Dear departed Gizmo, we lay thee to restPublished 6:19am Sunday, April 28, 2013
Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster
Sometimes we get to choose our beginnings and endings, but most of the time they choose us.
Friends, I’ve told you about Gizmo, my bald Pomeranian. I told you how he came to live with us 12 years ago and how lucky I was that he chose me to be his person. I told you about his health problems — all the nights we spent sleeping on the couch together after his seizures had frightened us awake. I told you how much I loved him.
What I didn’t tell you is that Gizmo died on Thanksgiving. My husband, Graham, and I were taking our twin daughters, Clara and Gertie, to Michigan to see my parents for the first time. The prospect of driving 11 hours with two five-month-old babies was intimidating enough without inviting a couple of lapdogs along for the ride, lapdogs who took the “lap” part of their moniker quite literally.
We’ve left Sidney and Gizmo in the kennel many times. They mix it up with their friends and get to see how the other half — dogs that weigh more than six pounds — lives. Yet, something about this trip didn’t seem right, and before we left I said to Graham, “I have a horrible feeling I’m going to come home to one less dog.” I wasn’t sure why. Gizmo hadn’t experienced a setback for a while, and Sidney was his usual hardy self. I chalked up my premonition to melodrama brought on by exhaustion, and we left the kennel with the dogs barking happily behind us.
Premonition became prediction became reality, and sure enough, we received a call Thanksgiving morning telling us that Gizmo seemed weak and unsteady on his feet. He was taken to the animal hospital, but he was stable. Of course he was stable. Gizmo always rallied. I’d gotten used to hearing how sick he was and then watching him beat the odds, but not this time.
Gizmo was played out. A very kind and sensible veterinarian explained to me that his condition was grave. After a long and valiant fight, Gizmo’s organs were at last shutting down. There was a 50 percent chance that the doctor could keep my dog alive long enough for me to make it home to say goodbye, but it would take extreme measures.
I asked if Gizmo was suffering. He was. I asked if there were any chance Gizmo could recover enough to have some quality of life. He wouldn’t. I held the phone away from my face for a minute while I caught my breath, and then I asked if someone would please hold Gizmo close while he died. And I let him go.
Now, nearly six months later, I’m standing at the kitchen counter writing this as Gertie and Clara eat their dinner, or throw it off their high chairs, but why dwell on technicalities? Without Gizmo I might not have these babies, this life for which I’m so grateful. Tending to his needs made me feel useful while my continued failings to carry a child made my body feel useless. The only thing he required was my care, and I so desperately needed someone to care for.
Gizmo was the kind of companion we wish people could be. Faithful, steadfast, protective, funny, a little nuts, he was my best friend. For the months I was on bed rest, waiting for the twins to be born, Gizmo laid under the bed. On the rare occasion that my feet touched the floor, I wasn’t sure whether I’d step into my slippers or a dog. He was always there, staring up at me with his baby seal face. I can only imagine he was as bored as I was.
When my friends and family found out he’d passed, several said they thought Gizmo died when he felt his job was done. I think they were right. As much as I knew I was responsible for his quality of life, I believe for all those years he thought he was responsible for mine.
The night he died, the hospital offered to save his ashes for me. They suggested I spread them in an area where Gizmo liked to run. Even then I had to chuckle. “You mean like from the food bowl to the fireplace?” I asked. Gizmo never quite had the call of the wild.
I didn’t want his ashes. That wasn’t Gizmo. Gizmo was a wrestling match with Sidney. Gizmo was my parents sneaking him steak under the dinner table. He was a cuddle on a cold day. He was company during a long night. He was a place for my tears to land and my head to lie. I didn’t need his ashes when I had years of him inside me.
The last gift he gave me was the day on which he died. Thanksgiving will always be a day I count my blessings, and among them will be a little, loyal, bald Pomeranian. I will say, “Thank you, Gizmo” on that day, but I will remember him always.
Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.