. I will never have anyone like you ever again. You took care of them. You did.”

And then silently I said this into her eyes. I have not told anyone this:

“I made sure they were fed and clothed. That they had a roof over their heads and health insurance and stupid noodles with butter EVERY SINGLE NIGHT, you know. That was boring. And yet, you still you made sure the wolves never came. You made sure no one ever touched a hair on the head of a child who adored you. You protected the business. You kept your sheep safe. They trusted you. You were a master.

And then I added, “When you are done here I need one thing from you. I need you to go for a moment and watch over a very special someone to me, to someone close to me. Make sure she gets here safely, and if you see her and can feel how much how I care, give her a little bit of you.”

You would say that I’m lying if I told you that she nodded at me. Except. Hi, Stella. I expect to see some wild howling from you in a few years if not tomorrow.

That’s when the vet said he would be administering the agent he’d be using to euthanize her. And then I became desperate. I still held her gaze and gripped the top of her head even harder. And I pleaded with her to tell me. Please tell me. Please tell me. Anything she had left she wanted me to know. Because I knew she did. I knew.

I am not imagining this or conjuring it out of thin air or hoping that this is the thing that would have happened. I am not religious. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN THIS SHIT. But Chuck told me very specifically, in no uncertain terms, that he wanted to go. So I know without a doubt that this happened between that miniature Australian Shepherd and me:

Her: “I need to know that you’ve got this.”

Me: “That I’ve got this?”

Her: “I need to go. I’m so sorry. Please tell me you’ve got this.”

Me, stricken with exactly what she meant and then nodding furiously: “Yes, I’ve got this. I’ve got this, hon.”

And then I felt her pulse stop.

…..

That night at the concert venue? Yeah. What did I need to tell him. I guess I am still figuring that out.

That specific day. Two years to the exact day. She chose that one. I believe she was finally confident enough in me to allow herself to leave knowing that I’d figure it out. She needed the meaning of that day to reach inside of me and say, “You can’t fuck this up. And so, guess what, lickspittle twatwad. I choose January 10th.”

She chose that day because she knew that handing the baton to me on that anniversary would mean more than even the birth of my children. And it did.

My kids came into this world to help me live the fullness of my own life. Coco? Coco gave me her death.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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