Suburban Snapshots

The Summer We Lost

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Well folks, it's been weeks since I've written anything substantial. That's partly because we've had a full (I'm not going to say busy because busy is apparently a bad word now) summer, and partly because when something significant happens like my dog dies or my Nana dies or my other dog dies, I need to acknowledge those events before getting back to business as usual. I guess it's a good thing I waited, because three depressing posts in a row might be more than some of us could handle. Instead I'll compile this grief montage, throbbing 80s ballad not included.

It's never an easy thing to decide to put a dog down. I hate to say it's something we've gotten "better" at, but we have experience. You have to find the unique formula that balances your emotions, compassion, finances, and empathy. Four years ago, when our dog Bert grew a bone tumor that eventually led to blindness and pain, we knew we weren't going to put him through surgery that would dismantle much of his face or through the long recovery. We knew we couldn't front the thousands of dollars for the MRIs and procedures he'd require, and that there would still be a chance the growth would return. Bert was only six and wiggling like a puppy when we brought him in for his last appointment. God that sucked.

A photo posted by Brenna Jennings (@suburbansnapshots) on


We adopted Henry in 2004, already a handsome three-year-old and having fathered dozens of equally attractive pet store dachshunds. We were child-free with disposable income, so when he herniated a disk months later, we spent about $5,000 to bring him back to health. I learned to express his bladder while Steve would "walk" him outside our city condo, bent over to support Henry's back end. But 11 years later with another paralyzing injury, an estimate of $2,500 just for the diagnostic MRI and now a 14-year-old dog, surgery wasn't an option. We carried Henry in, sad but sure in our decision, and held him as he quietly went still. Then he peed all over Steve.

I'm going to awkwardly shim my Nana into this post because chronologically, this is where we lost her. There's no way I could fit all that she was and how much she meant into a paragraph, everyone should have so many stories. Nana always wore a suit, ready for church at any moment. She was born again, and so warm that I'd be confused when I'd meet the kind of born again you're thinking of each time I say "born again." She lost more children in her lifetime than even my highly-productive sister has birthed, and raised seven to adulthood. She was Italian but my uncle once joked that "Nana got a microwave so she can burn dinner in seconds." She was full of humor and faith, and I'll always think of her not just as a woman but as a force. Nana will always be around, just a prayer away. I still don't have my beliefs sorted out, but I know Nana's here. I guess that's a start.

It was a week after I heard from my sister's best friend via text that Nana was gone when Mauser started limping. We hoped it was a strain but two trips to the vet and continual worsening told my gut otherwise. We'd jokingly called him "The Temp," having adopted him at age 11 or 12, knowing we wouldn't put him through interventions at his decline. Mauser belonged to one of the children Nana lost, my Aunt Mair, had been well-loved, and had made his way to us. We recognized his first day here that he was too big and too hairy for this house, and that he would spend the balance of his life here anyway. Maui and I walked Anna to and from school every day. He learned that routine within a week and nudged me each morning and afternoon. He followed me everywhere to the point that I'd almost step on him getting out of the shower or find him on the front lawn, having squeezed his 86 pounds out of the terrier-sized doggie door to trail me to a neighbor's. I'm still finding his hair everywhere and wonder if there's enough DNA left in it to clone him.

Summer though, on balance, has been really nice. Sunny days, local adventures, far-flung visitors, many cocktails, weekend trips, we've enjoyed it all. Anna might remember this one as The Summer Mommy Cried Like Ten Times, or maybe she'll remember going to the water park with her cousins, the beach with her dad, swimming in a thousand pools, tasting her first lobster or moving into her new bedroom. My own summer memories are full of poolside Cheetos binges, bathing-suited bike rides and Tom & Jerry marathons. Maybe summertime makes the losing a little easier. 

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