A Valentine for Zip

P1010203This is the post I was going to write last Friday.

And then I just couldn’t.

Even, now, a week later, I’m tearing up as I write.

See, last Thursday, our old dog, Zip, died. He was almost 15 – old for a border collie – so we were expecting it. Braced for it anyway. You know how it is. For the last couple of years he’d been getting skinnier and more unstable. Two years ago we bought a ramp for him to walk up to get in the back of the Jeep. Not that he liked to use it. He’d always try to jump in and out anyway – which his joints just couldn’t take.

His two favorite things in the world were riding in the Jeep and going for a walk. Keeping him from crippling up so he could continue to do those things required more and more elaborate efforts on our part. He never quite understood that his body didn’t work as well as it used to – a blissful ignorance.

Zip was a beta dog. Or gamma. So far from being alpha, that we often shook our heads at his sheepishness. The cats bossed him around. He lived the first part of his life with our very alpha female border collie, who pretty much oppressed him. After she died, he  changed so dramatically, gaining weight and spirit, that David decided Zip deserved to be an only dog from there on out. It was a good choice. David was the sun and center of Zip’s universe. That dog loved being near David and being his constant partner.

So, though we’d been braced for it, the actual event took us by surprise.

He’d had his usual walk the night before, had been doing his usual things that morning. David came into my office and said Zip was acting foggy and would I give him a B-12 injection. We’d been giving him weekly B-12 boosts for the last several months and it had really helped. I did and went back to writing.

David came in again and said “I think he’s dying.”

Zip was lying belly-down on the floor, weaving his head around like he couldn’t see. He liked us petting him though. We sat beside him and he turned onto his side, breathing getting erratic and legs stretching. His tongue lolled out, which made us think it was a stroke. We briefly discussed taking him to the vet, but decided against it. We doubted the vet could do much and it seemed to be moving fast.

Indeed, within a few minutes, Zip sighed his last breath and was gone.

It was a lovely warm day, so we cleaned him up, took him outside and buried him. There seemed to be no reason to delay. Still, from him clicking around the house to being buried in two hours was kind of wrenching for us. I canceled weekend travel plans and we spent Valentines Day in mourning.

We’re doing better now, learning not to listen for him. David has been going on the evening walk without him, which never fails to trip my heart.

And, though, we’d said that, once Zip died we wouldn’t get another dog, David is changing his mind. He’s been talking about a puppy.

I’m good with that.

From the Nerd Journal

Some of my writing friends refer to them as the “fur family.”

I love how the two cats and the dog seem to enjoy each other’s company, as unnatural as the relationship may be. It’s warming to see them be affectionate with each other.

One of the small things that make daily life a joy.

Sometimes, I wonder if it’s true that life is all about high school. My mom once told me that a counselor-type said that we spend our whole lives living down or living up to what we were in high school.

This has been on my mind lately, because I’ve been back in touch with people from high school. On Facebook mainly. It’s interesting to see how the social positions have blurred and changed — or remained exactly the same — over the years.

One of my old friends started an online literary magazine. She doesn’t exactly count as a high school friend, because our friendship blew up just before 7th grade. And it was about popularity. She wanted it and was determined to have it. I wanted it, but was sure it couldn’t be mine. In her indominitable way, she seized our new school by the throat and became the cool girl. I kept my nose in a book.

We’ve since repaired those fences. I wrote about our adolescent angst in Wyo Trucks without her permission. She since read it and gave me her blessing, which meant a great deal. And she asked me to submit to her magazine. Which I did. And she’s holding onto a couple of pieces for future issues. She asked another friend of ours from school to contribute her photos.

When the first issue came out, there was much excitement in our little group. Photographer gal wrote a nice thing about it on her blog.

I felt left out of the party.

To make it worse, another boy from high school had several pieces in there. And yes, he was way more cool than me (part of the “Best Couple”) and, in all truth, still is. He’s got a new book out and is in a cool band. My book is five years old and no one has read my novel yet, which is (gasp!) genre anyway.

And it’s stupid, but I’m feeling all those things I felt in the hallowed halls of our school. All the ways in which I was not A-list. I was not the “Most” or “Best” anything.

In some ways, everything does continue to be about popularity. Marketing your work as an artist is about drawing attention and having people like you. Some try to pretend that it doesn’t matter, that your work stands for itself, but does it really? If you want to make any money on it, people have to pay money to have it — and that’s all about them wanting it, which in a very direct way is about wanting you.

What’s funny is, the other half of the “Best Couple” wrote in my yearbook that she admired the way I’d stayed true to myself all through school, that I hadn’t changed to be popular. And here, I just thought I was stubborn. Perhaps something of a coward.

So, am I living up to what I was, or living it down? Would I go back and change my choices?

And all I come up with is, I wouldn’t change who or where I am today. I might feel my nose is pressed to the glass while the party goes on inside, but I think we all do, depending on what party we feel left out of.

Really, I never liked parties that much. I’d rather be reading a book.