If anyone created a list of the worst jobs a person could possibly do, moving has to be far and away the undisputed champion. The job is so terrible, Mike Row of Dirty Jobs has never done an episode of moving furniture. It’s just that bad. I’m pretty sure, if I’m ever cast down into the pits of hell, lugging around oversized mattresses and couches that don’t fit through front doors will be my own, personal, eternal damnation.
About a month ago, I found myself moving into a new location. I seem to be perpetually moving once a year or so over the last six or seven years. Perhaps I’m already in a purgatory, awaiting judgment from past transgressions. Maude, my Springer Spaniel/Golden Retriever (or is it Cocker Spaniel, or English Setter? Nobody seems to know what she is) accompanied me during my most recent move. She has always been an extremely active dog, to the point of almost attention deficit disorder, and she loves her toys. She generally manages to remove the squeaker from the bowels of any stuffed animal within the first day of receiving it. I once purchased her a stuffed Yoda toy. The force did not prove strong with him, and she had his white, fluffy innards strewn around the floor in less than an hour. However, since we moved, she has been quiet. Toys left in tact, bones left untouched and even my shoes left unturned. She has, instead, turned to licking her arms. Licking to the point of removing the fur, if I don’t catch her in time.
Thanks to my good friend Cesar Millan (I don’t actually know him. If I did I’m sure he’d let me have it for allowing her up on the couch), I know some dogs go through depression due to sudden changes in their lives. I also know this depression she is in is not due to the change of scenery. After all, we’ve been through several together before. This one, however, she did without her best friend.
A month before our move I had to say goodbye to my Jack Russell/Beagle buddy Cosmo (the dog for which this entire operation is named after). While only nine, the vet’s diagnosed him with an aggressive form of cancer that had spread throughout his body. While he outlived his initial diagnosis of three weeks by nine, his deterioration broke my heart, as does the end of any pet to their masters and friends. However, I did not know how Maude would deal with it, or if she even understood.
When I brought Maude home from the pound as a puppy, the six-year-old Cosmo just looked at me, like that of a child looking at his parents with the arrival of a new baby, knowing they would never again receive the full attention of their parents. The two dogs formed a bond not dissimilar to Darth Vader and the Emperor. Maude would go out and do Cosmo’s bidding, while he sat on the top of the couch, watching as it all unfolded in front of him. For the longest time, I couldn’t tell if he cared for her. She, the questionable child constantly bombarding him, the grumpy uncle with requests to play, hoping to do something fun. Cosmo answered this question once, when Maude found her way into the pantry and ate a chocolate bar. As my sister’s boyfriend tied to induce vomiting, she let out a whimper, and Cosmo sprang into action, running across the room until his teeth found the arm of her assailant. He did not bite hard to break skin, but the response proved clear enough to me. He did care. They were of the same pack.
In the final few days, Cosmo started to lose his ability to walk. I’d notice him stumble, but he would refuse help and continue to move and walk on his own. Maude still hounded him, although I’d try to keep her calm so he could stay comfortable. I still didn’t know whether or not she truly understood. Then came the last day. I honestly always hoped Cosmo would just pass in his sleep. I didn’t want to make the final call. The last day, I let him sleep in my bed, the one place I don’t allow the dogs, as I want one sanctuary from dog hair in my home. He refused to let me help him out of bed, and when he jumped down, his hind legs gave out and failed to catch him. I carried him outside to use the bathroom and the sight of him struggling to walk pulled tears from my eyes and told me this would be the end. He couldn’t stand to relieve himself, so his hind legs remained limp along the ground as he went, only he had been expelling blood, and when he tried to stand up, he collapsed and rolled over in it, covering his white coat in a smear of red. I rushed down the stairs to pick him up and carry him inside, and when I turned around, there was Maude, watching her older brother collapse into a crumpled, stained mess. She now understood. As we waited for the final hour inside the house as his appointment drew near, she did not leave his side. She did not bother him or prod him. She did not ask him to play. As I washed his coat clean, I wiped away the blood of her broken heart.
Several months have past, and for a while, the loss of my little dude proved extremely difficult, yet I had friends and people to talk to. She, however, has no one to relay her feelings to. She just sits there, isolated to her thoughts. Whatever they may be. That, to me, is almost as frightening a notion as moving again. Animals are incredibly perceptive, but to what degree I really don’t know. While I know she understood the seriousness of Cosmo’s state, I don’t know if she can contemplate the idea of never seeing someone ever again, or if she languishes on, day after day, simply waiting for the front door to open and for Cosmo to come scampering in. When she sleeps and dreams, does she sleep and dream of asking him to play?
The death and loss of a loved one is a pain unlike anything else. A pain in your stomach so deep it knows no ends as it stretches downwards, trying to take you with it. But what if you didn’t understand death, or the notion of a person leaving? Would it be like the feeling you suffer after your first true love leaves you? Sitting there, day in, day out, as you wait for them to return to you? Is this what it is like for a dog, who doesn’t understand death, to wait for their lifelong love to return? Perhaps there is something worse than an eternity of manipulating oversized mattresses. Although maybe that speaks to why dog is man’s best friend. They would put themselves through a fate worse than hell itself, just to see you, or their best friend, one more time.