Puck was a dog. A Boston Terrier to be specific. He was 10 years old, 25 lbs and had a tail that would wag about half the time. The other half it was stuck in place, despite his efforts to move it. He loved to eat kale at any time, but especially when it was clipped fresh from the garden. Puck came to live with us when we were still in New York, a few months after we moved in together before we were even engaged. It was Puck that first made us feel like a unit, a family. As the first dog in our lives, he was the alpha dog in our little family of four, first keeping our dog Root Beer (a geriatric dog we rescued a few years later, with abuse and neglect in his past and the neurotic behavior to show for it) on an even keel. For the past four years he’s been keeping our wild young dog, Scrappy, in line. He had a special bond with my brother, who has Autism, and seemed to consider Tim “his human.” Puck’s primary forms of communication were snorts, whines and indignant sneezes. For nine years his snoring was the metronome that lulled me to sleep. Above all things, Puck was an important teacher to me. He came into my life bearing many gifts, the most important of which was the gift of surrender.
Puck ate rat poison not once, but twice in the same week. The landlord in our awful apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan laid out bricks and never told anyone. Puck thought they were delicious and ate them whenever possible. We were a young couple, totally broke and stressed about the vet bills. We did not handle the situation well and we took a lot of our frustration and fear out on one another.
Five years later Puck started slipping disks, needing crate rest for weeks at a time. He cried almost non stop and we handled that stress a little better, but still there was this feeling that Kirk (my husband) and I were not on the same team, but acting as two individuals making unilateral decisions.
In the winter of 2012 we discovered that those “slipped disks” were actually un-diagnosed Lyme disease. By the time our (now former) vet put two and two together and diagnosed him correctly Puck was in renal failure , ten pounds thinner, unable to walk, getting subcutaneous fluid injections twice a week, and nearly dead. Puck was such a patient teacher, though we were dense students, but the third time was a sort of charm. We were both incredibly busy at the time and we initially forgot that we are a team, but eventually got it together to work with one another instead of without considering the other. I learned to actually trust and listen to my spouse, even when his understanding or ideas differed from my own. I learned to let go a little, ease up on the reigns and let someone else take the lead when I was too tired, too over-worked or just too scared to do it myself. I learned to surrender and allow myself to be cared for. Somehow Puck pulled through. He regained all the weight he’d lost, and the hop in his step came back. (I love how he pranced when he walked.) He remained on a special diet and needed frequent blood work to check his levels, but he really came back to us.
This winter Puck started having seizures. They eventually became uncontrollable, despite him being heavily medicated. Without an MRI (which we simply couldn’t afford) we were left with the knowledge that it was likely cancer. Probably a brain or spinal cord tumor. He cried every night for weeks and weeks, all night long until we got him a pain killer. After we started giving that to him he cried just about half the night. He’d cry for a few hours before he’d sleep and then again starting at 4 am. This time we had practice under our belt, though. this time, we knew how to give and take with one another, how to allow the other to have a different point of view about his care and how to respect that point of view. Many, many nights Kirk slept on the sofa so I could sleep. Many, many mornings I would get up earlier than I needed to (even on rare days when I could sleep in) to let Kirk get another hour or two or three of much needed rest.
Last night Puck had a four minute seizure that left him paralyzed for a long while after he came to. Then another early this morning. We both knew it was time. We took him to the park this morning, fed him gross and greasy people food (and fresh kale, too), let him fulfill a lifetime dream of riding on my lap in the front seat of the car with his head out the window, told him we loved him and held him as he stepped into the light. I am pretty heartbroken; Kirk is too. I’m sitting with his dog bed next to me as I write this. I miss my dog. I miss my friend. But really, what keeps running through my head is that line from Pema Chodron’s book, “When Things Fall Apart”, which begins “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Puck most certainly taught us. We are slow students, but I think we finally got the message.
Puck taught us to be better – as individuals and as a married couple. For that, and for a million other things, I am forever grateful. Into the light, my sweet boy. Maybe we will meet again one day.