“Well George, it’s just you and me,” I said this tiredly as I came into the house this sad Monday morning. George looked behind me, hoping to spy his sister Weezie strolling in behind me. Alas, Sister Weezie was not coming home, she was getting the rest that only the very best girl can get after thirteen years of dedicated service.
I’ve mostly been in a two-dog household for almost thirteen years. There have been two gaps in my home that I was living with just one dog. The first time was about 6 years ago when Weezie and I were learning to navigate life after we had put down Gus, the glorious Labrador. Weezie experienced what could only be described as deep grief after Gus’s passing- she lost a ton of weight, slept most of the day, and refused to play. Her fears increased and my sassy girl was a shell of herself. It took many months to coax her out of her grief and build a new safe place for her to exist. She was finally doing just fine.
And then came George.
“Did you see that dog?” I asked my friend Leslie as we strolled around the State Fair of Texas one beautiful fall evening. It’s entirely possible that it was beautiful because of the large margaritas we were quickly drinking, but I do recall, it was a rare fall-essque night in North Texas. “Wait, there it is again!” I spied what looked like a short black lab. “Since when did the State Fair allow dogs in?”- My friend side-eyed me and said “they don’t, it’s a rescue group down at the other end of the park” Fueling up with another margarita, I decided to go check out the dog rescue and see if I could lay eyes on that interesting looking pup, that I was certainly not going to rescue. We walked to the rescue corner and there he was, looking so regal, a longish-eared black labrador. I was smitten. And drunk. I sat down next to him, started petting him and with the ease that only tequila can provide, I scrawled out an application and agreed to have this dog for a visit the next morning. I was going to “foster” this dog, certainly not adopt, but just be a halfway house for this sweet one to two-year-old pup that was claimed to be “an old soul.”
Back to Georges’s arrival at the house. As I mentioned, I imbibed heavily on wine-based margaritas and not-so-accidentally ended up in a dog rescue area. I should pause here for a moment and tell you that whereas State Fair Margaritas are delicious, the hangover from said drinks is hellaciously bad. Bigly bad. Terrible. No good. The doorbell rang at 10 am with the rescue group and in came George.
George the Carnie Dog from the State Fair of Texas, who upon further analysis, minus the glow of alcohol actually seemed a LOT younger than I was told and had that loose skin that only a young pup has. After he literally bounced OFF the walls and onto Weezie’s back, I realized that I might have made a mistake.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, the first few weeks were not idyllic. Just the opposite really. Weezie and I had carved out a nice little spinster life of our own and now this loud, boisterous, hurling ball of dog was taking up a lot of space. I mean, A LOT OF SPACE. He took up so much space and made SO MUCH NOISE. Have you ever met a basset/lab? No, good. It’s not a combination that should have occurred in nature, but here we are.
George filled the space that needed to be filled and Weezie agreed to tolerate him living with him and only had to take him down a few pegs about ten or twenty times. After a while, we easily settled into a 6 year run as a two-dog, one-human household. Weezie, my middle dog, so easily pulled all of the puppet strings on this young pup, but he was in charge. He looked to Weezie for guidance and then ensured that her orders were carried out. Weezie was quiet. George was not. This odd pairing of the Dog Jeffersons, as we liked to call them, was a match made in doggie heaven.
Fast forward to the summer of 2021, or rather, I prefer to call it, the summer of suck. Early in the summer, I broke my leg and needed surgery. Weezie girl, easing into her thirteenth year was very content to be my nanny dog and lay next to me throughout most of my recovery. George was there as well, but much more mobile. By this time, Weezie’s arthritis was terrible- she was on significant doses of anti-inflammatories and had figured out how to do life, moving only when needed. George moved enough for all of us.
At the beginning of August, George got into something. I’m still not entirely certain what he got into or what got into him, but he had a horrific reaction to something and lost his vision and his ability to walk. Being non-weight-bearing after surgery, and living the knee scooter life, I called in friends to help me get my young pup to the vet, all the while, Weezie looked on from her pile of comfortable dog beds. We let George sleep off whatever this unknown assailant was at the vet, and I came home to a thrilled Weezie girl. She got full mama attention and frankly didn’t seem to give pause for one moment that her pain in the ass brother was gone. In fact, I think she was a little disappointed when he rallied the next day and came home, barking, giving kisses, and loudly making his presence known. I was thankful for one blissful night that allowed me to pour on as much love as I could onto my girl.
In the month of August, it is hot in Texas. Really hot. So hot that the central HVAC struggles to keep the house cool. Weezie was hot and uncomfortable. It didn’t matter how cold I made the house, she never seemed to be at peace. She started stumbling more and more and one morning took a fall that I knew was a sign that it was time. That dreadful time. Again, I needed to call for help as I was still on the knee scooter and was unable to get her out of the house and into the car. Hell, we both needed help. It’s important to say that George was beside himself the day before this happened and as we were loading Weezie up to the car, he was howling from the back room. I drove her to the vet, calling the techs to come to get her from the back of my car. It took two strong techs to guide Weezie out of the car and into the clinic. Thirty minutes after arriving home, I received a call that no one wanted to get. Weezie girl is old, and there isn’t much more they can do to make her comfortable. I was sitting on the couch with George next to me, whimpering, sad that he can’t find his sister.
The next few hours were a blur- between arranging for a ride to the vet to say goodbye to my sweet girl, finding someone to stay with George, and coming home. I just know that when I walked in without her, George changed. I changed. Grief took over the house. It was quiet. I hadn’t realized how much noise she made just living- clickity clicking slowly down the hallway with her long nails playing a song on the hardwood floors. Her snoring filled the nights and just everything in between.
When I came home that day, I cried. I cried for my Weezie. I cried for myself. I cried that this loving creature of mine was no longer in pain. I cried for my own pain and I cried for my George.
George, my incredibly loud, naughty, playful pup was subdued. He whimpered from his bed. He paced the floors. He returned to both doors multiple times looking for her to come into the house. He stopped eating. He still looks for her daily, as if she is coming home from a long walk that he didn’t get to join. He is sad. Never before allowed to, he now sleeps in her bed in my bedroom. He seems to spend more time on her beds than his own. He only climbs up with me in the mornings, something new and different. Before Weezie died, she would sleep in the corner of the room in her bed keeping watch, and George would fling himself across my bed. Even our sleeping arrangements have adjusted in her absence.
I miss the constant shadow of my girl. She followed me everywhere, and I found myself having an ongoing, one-sided conversation with her for thirteen years. George could be bothered to stay by my side during the day, instead, he is withdrawn and just lays on one of her many beds. When I start talking to him, as I would Weezie, he just falls asleep. I had a connection with Weezie that I don’t think I will ever replicate in another dog.
Humans understand what grief is. We know what sadness is. We have the capacity to communicate loss and how much it sucks. I’ve now witnessed two dogs both experience the loss of their pack and it is simply awful. Watching my normally boisterous pup be sad, lonely, and listless is truly more heartbreaking than the decision that I had to make on that Monday morning. I still have not picked up her remains from the vet. They are ready to be picked up, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. It’s just a step I’m not ready to take.
In this past summer of suck, I’m so lucky to have gotten to spend so much time with my beautiful girl, and I’m so lucky to be home to help George navigate this season of grief. As we transition into fall, we are just going to take each day, and try to do what we can do. This season is temporary and to be honest, I find myself occasionally bellowing across the house “GEORGE SHUT THE ACTUAL HELL UP.” Until then, we take grief day by day, treat by treat, nap by nap.
It’s all going to be ok.