Thursday, February 25, 2016

More on Piper

Forgive me.

This is harder than I thought, and I'm not done yet.  I plead the title and purpose of my blog: my memories and thoughts.  It's why have a tiny following.  I write for myself therapeutically, and today I need some extra therapy.

This morning I reread what I'd written yesterday.  It was a raw write, and I hadn't the heart to do much proofreading.  This morning I noticed that I'd mixed things up and scrambled my verb tenses something awful, and my first instinct was to go back and fix things, quickly.  But then I decided not to.  My mistakes are a reflection of the confusion I was feeling about how to write about Piper, my difficulty in placing him squarely into the past.  How can he be in the past?  Of course, he is.  But the dawning of the new life without him doesn't come as quickly as the breath left his little body.

For over sixteen years he was with me, next to me, under my bed, under the table, behind me in the study on the floor or (before it became uncomfortable for him) across my lap in my computer chair as I wrote.  He was at the door when I left, and there to greet me when I came home.  "Mommy be right back!" I said to him, over and over.  "Hello tiny puppy!  Are you happy to see your mommy?"  I ran a constant narration of what he was saying and thinking, often out-loud.  "Someday," he always said, "someday I will grow up and have a seat at the table and eat with the rest of the family."  Laura says this is what makes her saddest of all, that when he died he was still just a lowly pup.

He lay on the tub mat outside the shower while I showered, and then he tried to lick the coconut oil off my legs after I moisturized.

He loved bananas.  He always ate the end of my banana.

Yesterday I did not realize that we were still in the middle of it.

I got up after not sleeping, and we still had to deal with the body.  There was a sense of urgency and incompleteness.  An unrest.

Shawn donned his giant red down jacket and took a shovel, a tool for pinching roots, and a blue tarp out to the backyard.  In blowing snow, he dug a deep hole, deeper than his knees.  I watched from the kitchen window, that scene, weather in black and white, black tree trunks, horizontal blowing snow, and muffled by the snow, the red of Shawn's jacket and the folded blue tarp on which he heaped the dirt he was digging out of the hole.  He looked far away, out there beneath the pines with their long, faded green needles.  When Shawn finished digging, he headed back up to the house.  I met him in the garage where Piper's body lay shrouded in a cardboard box.  The commonness of the cardboard did not reflect the affection beneath the surface.  Shawn opened the box and gently pulled the white towel around Piper's head so he would not get dirt on his face.  He lifted the little towel-swaddled body out of the box and carried it out of the side door of the garage.  I offered to help, but he said he would do it alone.  I closed the door for him; his arms were full.

Back in the kitchen, I watched from the window as Shawn carried that bundle back to the hole.  From a distance, Piper looked like a baby in a blanket against Shawn's chest.  Shawn gently laid the bundle into the hole, then knelt at the side of it and reached down to make things straight and tidy.  He paused for a moment before proceeding.

I think I must have turned away while Shawn filled the hole.  It was instinctive, not a decision.  I didn't even realize until afterwards.  Then the snow continued to fall, and soon a fresh blanket of white covered the grave site, and you couldn't even see any signs of anything.

I thought I felt better then, and surely there was a sense of something finished.

We had a routine at bedtime.  Shawn would take the dogs out one last time, and I would prepare their medicine for them to take in cream cheese. Shawn would come in the front door with them, dry their feet, and call to me, "Are you ready for The Running Of The Doggies?"  When the meds were prepared in their cream-cheese-clumps, one on my left index finger for Piper, and one on my right index finger for Schu, I would say, "Yes!"  Then Shawn would release the dogs and they would come racing madly down the hall for their med-u-seen.  We always called it med-u-seen.  They liked that; it made it sound more like a tasty treat.  Last night, Schubert came for his medicine, but it was not the same.

When I went to mount the stairs to go up to bed last night, it hit me.  There was no featherweight dog to scoop into my right arm and carry up from the dark downstairs to the cozy bedroom.  I have done this every night.  Every single night.  Even on his last night, Tuesday night, I had carried his laboring body up to bed.  But last night, Wednesday night, there was no dog to carry up.  I could feel him anyway, the way he settled into my arms until we got to the top, and then he shifted his weight forward to jump to the carpet in the hall.  He had done this right up to the end, but last night he was gone.  It felt empty and off balance.

I hesitate to say this next piece, because it is a great secret, but I just want to remember it so badly:  I almost always go into my closet and pray before bed.  I did not like this about The War Room movie -- I felt that it violated my privacy and trivialized my secret practice.  But that is probably just pride in me anyway, that I should think I do something unique, so perhaps it is good that I talk about it.  Anyway, Piper routinely used to nose his way into my closet and lie on the floor behind me while I prayed, his quiet little comforting presence.  He was so there.  Just there.  Near.

The tears that tiny creature absorbed into his soft white fur.  His quiet little patience and animal way of knowing when I needed him.  His kisses that went on and on, licking and licking.  "I love my mommy.  I love to be with my mommy.  I love when my mommy holds me."

This morning it was the same.  I went to scoop him up and carry him down the stairs to breakfast, the way I always do, but he wasn't there.  I felt it all the way down, and the way he wasn't there to lean forward to leap to the rug in the foyer at the bottom.

It might be a sin to have a dog become such a part of you.  I am exceedingly grateful to God that Piper lived another almost three years after we moved here to Illinois.  It was so hard, the way I lost the kids in that move, so excruciatingly hard.  I cannot imagine how much I would have hurt if I had lost Piper at the same time.  God is gracious, God is good.  God must know that it was time for me to say good-bye.  God is my solace and my comfort, but He used Piper to console and comfort me through many years.  I used to stroke that little dog's head and be amazed that God made Piper.  God made Piper, and He gave him to me.  I still can't believe it.

Piper was minuscule when, at six weeks of age, he came into our home.  I remember holding that tiny bit of fluff in the palm of my hand on the drive back from the breeder's house in the country, trying to calculate the price we had paid per pound which, at that point, was rather astounding.  He used to levitate off his back feet when he was eating, and look anxiously over his shoulder to see if one of his brothers was trying to steal his food from him.  When he was very new and still missing his brothers, he used to see his reflection in the sliding glass door and try to play with himself.  He was always fastidious and neat.  He was extremely soft-mouthed when taking a treat from my hand, and felt terrible if his teeth even brushed my fingers.  He was a good, good dog, and we enjoyed him for more than 16 years.

(This is a picture that makes me laugh.  
Piper never was any good at keeping 
himself combobulated on a leash, 
and he would get awfully disgruntled 
when he was tangled up.)


Hope T. said...

These pictures! He is so cute. He sounds like a sweetie in temperament, too. Again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Ruthie said...

Thank you. He was a real beauty.

Shawn Carpenter said...

And I miss him EVEN THOUGH he tried to rip my lips off. :)

Priscilla said...

I'm sorry for your loss, Ruth.. Sad for you. I know how it feels. I still miss our dog. The house seemed so empty after he was gone. I kno you are experiencing that too.

Ruthie said...

Thank you.