Heads or Tails?

“Heads or tails?” the Humane Society Manager asked… I said “heads” (I think)… My heart was beating so fast. Just like how I felt before a basketball match we played, or a race I had to run at a track meet. The man next to us, was wearing a white butcher’s coat… A young man, in his 30s, still older than us… We were the better family for the dog. I freaking brought a toy with me… We got everything for him… I visited him 3 times that week… This man walking in the last minute, filling up an application… and taking our dog away.. The dog we are supposed to adopt. I was upset, I was mad. No one told me there were so many applicants… And we came 1st thing in the morning… It was not fair…

10 days earlier:

I was watching TV in our 1 bedroom apartment in Memphis, the 1st year we moved to the US. It had been probably only a few months since we moved. We got married in July, we moved to the US in August… My only experience of the US before Memphis was Miami and Los Angeles. Memphis was a long way from those experiences. I missed my friends, my busy life in Istanbul.. but I loved our little life… Small city, small university, small group of Turkish students, night time business classes, lots of history, good food and lots of crime… It was Southern US at its best. I was 25, still very young, somewhat naive(r)…

I was shocked to hear from the anchorman who was holding 3 beautiful puppies on his lap that these pups were on their way to die that day if not adopted. I had no clue at the time that Memphis Shelter put down (that is the US dog rescue term for euthanasia) 1500 dogs a month… All good, healthy dogs… unfortunately treated like trash, trash of people who thought they were disposable…

So those of you who know me, at this point can guess, I called the TV station, saying I would adopt one of them… They said, I could call the Humane Society. So I called the Humane Society… They said, all those pups were adopted… BUT, there were many more… Many more that needed someone like me. (Some delusion-ed individual like me who would want to adopt a puppy.)

I went to Humane Society that day, walked about the cages, and saw the most adorable, white shepherd mix… I walked a bit more… a chocolate lab mix. He had a splash of  white on his chest, he was chewing on the lock of the cage (I should have known better)… I fell in love… I walked to the front desk told them I was going to adopt him. They said, “great” could you fill out this application. So I did… And they said “he needs to be neutered, and needs his shots. He is still a bit young for his shots, but he will be ready to go in 10 days”…

I visited him 3 times that week. I didn’t have a lot to do. The Humane Society was close to the University and I missed our family dog back home. The volunteers knew me by the time I visited him the last day. One of them told me that a few other families wanted him… “But” they said, “don’t worry.” “First come 1st served, if you come early tomorrow, you will get him.” So I woke up my husband at the crack of dawn, and we were at Humane Society before everyone else. Until the “butcher” man walked in… and it was a coin toss, so much for first-come first- served.

Some of my friends tell me I am unlucky. Things that didn’t happen in other people’s lives found me… like getting robbed at gunpoint… or the fact that I always lose at card games when we play. I actually think I am a very lucky person. I scored well in this life with a great family. Amazing friends… And I won quite a bit at contests. Once a few thousand dollars in college from the Turkish Lottery. (that money was well spent on bars and clubs at the time with my friends :)… So I thought, I would win…

The manager asked, “if you don’t win will you adopt another dog?”. I said, “of course”. The white shepherd mix… The butcher man said “No, my kid wants the lab”… I knew I was going to win at this time. Still I felt bad, if I won there will be one dog adopted that day…

So the coin was tossed in the air, then dropped to the counter. I couldn’t see it. and Emre said “we won!”… the butcher man left immediately. We were jumping up and down and a volunteer was saying “we wanted YOU to win!”.At this exact moment, the “butcher” man walked in.. “Will you take $150 for the dog?”……….. (the adoption fee was $50). “wha-?”… I said “No, thank you”… then I thought, if I give him the choco lab, another dog can be adopted. But do I want to give this dog away to someone who would try to auction a dog. I said “No, thank you” again…

We named him Bono, for Bono of U2. My favorite not-much-known-in-the-US-band at the time.  I should have known better, that bands and my taste in music and other things would change in the next 15 years… As U2 became famous in the US, no one asked what Bono meant anymore. I was eventually upgraded to a fangirl, naming a dog after a the now capitalist Bono 🙂

bono4

I don’t remember much after that… other than mini-memories of our life… they say your life flies like film before your eyes when you die… so maybe it’s something similar to this :

…mini memories of Bono sleeping lazily in our arms on a blanket on the grass at the park… Bono chasing ducks… Bono chewing my favorite red shoe… I didn’t know about it. The shoe fit a bit tight… I told my husband.. he said “maybe your feet are swelled up”… I then learned, months later, when I found a 3rd red shoe in a closet that Bono chewed the original and my husband bought the exact pair for me… Bono chewing more shoes… Bono chewing our couch… Taking Bono for “training” only to hear that “owners need to be trained”… Moving to a bigger house with a yard for Bono… Going to Shelby farms so Bono can swim in the lake. Starting a Dog rescue group… Saving dogs, Bono being so nice to all dogs… Especially loving the hound/lab brindle mix… So we adopt her too… We named her Buffy. (for Buffy the Vampire Slayer) Busy life, more responsibilities.. moving to NY… finding an empty loft that will allow dogs… not moving to NY because of Sept 11… coming back to Memphis.. starting a new business. Taking dogs camping… deciding that dogs can no longer sleep on our bed… dogs object… Buying our 1st house… renovating, renovating, renovating… dust on dogs, dust in our nose… sitting with dogs on the porch.. going on runs with the dogs… going camping… getting pregnant.. Bono putting his head on my tummy… can he hear the babies?… being on bed rest for early labor. Lazy days with dogs.. family everywhere… so much love in that house… babies… not one but 2… I am not jealous of anyone’s belongings… I am jealous of their sleep. I am up, babies are up… babies crying… 3 am… feeding… crying again 3:03 am… sleep… crying again 3:16am. Bono & Buffy are looking at me like “see what you have done… you silly gurrlll”… husband is up, brother in law is up… 3:20 am in that house… is like a mad house… walking the next afternoon calmly in the neighborhood. I feel like Noah’s Ark’s captain. 2 adult humans male/female, 2 dogs male/female, 2 babies male/female…

And then life went on… In the 15 years that we shared this life with Bono I went from someone who didn’t lose much, to someone that could lose a lot… I lost my Mom to cancer… That same month,  I almost lost my husband when he got shot during an armed robbery… We lost our female dog to cancer…

It is not much compared to what some of my friends and people I know have lost… they lost spouses, they lost children… however, in this silly matrix or whatever that life is, my dogs brought me so much joy… at some point in time, I guess I was starting to become wiser I envied my dogs… I saw qualities in them that I knew I could learn from. Only if I could be like them… Such as:

1- unconditional love- such a cliche.. but you know it when you get it and then it doesn’t feel like a cliche anymore, it feels like you are more important to someone than you are to yourself… My dogs didn’t care who I was.. They just loved me. Not because I fed them. I knew from rescue that, even horrible owners were loved by their dogs… I always thought no one would love me as much as my Mom.. but then I thought, my dogs probably loved me more.

2- the joy of seeing someone come through a door- only if we could open our hearts to people coming through the door. Humans are selfish. We are suspicious when the doorbell rings. Even if it’s a friend that we love so much. We greet them with “oh, hey there.. come on in”.. where you know how your dog greets you… in human terms it would have been “a jumping on a lap, tackling someone to the floor and kissing them…” we are not even capable of giving a hug that lasts more than 3 seconds. The door can be anything… dogs live life with an open door, expecting goodness… we live behind closed doors, mostly scared and suspicious.

3- wagging that tail- one day were were walking at Shelby farms I think… A huge urban park with lakes, biking trails… Bono was wagging his tail just full of joy. I also loved Shelby Farms. But if someone looked at me from afar they couldn’t know my joy… I wanted to wag my tail… and skip on the trail like he did… all with a wagging tail and a nose up sniffing the air…

4- sniffing butts – personality analysis through the smell of hormones… oh how I envied this… my life would have been so much better… but without the ability to sniff butts,  I learned from Bono not to trust anyone before I was close enough to be able to smell them 🙂

I couldn’t bring myself to write about Bono sooner… it has been more than a month. It broke my heart this time… There are so many more pains in this life, I am almost embarrassed to admit feeling this much grief after losing my dog. Not that it compared to my grief when I lost my Mom. I guess I am just getting older, and our dogs dying remind us of our own death. As my Mom wisely put it one day “the hardest thing in this life was that we had to love mortal beings”… That life is so fragile for everyone around us and we are only here for a certain time… and when that time comes; what is left behind are mini-memories and… a certain smell, the memory of a touch…

Again, as I wish each time I lose someone I love… I am hoping that they are existing freely in another dimension.. Hopefully with people we love… with no pain, no insecurities or worries of the mortal kind… and with wagging tails for everyone…

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In honor of National Poetry Day today… By Pablo Neruda

A Dog Has Died

 My dog has died.
I buried him in the garden
next to a rusted old machine.

Some day I'll join him right there,
but now he's gone with his shaggy coat,
his bad manners and his cold nose,
and I, the materialist, who never believed
in any promised heaven in the sky
for any human being,
I believe in a heaven I'll never enter.
Yes, I believe in a heaven for all dogdom
where my dog waits for my arrival
waving his fan-like tail in friendship.

Ai, I'll not speak of sadness here on earth,
of having lost a companion
who was never servile.
His friendship for me, like that of a porcupine
withholding its authority,
was the friendship of a star, aloof,
with no more intimacy than was called for,
with no exaggerations:
he never climbed all over my clothes
filling me full of his hair or his mange,
he never rubbed up against my knee
like other dogs obsessed with sex.

No, my dog used to gaze at me,
paying me the attention I need,
the attention required
to make a vain person like me understand
that, being a dog, he was wasting time,
but, with those eyes so much purer than mine,
he'd keep on gazing at me
with a look that reserved for me alone
all his sweet and shaggy life,
always near me, never troubling me,
and asking nothing.

Ai, how many times have I envied his tail
as we walked together on the shores of the sea
in the lonely winter of Isla Negra
where the wintering birds filled the sky
and my hairy dog was jumping about
full of the voltage of the sea's movement:
my wandering dog, sniffing away
with his golden tail held high,
face to face with the ocean's spray.

Joyful, joyful, joyful,
as only dogs know how to be happy
with only the autonomy
of their shameless spirit.

There are no good-byes for my dog who has died,
and we don't now and never did lie to each other.

So now he's gone and I buried him,
and that's all there is to it.
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2 responses to “Heads or Tails?

  1. Cok etkilendim. Kalemine saglik. Very touching. Thanks for sharing. KHC Baser

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