Rascal was exactly four months shy of his 11th birthday when he died Mothers' day morning. In some ways I feel like I've lost a child. To me pets are like babies who you know will never grow up and who will most certainly die before you do. Getting so close to one is ridiculous because you know when you get it you'll have to one day deal with this dreaded day. I loved this dog so much I can't even explain it to you. He was my snorty little gargoyle who protected me from evil spirits. Until I met Jeff, he was basically the only life form on earth I really ever trusted to be there for me.
He came to me in 1998 when I was in college working on Sideshow. Another actor on the show named Angie Southwell was using him in a sketch and I thought he was the most hilarious creature I'd ever seen!! I'd never seen a dog with such a human looking face that looked like Winston Churchill or Ringo Star or maybe just a combination of a bat and a pig! I jokingly asked her, "Can I have him?!" and much to my surprise she said yes. I think she was giving him away because her boyfriend couldn't stand his snoring and she was also moving away to CA.
He was so confused when I had to take him away from Angie. He cowered in my apartment and peed on my notebook when I stepped out for something. This fear of abandonment would haunt him for his entire life. He would often do mischievous things to get my attention if I looked away for one second. Every thing he did seemed to be a part of a brilliant comedy act and he ended up in three episodes of Sideshow. He constantly made people laugh. It was all very subtle- the way he would throw over his food bowl, stomp, and pout if he wasn't fed in a timely manner or the way he'd go crazy when he saw a basket ball or the way he'd kick his legs and snort after he pooped or how he leaped in the air to catch bubbles in his mouth. My friends all know, I took him to everything I could because he'd throw a fit if he was left behind! We had fun with him though and so many people and dogs have fond memories of the little snorter. He was pretty hyper and some people didn't like him- but for the record I don't think any of those people were really dog people.
Rascal died very suddenly. He was very active until the end and was still doing that thing where he tries to kill his leash on the last day of his life. I had been wanting to get his teeth cleaned again since late last year. If the teeth in a dog aren't cleaned the bacteria from the mouth can get into their kidneys, get into their heart, and generally ruin them inside. I took him home to Michigan for Christmas and took him to our Michigan veterinarian Dr. Berg. She's a wonderful vet and I haven't found one half as good as her in Los Angeles. She discovered that Rascal had a heart murmur and he had the beginning stages of congestive heart failure. She warned me that if I got his teeth cleaned it would be risky and that he needed to be on antibiotics but it could be done.
When I came back to Los Angeles with him I took him to a couple vets. None of them said anything about his heart murmur until I told them. I asked them how much it would cost to do his teeth and the estimates were in the $600-$700 range for all the stuff they'd have to do. I didn't have the money to do it so I made up my mind that I'd take him back to Dr. Berg as soon as I could. I saw how she kept my mother's dog Holly alive for years like a zombie who just kept coming back and back. I waited until Jeff could take some time off work and go with me. Also, I didn't do it right away because the thought of giving him up made me feel sick and I feared that he wouldn't make it back again to be with me. At the same time however he was having a lot of accidents in the house. I couldn't tell if it was old age, jealousy over my new romance, or a combination of the two. It was enervating to say the least. As the days went by he was still spry enough to sprint up the canyon yet his breath grew heavier. I knew these days could be the last so I made sure to hug him a little closer and give him more kisses on the head.
Last Wednesday we took him back to Michigan in this little bag under the seat on the airplane.
Everyone near me on the plane crowded around and commented about how adorable he was. A woman in the airport kept laughing hysterically each time we'd run into each other. She cried, "I thought he was a PERSON!! HA HA!!" Some other guy ran up and snapped a photo, "This is the cutest dog I've ever seen!" he exclaimed. This was typical, Rascal was a star everywhere he went it seemed.
When we arrived at home my whole family was there to greet him. The were all so happy to see him again and excited to help him with his medical needs. My mother had just gotten a new Jack Russell terrier and Rascal was to be his new buddy. They played rope pull together and of course Rascal's steel jaw won. You could always pick him up by whatever was in his mouth at the time.
My mother's orchids were all in bloom:
Here is me sitting in the space where my bedroom used to be- when my childhood home was there- as you can see it was gorgeous out and we took Rascal and the new dog Jack on walks together by the lake.
This was Rascal on the last day of his life... still following me around as he always did. It's strange but it still feels like he's following me. When I sit down it still feels like he's sitting at my feet- only I don't smell any rancid sulfurous farting anymore. :)
Jeff snapped this photos shortly before I left him with his new buddy:
My family all ate a big dinner together and I cuddled Rascal while watching the Dogville silent short films in the living room. Those nights Rascal even got to sleep in my bed again because my parents wouldn't allow Jeff to sleep in my bed. (STRICT!) For months Rascal has had to sleep alone because Jeff couldn't handle his loud snoring I believe this has weakened him. Still, on his final day you really wouldn't have guessed he was going to die that night.
I gave him a final hug before I left and he melted into my arms and it was a really good hug good-bye. I clutched him for several moments and told him that I loved him very much and that I wanted him to get better so I could take him home again.
My mother called me in the morning to give me the bad news. My brother had taken the dogs for the night on Saturday night since my parents left town for Chicago. He found Rascal dead in his living room like he'd just gone to sleep around 9 am.
Everyone was in shock and I could hardly even talk to my dad on the telephone today because he was choking back his tears and I was blithering like a fool. My brother felt awful and responsible. It wasn't his fault though. It was just Rascal's time. His kidneys were giving out. You could tell by all the water he was drinking. Rascal was sicker than he let on and I think he was just waiting until he could see everyone one last time.
Something made me leave this resurrection cross that I picked out for my first communion on my mother's kitchen table. It's a cross with Jesus on it but he's not all scary and emaciated- he's clothed, ascending into heaven, and smiling. I wasn't sure why I did it at the time but it all fits with such synchronicity now. I'm not exactly a "Catholic" or even "Christian" anymore but the resurrection cross & the way of Jesus Christ is still meaningful to me. I'm really glad that I didn't have to find him dead and my family took care of it. I've been dreading that since the day I got him. As it stands I only really have very happy memories of him. He was a dog but he helped me evolve so much. He taught me to learn to care for something other than myself. I wish I could've been there to hold him in his final moments. I hope he doesn't think I just abandoned him there and that he knows I left him there to try to help him.
Anyway, he was a wonderful little creature and I hope you enjoyed him as much as I did. I loved being his mom and it's fitting he died on mother's day. I hope that after reading this you hug your friends and family a little closer. We could all just be gone at any moment.
And here's the second sad entry I wrote in my regular journal:
Oh RasCAL... little dog who slept with his EYES OPEN and snored louder than any human alive! I miss you so much you snorty little batlet! You were so weird just in the same way I am. You believed in me (when no one else did) and loved it when I sang to you. Your life and death were all so poetic and I'm just so happy that you were mine. I am so lucky. Losing you makes me realize how much I care about everyone else around me and it is a gift. Even though you were "just a dog" you were truly a member of the family. We all loved and cared about you so much. We weren't this sad when members of our human family died because you loved us unconditionally. In some ways you are so much more evolved than us and you brought us so much closer. Thank you little creature for spending so much time with us. I hope that people after reading this will go to their local shelter and adopt a dog or cat. The joy a pet brings you is priceless and it's something no one can ever take away from you.