For Joey and Steve, who helped more than they'll ever know, and for all my friends who've loved a dog.
I could talk about her forever and I probably will. She made me, you know. The me I love. The strong me. The me that knows how to stand up for myself. The me who can finish a marathon. The me who learned that being loved can be as simple as being open to accepting it.
She endeared herself to me instantly, little paws pushing at my knees. I loved her an hour later when, in the car, she nervously shat, causing her new older sister, Hannah, to try and bolt into the front seat. As Ex2 turned and reached into the back of the car, his hand went into the warm, wet pile of puppy poop.
Dickens would have been her name had she been a boy. She was full of it. The running joke was that the only thing that kept her alive was how cute she was. But she was beyond cute, really. I suppose gorgeous might begin to cover it.
She survived Ex2 leaving, trapped in her crate as much of her life, including Hannah, was packed up and moved out. I was at work and had no idea what was going on back at Walts Avenue. It was jarring to come home and expect two dogs to meet you at the back door, but to only be met with the whining of an upset dog.
We sat on the bed together in the guest room later that week and I said, “It’s just gonna be you and me for awhile.”
We were really good at it--new friends, dinner parties, bonfires. All the fun.
She loved her uncle Joel more than most humans, even getting in the trash and leaving puke deposit gifts in front of the door to his room. Joel lived with us for a couple of years and one of her favorite tricks was to make him believe she needed something—more water, a trip out in the yard—and then stealing his chair the moment he stood up.
Then Joey came along with the delicacy of a hippo performing a ballet. She taught Joey about eating poop, which thankfully, wasn’t agreeable to Joey’s palette.
It was really hard sometimes, being a single momma of two bitches, and I wondered if I made the right decision to bring Joey into the family. There were little scraps over toys or food once Joey was taller than her. There could be five toys lying on the floor and they would scrap over one. She destroyed some of Ex3’s stuff—two phones, a stocking cap, a baseball cap, and a wallet. If she would take something of his and destroy it, there was never a fight. If Joey took something of mine, like a hair clip, she would go after Joey. This seemed to be the only pattern and it never made sense because an hour later, they would be sleeping in a pile on the pappasan chair.
They would go months without incident and then try to kill each other. There was bloodshed, both canine and human. I now have a lovely scar on my wrist from the straw that broke the camel’s back one November day.
After several bites and several hundred tears, I decided that one of the bitches wasn’t going to live with us anymore. It was like Sophie’s Choice without Nazis.
“How are you deciding which one to get rid of?” was the most commonly asked question. I wanted to rip people’s faces off when they asked that. You get rid of bad habits or trash. These were my beautiful babies that I had fed, run, and loved since they were puppies.
I thought about that day in the pre-Joey era when she and I were walking down 15th Street and I realized I didn’t own her, and more importantly, she taught me that I really didn’t own anything but my spirituality. The house, the books, the pots and pans, the people in my life could all be taken from me. I was just lucky enough that the furry little spirit had chosen to walk through my life.
And part of my heart wondered if she had chosen to walk out of it that day.
Arrangements were made, introductions happened, but in the end, I just couldn’t let her go.
It probably also helped that during the introduction, she jumped up on the dining room table, something she’d not previously done, and stared at me like, “You have got to be f#cking kidding me right now.”
Then hope took over.
Hope is that thing. It triumphs over experience. It’s a tricky one, hope.
We were fortunate enough to get connected with a dog behaviorist. The whole concept was that he didn’t fix dogs, he fixed people. I had to learn to be the HBIC. I had to put myself first.
Joey had an easier time with it than she did, but I’d had four more years to screw her up at that point. All I really wanted was more miles and wags with my two bitches.
And that was exactly what I got.
They trained me for five marathons, several more half marathons, and lots of shorter races. They even ran a 10 mile race with me and the rest of the humans.
As the slow down started, the runs got shorter. Her shoulder took longer to recover. The naps got longer. The white fur started to fill in around her snout. She developed a tremor in her rear right leg that became more consistent until it was almost constant.
And suddenly, only one dog was greeting me at the door.
She was still happy to see me, but she was slow in getting off the couch where I’m pretty sure she spent the majority of her day.
More than anything, I wanted her to make the move to Oregon. I wanted her to see the ocean. She was so beautiful that day at the beach. Joey just wanted to chase birds, but my old girl was observing. She watched the birds and the kids, then dug in the sand for any stinky thing she could find.
The first couple of months here were stellar. Besides the ocean, we hiked, hit the dog parks, and did shorter runs around our new neighborhood.
Then she fell a couple times.
She’d pop back up because she loved to run. It probably hurt me more to see her fall.
And she’d throw up or have an accident while she slept, which even though it was annoying, I figured it was just part of getting old. I knew from the start I didn’t just sign up for a puppy.
And although she was still gorgeous, sometimes I didn’t know her anymore. Sometimes, she was confused and her actions didn’t make sense. Sometimes, she was absolutely fine.
Until she snapped at me.
She’d wander. She’d get lost in the closet. She’d get in the bathtub and not know how to get out, which would set her into a panic and she would pant and scratch at the sides of the tub. I would lift her out and hold her until she calmed down.
Until one night I couldn’t calm her down. We took her to the emergency vet where I learned that dogs could get dementia. I also learned that she had a significant heart murmur. I didn’t ask for a biopsy on the hard growth on her neck that had gone from a pea to a marble over the summer. At that point, pain meds and sedatives helped, but we would have to keep upping the dosage if that was the plan. And as my regular vet said, “The next step is a neurologist for a definitive diagnosis and unfortunately, this is not typically something a patient rebounds from.”
Along the north side of the Nike World Campus, on Walker Road, the Stones pushed through the ear buds, “You can’t always get what you want….”
It's so cliche.
It was the usual morning out here, cloudy with some drizzle, chilly, but not the bone-chilling cold I’d loathed for the past training seasons.
She was having a hard time that morning, keeping a bit behind me without really trying to get next to me. Joey’d always taken the lead for well over a year.
But I’ll be damned if Joey didn’t drop back for a couple blocks and let Alli lead that morning.
I knew it would be one of our last runs as a trio. I suppose Joey knew, too
“But if you try sometimes, you get what you need.”
We dropped Joey off at daycare last Thursday before we headed over to the vet. I sang her “Allison” by Elvis Costello, one I’d sung a hundred times for her, but “I think somebody better put out the big light, ‘cuz I can’t stand to see you this way,” almost broke me that morning.
We poked around the grass at the vet’s office until I was ready to go in.
I thought I’d cried all my tears. I thought I would have some sort of control of myself.
I knew that I wouldn’t allow her to waste into some sort of unpredictable beast. She was my best friend, she was my trainer, she was my most trusted confidant.
That’s what sucked the most.
Whatever was going on in her brain meant I couldn’t trust her anymore.
So I decided to let her go.
And as the vet gave her the overdose, he said, “God bless you, Alli.”
It goes so fast.
As she took her last breath, I collapsed on her body and wailed. I have never heard sounds like that come out of my body. It was the most raw, uncontrollable emotional reaction of my life.
As he checked for vitals, I heard him say, “She’s gone.”
She visited me in a dream over the weekend. Whether it was my subconscious sending me a message or her energy dropping by, I felt like it was her telling me she’s okay. She was running in a huge, green field and she was fast. She was so fast. She was Joey fast.
It goes so fast. 11 years in the blink of an eye. She survived friends, boyfriends, and jobs. She was the constant in my life and I can only imagine the hours I spent admiring those kind eyes of hers. She was special, but as W.R. Purche said, “Everyone thinks they have the best dog and none of them are wrong.”
After all the intensity and insanity of the week of November 8, 2016, I was reminded that a mindset or a movement is always greater than the parts of which it's made. Two Bitches is a mindset and letting that go with Alli would dishonor. #bitchlife has changed, but make no mistake, Two Bitches and Jules isn't going anywhere. We're nastier than ever.