Goodbye Eddie (2011-20)

IMG_0099Today the wind is roaring like a March lion, but yesterday — Super Tuesday — was a day when the sun smiled on Cambridge, drawing people out to vote and to walk around Fresh Pond Reservation without needing winter coats. Those out walking and jogging with and without dogs had an extra spring in their stride, as if the sun had momentarily melted their anxieties over the future of our democracy, the state of the economy, and the spread of a global pandemic. New England can be counted on to test our mettle with a series of false springs, and politically Super Tuesday was no exception for our hometown presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren. The day began triumphantly with the sun warming hundreds of cheering supporters who turned out to greet her at her polling place, but it ended by delivering a blast of winter in the chilly election returns from outside of Cambridge and its ring of liberal cities (Somerville, Watertown, Arlington and Belmont). 

I will remember this Super Tuesday not for its unexpected sunshine or for Joe Biden’s surprising comeback, but as the day my husband and I woke to find that our dog Eddie had died beside our bed. We don’t know the cause; he had begun to seem disoriented and unwell as we went to bed, but we had no reason to think that whatever it was that ailed him would prove fatal by early morning. Born on Tax Day 2011, Eddie was almost nine, and his sudden exit from our lives leaves us sad, confused and lonely.

IMG_0218So much about Eddie will always be a mystery. He was not one of those uncomplicated dogs like Senator Warren’s Bailey that you can take anywhere and trust to be friendly. Photogenic as Eddie was (I lovingly documented his early cuteness on this blog), he grew up to become a “reactive” dog who was nervous around strangers and other dogs to the point where I could no longer take him to a dog park. I gave up trying to bring him on my walks at Fresh Pond once he started to refuse to even go in that direction. He set clear boundaries for our walks, but he never explained his reasons.

For Eddie, the best defense was a good offense. His bark was his warning to keep your distance, and outside he barked indiscriminately at people of all ages with and without dogs. He lunged at construction trucks, school buses and even bikes that passed too close; if I’d lost grip of his leash he’d have been run over any number of times. He barked when the doorbell rang, but once a visitor had been welcomed by a family member he settled down and sweetly accepted their pats. Mornings, he was a curly-haired lamb who snuggled with our cat in their favorite sunspot on the sofa. Evenings, he waited to eat his dinner until I was home so we could enact our ritual of me chopping some raw carrots to sprinkle on top of his food. Outside, he was hyper-vigilant, growling at holiday decorations and giving a wide berth to random objects left curbside on trash day. Indoors, he spent a good part of his time under the dining table chewing on bones, toys and and cat food cans that he pilfered from the recycling bin when we forgot to place it out of his reach. He only responded to “drop it” with the offer of a treat, and some days he even demanded a treat before he would go out for a walk. (I know, I know…he had us wrapped around his little paw.)

IMG_0061We Cantabrigians joke that we live in a bubble. Nationally Super Tuesday’s results left little doubt of that, and by the end of the day there few smiles among Warren’s many local supporters. The bubble had burst. If it were up to Eddie, our bubble would be hermetically sealed, a world populated only by family, a few of our close friends, and the handful of “nature dogs” he spent time with on group walks with his beloved Kip. Our neighborhood streets and sidewalks would be his alone to explore, so he could finally let his guard down without the constant threat of another dog approaching or a truck grinding its gears. The weather inside Eddie’s bubble would alternate between full sun and fresh snow, with no windy or rainy days. The yard in his bubble would feature a private swimming hole and a mud pit for wallowing on hot days. In his bubble there would be no thunderstorms or fireworks, and the newspapers and mail would be delivered silently. The front porch would be off limits to door-knocking candidates and unsolicited vendors. Every day would be Thanksgiving or Christmas because he was happiest when our entire family was gathered under one roof. We will miss him the next time we are all together and on the too-quiet days between.

A bubble wouldn’t have made Eddie immortal, and we know it’s risky to retreat into bubbles in a world that demands even greater connection and cooperation. Dogs can help pull us out of ourselves. Maybe what Eddie really needed was a dog of his own.


Cutting the Apron Strings

Can there be 4 centers of attention?
Can there be 4 centers of attention?

As the mother of three mostly-grown children, I thought I was long past worrying about separation anxiety. Not that my kids ever gave me much to worry about on that score; all three were socially confident from the get-go, cheerfully waving bye-bye on their first day of preschool and always excited for play-dates and sleepovers at friends’ houses. In this era of helicopter parenting, I’ve always taken a certain pride in my children’s independence and self-assurance.

So it simply never crossed my mind that my puppy would be the one to suffer from separation anxiety. I first realized this Eddie was not cut from the same cloth when he was about four months old, and I dropped him off at the local doggie daycare center while I went on a job interview. I wasn’t overly concerned that he whimpered and tried to follow me out the door; I was sure that as soon as I was out of sight, I’d be out of mind. I figured he’d have a blast playing with new pals and forget all about me. Little did I know! Continue reading “Cutting the Apron Strings”

A Meetup for Little White Fluffy Dogs

Rufus & Eddie meet up
A L(B&)WFD & Eddie meet up

When I moved to Cambridge almost twenty years ago, I made friends through my children. Once the three of them were in school and I went back to work, I made friends at the office. Now, unemployed and with my kids mostly grown, I’m making friends through my puppy. Continue reading “A Meetup for Little White Fluffy Dogs”

Eddie & Riley Forever

“He has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive. Otherwise, he leads kind of a dull, miserable life. I don’t envy dogs the lives they have to live.”
Charles M. Schulz on Snoopy in an interview with Gary Groth (The Comics Journal, Dec. 1997, Issue #200)

Eddie (L) & Riley
Eddie (L) & Riley

I don’t know a single dog person who doesn’t anthropormorphize her canine companion, whether because, like Schulz, we discount the rewards of living a non-human life, or because our dogs become our surrogate children – and what parent isn’t guilty of projecting her own hopes and dreams onto her offspring?

So, what if real dogs were like the cartoon Snoopy, longing to go home to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm to be reunited with their siblings? There is plenty of scientific and anecdotal evidence to support the psychic connection human twins develop in utero, so why wouldn’t dogs forge a similar bond with their littermates? I’m pretty sure they do, based on how visibly my five-month-old puppy, Eddie, yearns for his daily visits with his sister, Riley. Continue reading “Eddie & Riley Forever”

One Day at a Time

Sleeping it off
Sleeping it off

Out with my puppy early this morning, I was thinking about how the expression, “One day at a time,” applies to the process of housebreaking a dog. Today I slept half an hour later than usual (until the lazy hour of 5:30 a.m.!) and woke to find that, like an addict in recovery, Eddie had slipped, breaking a streak of four days and nights clean and sober – that is, without an accident in the house. Disappointed in my dog, I was also angry at myself for letting him down by oversleeping. And he had been doing so well! Continue reading “One Day at a Time”

“And they called it puppy love…”

Eddie at 5 weeks
Eddie at 5 weeks

In the month since we adopted Eddie, I’ve been reliving the elation and exhaustion of being a new mother. It’s been seventeen summers since I brought my youngest child home, but the feelings are so familiar that I’m constantly having to remind myself that my new baby is… a dog. Some people dress up their pets; I prefer to think of Eddie as a small boy dressed in a dog suit. I half expect to find a zipper when he rolls over for a belly rub. I imagine these are the same emotions that Stuart Little’s mother experienced when she noticed her second son “looked very much like a mouse in every way.”

In the lexicon of technology innovation, Eddie is what’s called a “disruptor.” Like a Fortune 500 company in a mature market, my family has had to rethink the way we do business and to adapt following Eddie’s arrival, starting with a few facility changes: guests will notice the absence of rugs and the addition of some rather unsightly plastic barriers blocking off part of the living room and the stairway. We’ve all had to become more nimble, dodging Eddie’s razor-toothed assaults on our shoes and pant legs and clearing the floor and low surfaces of objects that might attract his rapacious jaws. I’ve had to adjust my daily routine to accommodate his need for frequent walks and close supervision, and stock my pockets with dog treats and bio-bags. During this time of transition, the old (feline) technology has retreated upstairs to sulk and plot their re-launch strategy.

And yet, despite the disruption and the considerable time-sink that house-training a puppy poses, I am utterly smitten. Puppy love: I’ve got it bad. Continue reading ““And they called it puppy love…””