Frankenweenie

“You’re in rare form.”

Those are words spoken often in our home and they only pertain to two potential outliers: Me or our psychotic dog, Winston. 

A few years ago, I wouldn’t have described Winston that way. In his earlier days, he was only somewhat quirky. All that has changed with age. It’s a little hypocritical for me to label him so when the aging process has affected me also. I have added patch upon patch to my quilt of eccentricity in the past decade and my daughters truly fear the weaving process will accelerate until I’m living on one of their sofas in my t-shirt and underpants with applesauce perpetually dribbling down my chin. But I digress, this is about Winston.

Even in his state of mental disrepair, Winston is still capable of teaching us valuable lessons. 

He teaches us persistence daily. The dog is incapable of making a decision but he is perfectly persistent in his indecisiveness. When you let him out, you will see him perched at the door literally seconds later begging to come back in. Once inside, he circles the den before standing beside the door with a look of desperation to go out. All of this in a span of 23 seconds. And it continues until he gets tired and falls asleep in a heap.

The poor old guy is getting fatty tumors all over his body. We had them checked at the vet and she said there wasn’t much to do, as long as he doesn’t disturb them. As if on cue, Winston found one too alluring to leave unmolested. It was… on his weenie, of course. 

The whole situation was tense and uncomfortable to talk about. His weenie grew. At first, we tried to ignore it like we did when he was a young buck who might have had use for it. Oh, he was fixed, but that didn’t seem to always prevent his amorous attentions. 

But this was different. It grew a big lump. This is also where the biggest life lesson Winston can teach comes in. Gather round children because we all need to get this one: We don’t bite our privates. Fortunately for most humans, inflexibility has taken care of this for us. But Winston caused himself a big problem, a surgery, and a vet bill inversely proportionate to his weenie’s new size.

I’ll spare you the visual evidence of his size reduction. In the immortal words of George Kastanza, “There was shrinkage!”

There were so many stitches, thus the name Frankenweenie, and Winston had to wear his donut for a long time to prevent further damage (remember his persistence). He didn’t like his donut and had no capacity to adapt his spatial awareness to compensate for his extra girth. He ran into everything. It was kinda funny, but also a little sad. Poor old guy.

And I’m finishing this post at 2:50 a.m. because his bladder seems to have shrunk along with his frankenweenie. I’m not one to disparage and old man needing nighttime relief – I’m over 50. But Winston… he gets distracted. Just now I found him under the deck eating the scraps from our grill. I’m not even sure he relieved himself – but wait, maybe he’s trying to teach me another lesson of some kind. 

I have no clue what it might be, but… a burger sounds pretty good right about now. 

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

I wonder about things like that. It’s nice to think of the good dogs in our life walking beside us in great beyond. What about the bad ones? Did they never get a chance here but deserve a break in the afterlife?

I made a big mistake fourteen years ago and would like for some young simpleton to profit from my stupidity. Here is my advice: if you lose a beloved old dog, don’t immediately take four sad children and your big-hearted wife near a pet store that frequently holds adoptions. You will end up with a puppy, I assure you. We did. She was a cute little black thing but she was a handful.

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Someone found her playing in the road when she was five weeks old, too young to be weaned. But with no mother dog in sight, the rescue took her in and then we did.

IMG_0020I never really bonded with her. With work and a big family, maybe I had too much going on in my life, I don’t know. She bonded with the girls though… and she ate quite a few of their toys. We took her to obedience classes. She failed. Nothing stuck. She still ate toys. She wouldn’t mind.

But she was always sweet to the girls and never, ever growled or snapped at them or their friends. Besides the typical puppy stuff, we discovered that she was obsessed with the game of fetch. That dog would knock over anything and everything in pursuit of a tennis ball. In fact, we had to ban them from the house because she crashed into children over a ball more than once. When she was a puppy, that wasn’t a big deal. When she grew to a 90-pound menace, running over kids became a problem.

Her back legs began to wear down early in her life. She struggled mightily when it got cold. Over the past year, a knot began swelling at her shoulder. The vet said it was bursitis, but things began to turn. She was getting old, slowing down and we knew the time was coming to make a decision – the worst decision a pet-owner has to make. When she stopped eating, it became obvious. A Saturday appointment was made.

We were in the den Friday and she began methodically licking her shoulder. Like I had for the past year, I told her to quit. But then it dawned on me – what does it matter now? She has less than 24 hours left.

Lick away, Misty.IMG_1422

That night, the girls all spent time with her. When they were little and we had company, Jenna and Kylie would forfeit their rooms for the guests and sleep on the floor with the dogs. They thought that was really cool – to sleep with the dogs. So Jenna decided to spend the night on the floor with her.

It dawned on me that Kylie would take the next shift.

We all piled in the little room at the animal hospital and saw her peacefully away.

I have a vivid picture of Kylie waiting with a tennis ball… smiling and calling her name. The first of her family to come home to her.

“Come here, Misty. Come home… good girl.”

Do all dogs go to heaven?

I don’t know. It’s a theological question too lofty for me. She wasn’t a great dog. I wasn’t a great owner, either. But she was loved and she loved my girls. She did her job here and had a good run – 14 years for a dog found playing in the road.

I think of the two of them running and jumping on perfect legs – bound by earthly maladies no more – and I find that I really hope dogs make it.

Have a good fetch, Misty. Take care of Kylie until we come home.

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