Somewhere around ten years before my mom moved in with me, my father was still alive and my mom worked as a day care provider - a very special kind of day care provider too. I used to describe it as "Adopt a Grandma." My mom loved her kids in the daycare and to this day still remembers all of them. I remember them as invading the house in waves; first there was CJ, then Colby and Mark and eventually Colby's little sister, etc. My mom was helping to raise a generation of millennials - please accept her apologies.
After several batches, after I was married and living far away from home, when my father was terminally ill from emphysema, she cared for her second to last batch of children. This batch included a couple of sibling girls, a little boy who only wanted to wear stripey socks and and a furry child, a little shih tzu named Nixon. Nixon belonged to the sibling girls, Sophie and Sasha.
How did my mom become a dog sitter? Easy, every morning when the parents of Sophie and Sasha would walk from their townhouse only a block away from my mom's house, Nixon would follow along. Shortly after meeting the little dog who was born on the day our Nation's 37th president died, my mom fell in love. When my mom falls in love with something, she dotes on it. By doting, I mean she feeds it cheese. So, after several, weeks, months, a year maybe, Nixon got his own serving of Kraft American cheese slices and soon took up residence at 725 just like the kids at the daycare.
|My father with Nixon ~1999|
They didn't expect to find her the perfect companion at the Alexandria Animal Shelter, it just happened. If any of you have ever adopted a dog at the pound, you may know that there are rules: a representative of the shelter has to meet with all of the people in the household, they make an in-home visit and adopters must have a fenced-in yard. My mom was convinced that my dad would never make the incredibly long, twelve mile journey from Arlington all of the way to Alexandria to meet this dog at the Shelter, but she coaxed Mary to convince my dad for her and about an hour later, the three of them stood in front of Felix, a two-year-old shih tzu at the Animal League of Northern Virginia.
I got a call from my mom, letting me know, out of the blue, that finally after 28 years, I had a little brother. She told me that his name at the pound was Felix, but she thought Felix was cat's name. She was going to change his name to Clinton. "Clinton!" I said. "That's ridiculous. So, you're going to have Nixon and Clinton? What a copy-cat. And a shih tzu? Seriously, that thing is going to need a hair cut more often than Dad." I wasn't nearly as sweet back then as I am now :)
|Calvin sleeping on my dad's head|
Regardless of my feelings for my mom's new pet, Calvin was great for her. She walked him close to three times a day, resulting in a 65 pound weight loss! Then she started eating better food, and talking to the neighbors and taking Calvin to the pool when it was opened for pets at the end of summer.
Calvin proved to be a faithful sidekick for my mom, a companion with whom she watched Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune. Her little bed partner and her support system when my father died from complications from pneumonia. There were few things my mom did without Calvin.
|Calvin holding my coat hostage|
|The first time I met Calvin|
A few years after our move to Illinois Calvin started acting his age. It started with his vision. He developed cataracts, he got an eye infection and he came down with arthritis in his hips, which made going up and down the step in our living room difficult. Both my mom and I recognized this, but didn't really talk about it.
I have always compared the two of them with E.T. and Eliot; one gets sick and the other gets sick or one worries, whilst the other paces the floor - that sort of thing. Thinking about Calvin's mortality reminded me of my mom's and that is not a subject I want to ever think about.
This weekend was the end of an era. My mom and I had to make the tough decision that many pet owners must eventually face. We decided that it was time for my little brother, my mom's little buddy to be put to sleep. Shockingly, my mom handled it with strength and poise. I, on the other hand, did not do well. I kept apologizing to my mom and felt so guilty for not being more present in Calvin's life. Also, I felt remorse for not showing my mom that I indeed did love my little brother.
I feel strongly that we made the right decision, because Calvin was in misery, he couldn't stand, he couldn't go to the bathroom easily and his hacking cough which had been waking us up in the middle of the night, turned out to be congestive heart failure. As the doctor administered the sedative, I watched our little buddy drift into a peaceful sleep and all of us were put at ease because Calvin's suffering had come to an end.
Calvin deserved to rest. He had a tough job for eighteen plus years - being a play toy to a revolving door of rug rats, letting an old lady force feed him eggs and bananas and being dragged out by yours truly for super-long walks with his super-short legs. Calvin's easy job was to make my mom happy. He provided her unconditional love and he always gave her something to talk about. My mom is going to miss the heck out of him and I am worried about what this loss will actually mean for her.
The thing I am most surprised over is the impact this little seventeen pound dog had on me. I am going to miss him too... a lot more than I thought.