This morning we stuffed my cat, Luca, in a mesh carrier for his first ever trip to the vet. He loves cozy spaces but on his own terms. I walked in cradling the carrier with my arms almost as if to hug him by association. Dramatic, I’m sure. Luca’s just getting his shots with a side of neutering but his fearful mewing, coupled with that of two antsy dogs out of their element was a grim reminder of my last visit to the vet.
In the summer of 2013, I came home sweaty from a night of Frisbee. My parents were on vacation and I have three dachshunds so I walked them before going out. I come home and our oldest dog, Cole, had what seemed to be a limp; a slight wobble in his back legs. I assumed he must have stepped on something so I set up a pillow bed next to my bed. Instead he cowered underneath the bed. It reminds me of Donnie Darko’s speech about his dog while he’s in therapy. I woke up and found him downstairs in our living room, sitting up. I tried calling him but he would only lean his head out before retracting. I called my sister, who immediately rushed over. She came in and Cole, momentarily unaware of his plight (and internally wagging I imagine), dragged himself over to her. His back legs sprawled out behind him. This would mark my penultimate vet visit, where I was given the choice to buy steroids, a surgery I couldn’t afford, or put him down. Give me the steroids, I thought. I may not be able to buy a surgery but dammit I could save him, right?
I bought the steroids and an antibiotic and called off as much work as I could to take care of him. I got him outside, cleaned him, and tried to keep him on both sides to alleviate any sores. And through the sores I thought he was looking better. Through the nail that fell out of his foot, I thought he was getting better.
A week and half later, on a Sunday, I woke up early to check on him before going to Wiffle ball. We had been keeping him in a crate overnight to further prevent or worsen any injuries. I tried to give him water and while he was drinking I saw the water was turning a pinkish color. I popped the top off the crate and saw the fleshy remnants of his back foot, now half gone. A bloody stump. And I couldn’t help but think, you idiot, and I wasn’t sure whether I was referring to Cole or myself. We rushed him over to the emergency vet, where the nurse gave us a laundry list of complications, consoling us with the recommendation to put him down. They gave him an afghan blanket and my last memory of Cole is him licking my face like a lollipop. How could a dog like that be so close to artificial death?
We got Cole in February of 2008. According to sources, he was the last one picked. He had a frail, elongated frame with a disproportionate head. I’m convinced he was better bathroom trained as a puppy than he was a man dog. He spent his youth playing, romping, and terrorizing our cat, Cat. Then in October of 2008 we gave him a brother, Chase. Cole was terrified of this little brown dog, who waddled around the house for the first time, taking it all in. Sibling rivalry ensued, of course. Our family began to choose favorites and, while Chase is great and one of the most adorable dogs I’ve ever met, Cole was always my favorite. He came to me in my mid-teens which comes with its own, uniquely packaged trials. A tiny pup, nearly forgotten, picked last out of his litter. Hey, I can relate. I thought. And while Chase was only a few months late Chase got the younger sibling treatment. Cole liked barking and running toward large dogs down the street until they turned to look at him. Cole would then spin around and run home. Cole liked rough-housing with Chase and my family’s adopted dog, Pasquale. Cole liked chasing rabbits through the alley, not knowing that he didn’t have to prove himself to us. After getting fixed, Cole loved eating. He earned the affectionate nickname, Mr. Fat. Cole hated fireworks and thunderstorms. Cole was neurotic and would get sketched out easily. And even though I let him down in the end, I like to think Cole liked me.
This is the long overdue memorial for the first pet I watched grow. A dog I still find myself weeping for when I find a hidden bone buried behind a couch or when I see a doppelgänger black and tan Dachshund hopping down the street. A dog that gave me the compulsion to block off chairs, couches, and stairs when I’m home alone and need to go out so Pasquale won’t have a height to jump from. R.I.P Cole.