Small Comforts

If you read my post yesterday, you know that we lost Diego on Saturday. When I took him to the vet thinking he had a bad tooth, I discovered his lungs were actually riddled with cancer and we had to make the decision to save him from a more agonizing slow death over the next two weeks. Obviously, I was devastated and as I completed the shrine for my friend Gloria, who died a few weeks ago and my husband Bob and parents as well as my sister Betty and her husband Denis, Leah and Ryan completed side shrines for their own departed family and shrines.

On Sunday, we went to a talk about death and the importance of making our life all we wish it to be and approaching Dia de Muertos as a celebration of our lost loved ones rather than a mourning. We then went to lunch and as we left the restaurant, we decided to visit a small crafts fair we saw set up in a tent a short way away. As Leah and Ryan browsed the aisles, I was drawn to a booth of small rescue dogs available for adoption. I watched little boys playing with five small pit bull puppies and then saw a beautiful woman approach with a small chocolate brown dog almost the twin sister to Zoe. She explained that it, too, was a rescue dog she’d found abandoned on the streets of Guadalajara. Her name was Chocolate and she was presumed to be about a year old. When she was spade, they had discovered she was pregnant with three puppies, all too small for survival.

Wanting to show her to Ryan and Leah, I asked if I could take her for a walk, and the lady said yes. I thought I would say I’d found a new dog, jokingly, but of course the joke was on me as we all fell in love with her. It was all Ryan could do to keep Leah from adopting one of the tiny pit bull puppies. At any rate, with no idea at all of replacing Diego, the synchronicity of finding a dog named Chocolaté—the same name as the dog stolen from my yard nineteen years before—who needed a home just as Diego had eleven years before, created the decision to honor Diego’s leaving with the arrival of another in need of a home, and so we welcomed Chocolaté into our lives as a living memorial to Diego. R.I.P.. dear friend and companion.

This morning, Chocolate claims Zoe’s favorite spot, nuzzled into Mom’s neck and hair.

Small Comforts

On this particular Dia de los Muertos, death feels more personal, less a remembrance of past losses and more a dwelling with a recent one. The new little dog buries herself closer, her snout beneath my neck, nose snuggled into my hair. Her long pointed ear brushes my glasses frame.

Finally stilled from the excitement of a new sister who is nearly a reflected shadow of herself, Zoe sleeps in the long cavern between my knees and ankles so I am swaddled in small dogs. Not a recompense for the loss of my old friend Diego, but rather a slight adjustment of attention, a comfort of sorts, consolation like the hug of that stranger in the vet’s office yesterday morning, after we had sent Diego to his final sleep.

Not the same thing as Diego’s past gentle nuzzles for attention as I lay in the hammock, fitting in those moments of mutual attention before Zoe’s insertion of herself between us, demanding attention from us both. Here is no filling of an empty space, but rather the creation of a new one in my life. One not unaccompanied by problems, for although she shares Diego’s calm exterior, she also shares Zoe’s propensity for mischief. Minutes after we arrived home from the craft fair where I found her attached to the leash of the Guadalajara vet who had rescued her from the street and harbored her as she looked for a new home for her, I found her on top of the the altar, eating the dead bread in front of my friend Gloria’s picture, ignoring the dog bones in front of Diego’s. The papel picado on the front of the altar had been shredded by her ascent, the pot of marigolds turned on its side. 

Just that morning, Zoe had stood to snatch the bread from in front of the side altar Ryan had constructed for his grandmother and friend. Peas in a pod, these two chiweenies, one blonde, one the color of chocolate, like her name, pronounced Chahcōlah’tay, in the Spanish manner. 

Now as I lie in bed, this new intruder whistles into my ear with each breath, huffing as though it is an effort, or like blowing out birthday candles, puff by puff. It is a trial joining. If it doesn’t work out, I have the kind doctor’s phone number who promises to drive back from Guadalajara to reclaim her. She breathes wheezingly into my ear, as though one time for each second of her short life. 

I recall Diego’s gentled breathing there on the floor of the vet’s office. All of us coming down to her comfortable level as we administered that last relief, her lungs filled with a foreshadowing of an otherwise more painful death. So it is myself I cry for as the tears slide out again––an indulgence I can’t seem to stop. The new small dog adjusts her ear away as my sideways tears drip onto it. She nuzzles closer, and Zoe digs herself deeper. Small comforts in an inevitable world.

 

 

While looking for my favorite photo of Diego, which I still haven’t found, I came upon this laudatory poem written in his honor a few years ago, so it seemed fitting to publish it again. Here is a link: https://judydykstrabrown.com/2020/05/08/hail-diego/

37 thoughts on “Small Comforts

  1. Marilyn Armstrong

    Dogs do seem to arrive when we need them. Cats, too, but especially dogs. Chocolate really does look like a mirror image of Zoe. And clearly, they have some kind of chemistry between them — which is exactly perfect. I know one doesn’t replace another, but you needed a dog and then, there was Chocolate.

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  2. slmret

    I’m happy to see that Chocolate appeared at just the right time — when you needed not a replacement for Diego but a new space in your life! And it seems that Chocolate and Zoe will be best friends — I’m glad that Zoe doesn’t seem to be jealous, and I hope Morrie will also adapt easily. I think the spot on your roof where Diego stood in the long-ago photo might make a good place for a memorial ‘statue’!

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  3. TamrahJo

    ahh…Judy – my heart goes out to you during this journey – the fact that sometimes things show up to become new part of our life, when we aren’t at our best or haven’t yet, fully mourned/laid to rest those who came before the ‘new’ – I know – I, too, have walked this type of path before – the decisions to be made at vets, the observing of a life winding down, the arrival of ‘help! needs good home!” request ever before I was ready to dive back in and give a shell of a heart as if it was unbroken by recent events – and yet, looking back?

    Not a single four-legged that appeared on my personal request/radar to ‘provide home for’ – that showed up when I was ACTIVELY saying outloud, to any two-legged in my circle of ‘nope – not looking – not healed – move on – I have nothing left to give nor am I capable just now, of providing all you THINK I will – for your charge” – well –

    The four-leggeds just showed up in way that I could not justify saying no too – and we met/tried each other on for ‘size/fit’ and then did “well – we each are buying and we each are on a 30 day or more, return policy – for each other….let’s just see how it plays out and if we truly like each other/the home front/pack we will share, once the ‘all sales final’ mark happens –

    Take your indulgences all and as you may – if you write here, I may comment upon or try to send you long comments to show support – and well – at the end of the day – we each show up with our best BUT also – our best varies from day to day, time to time and in the end, it’s all about whether we commit to each other and learn fully – where we help/show up for each other or where we each have freedom to work out our lil foibles born with or learned over our lifetime of experience thus far –

    hugs and loves to you, your home pack, your family, your new additions, while it all plays out … ❤

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  4. Martha Kennedy

    A lot of experiences with dying dogs who seem to have moved on knowing another dog needed me more. Ariel died of a snakebite and that night I learned of two huskies who desperately needed a home because the man who abused their person was being let out of jail and the place to which she was moving wouldn’t allow the dogs. Jasmine died suddenly of cancer in her neck a day or two before I had my first hip surgery. As soon as I was kind of walking again I saw a post on craigslist that said “Your Husky.” Another woman was in a shelter for abused women. The animal shelter that kept pets for women who’d gone to the women’s shelter only kept them 3 months and Cody was about to be put down. I went to meet him. I walked with him and it was the first time after my surgery I was able to use just one crutch. That dog matched me step-for-step. I have long list of these stories — the last is Teddy whom the local shelter was desperate for me to adopt. He came home and about a week later Dusty died of a stroke. And Bear? Turned out her birthday is the day I had to put 17 year old Lily to sleep. There’s no coincidence in this stuff and I don’t know how it works but…

    Welcome Chocolate, with all my heart! I know you’ll be good to Judy! 🐾❤️

    Tambien, El Dia de los Muertos es el cumpleaños de me hermano.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Yolanda shook her head when I told her Chocolatés name. She said that was a male name.. so I changed her name to Cocoa which means the same. Zoe and Cocoa sounds cute. I’d spell it Coco but in Spanish, that means coconut. I may change my name and spell it Coco anyway. What do you think?

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  5. Judy Reeves

    Oh Judy, I’m so sorry for your loss of your dear heart dog, Morrie. Sending love to you and welcome to the newest. Amazing story. I look forward to what’s next. xooxoJudy

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  6. isaiah46ministries

    Judy,
    Because of the difficulties of my recuperation, particularly physical therapy twice a week, many days I just deleted all my emails, not having the strength to read them. So, I missed the post announcing the passing of sweet Diego and the coming of Chocolate. I am so sorry for your loss, but seeing the way that the new dog and Zoe are giving you comfort and joy, reminds me that in all of our difficulties, hopefulness and joy are possible. I needed to be reminded as I deal with the pain of the complications from back surgery. I needed to remember that “weeping will endure for a moment, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Thank you and my sincere condolences.

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      So sorry to hear of your pain, Regina, but as to your optimistic reassurance, let me say that for a month I could barely walk due to Scoliosis. Then I came down with this terrible cold that had me flat on my back for ten days… but, because I had to get up for my writer’s group that meets at my house, I discovered that due to those 10 days in bed, my back pain has gone away…and I lost 7 lbs. in the past week which might have something to do with the eased back pain as well. So, just proving the truth of your assertion! I too staunchly believe that good comes from the worst things that happen to us…not that we’d have those worst things happen, but once they do, the thing that keeps us going is looking for the best within the worst. oxoxoxo Get well soon. I love our occasional meetings here…

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