We spent the weekend watching a golden retriever puppy named Lou. Tara, our black lab, has been staying at Kim's parents' house since just after Elena died. She'll come home as soon as we figure out what to do with the holes in the neighbors fence. It took Tara until there were more holes than fence to figure out that she could escape the back yard at will.
Tara turned thirteen last month. You can ask Kim precisely when and she'll tell you. She knew the dog's birthday years before she learned the date of my birthday (exactly three weeks after hers) or our wedding anniversary (exactly one month before hers).
I've wanted to get Tara a puppy for a couple of years now. I figured it would keep her young in her declining years. She occasionally shows signs of age. On the day that Elena died, Tara looked like she was on the way out. For that next week I had to carry her in and out of the house, she wasn't eating, and she had a horrible limp and could barely stand. I figured we'd come home from the funeral and find the dog lying dead and have to bury her as well. We don't know whether it was physical or emotional. They say dogs know or sense these things.
But she's looking better now. She's animated and jumping up on things she shouldn't be and getting into things we wish she wouldn't. I think she's ready for a puppy again. Maybe not. Maybe Tara is now too old to want to deal with a new youngster who won't leave her alone. I just remember Tara perking up Micky, Kim's parents' dog, in the last few years of her life.
Watching Lou has been like being a grandparent. We know that at the end of the weekend he's going back to his owners and that's a good thing. We probably don't need another puppy right now. Getting one won't, as we once had hoped and thought, soften the blow when Tara dies.
Elena was a bit obsessed with death. She kept asking how old Tara was in dog years. As the lab passed eighty Elena started preparing for Tara's death talking about how sad she would be if Tara died. Her great grandfather had died in his late nineties and Elena hadn't understood that this was a gift. She talked about him often. We wondered how long she would remember him so vividly. As it turned out, it was all of her life. She talked about Tara joining her great grandpa in heaven.
I worry about Tara's death. I wonder if it will be the trigger that unlocks all of the emotions that we have bottled up inside of us. The things we think we're dealing with now but don't know are still untapped. It's the plate that breaks and the wife turns to her husband and says, "that's it, I want a divorce." Like somehow being upset about the plate distracted her enough that all these feelings she hasn't allowed herself to feel sneak in and take over.
When Tara dies I wonder what feelings will rear up and present themselves. Sure we'll be sad to lose this dog who has been a part of our lives throughout our marriage. But I wonder what else we'll be sad about. Whether religious or not, we'll imagine Elena in heaven calling "here Tara" and the dog bounding towards her and jumping up with a paw on either shoulder licking her face.