"Two wrongs may not make a right but a thousand wrongs make a writer.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Art of Doing Nothing (or how the little dog died)

Oh, my. How long it's been. What can be discovered in the predawn hours and must be shared,  shared when others sleep but you can't.

One Christmas, a while back, we had to put our dog to sleep. I wasn’t going to write about it but then I thought about how she liked to sleep curled up beside my chair with her nose on the heat register, content to be doing nothing, which brought to mind a book my son gave me one Christmas called The Art of Doing Nothing which made me remember a poem I wrote when she was a puppy . . . and so it goes.
Sunny was twelve but spry until the week after Christmas when her belly suddenly bloated and overnight she could barely walk. It seemed her legs would no longer support her stomach. We thought she was constipated and the vet said to give her pumpkin and if she wasn’t better in a few days to call back. We gave her pumpkin. She ate it; she would eat anything. 

But Sunny didn’t get better. She could manage the porch steps down, but when she finished her business she couldn’t climb back up. She just stood there looking up with her mournful little shih tzu eyes.  So there we were, carrying her inside and out, up and down, like a puppy. My laptop sits on a table beside the heat register and it was always her favorite place, but she wouldn’t leave her bed. I put part of a fried egg in her dish. She ignored it.  

The next morning, she lost control of her bladder, legs splayed in a widening pool of discolored urine. I looked down at her in horror. My husband took her to the vet. The prognosis? Possible kidney failure or a tumor or any number of other age-related ailments. The cost? $120.00 for a diagnostic blood test and $80.00 for an X-ray, and this just to find out what was wrong. Surgery, recovery . . . who knows? The vet said she could still die in six months.  Our other option was $58.00 for euthanasia and $120.00 for cremation if we wanted the ashes. If not, they would “group” cremate her for $50.00. 

  “My God!” my daughter said. “That would be like Auschwitz!” The kids didn’t want her cremated. They want her buried on the farm with a cross above her grave.  

My husband carried her home in a bag while I was at work. The problem? The ground is frozen. This dilemma makes me think of the burial-delayed funerals in the U.P. They have a no-shovel season from November 15th to March 1st. Digging into the ground would be like trying to penetrate 8 inches of concrete. Most cemeteries have thinly-walled buildings that rely on Mother Nature not refrigeration to keep the corpses cool. The caskets are tagged and slid into racks in the storage facility until the spring ceremony, which is no different than a regular burial. They’re used to this up there. There’s a large Finnish-American population in the U.P. Back in the old country, bodies were stored  in the church’s bell tower until they could be buried. 

We don’t have a bell tower but we have mounds of rich, organic compost.  So as of now she’s nestled under a mound of compost, and next summer she’ll be spread over the farm. Is that so bad?  Do the kids know this? No. They want her buried with her blanket and her stuffed animal with a cross over her head, or a marker on which would be inscribed: Here lies Sunny, a good dog.  She never peed on the floor until the day she died. She liked carrots and lettuce, eggs and pumpkin. She liked people.
And this is the poem that is about more than a dog but you know how one thing reminds you of another and then another because everything is connected.

The mercury outside my window
is covered with ice
and frost breached the inside of the glass.
I scrape it off with my nail—
it falls into the sink.

The furnace drones without pause
and my summersick dog lies on the register.
A draft runs through the house.
It sets chimes ringing and makes her nervous.

I inventory things not to do.
It’s in a book—The Art of Doing Nothing.
Meditate and you can see things that aren’t there—
brandied cakes and a bottle of wine
set out on the sideboard as if for a friend.

I look behind doors and pause at the stairs
come full circle to see myself sitting there—
in a winged-back chair, out of window’s view,
back to the wall, like a shell-shocked soldier.
Night blankets the house in a mantilla of doubt
but only cold comes in from under the door.

Connected with and inspired by poetry friends at: The Imaginary Garden with Real Toads for the Tuesday Platform. Add a poem of your choosing for feedback if you are a poet and a writer.


Anonymous said...

I inventory things not to do.
It’s in a book—The Art of Doing Nothing.
Meditate and you can see things that aren’t there—
brandied cakes and a bottle of wine
set out on the sideboard as if for a friend.

I was so struck by this stanza ... the first line is just so quirky and slightly off-beat; but not. but it is.

I guess that sounds a bit off, but it's just one of those things, that if you've ever sat around doing this, you kind of understand.

and then, the follow up - with the way you've offered it, adds another fascinating dimension - "it's in a book ... etc."

I just appreciate this stanza, and given how it fits in with the rest of the poem and the cycling roundabout of life, events, memories, etc. well, this is just really fascinating - and although it doesn't necessarily help alleviate pain and mourning or loss, I am sorry for your most delightful companion's passing.

Vivian Zems said...

As a proud owner of a pooch, this tugged at me. I love the back-story...which made so much more sense of a beautiful poem. I got the impression of several snapshot moments deftly woven together. May she rest in peace.

Toni Spencer said...

I have several containers of the ashes of cats. They were good cats. your little dog was a good dog. I like that she will be spread over the farm with the compost, still nourishing and loving you all. this poem made me cry.

brudberg said...

The backstory contrasted with the poem on how it was with your sweet little dog doing nothing tugs at my heart...

Carrie Van Horn said...

This is so sad and beautiful Yvonne! Having a dog, I know what a loss it can be to lose such a beloved part of the family.

kaykuala said...

Man's best friend, been told of such possibilities. How they were able to hold us spell-bound with their antics and to be able to hold on still when they were no more around. Beautiful take, Yvonne!


Yvonne Osborne said...

Having been away so long, I'd forgotten how nourishing it is to receive feedback. Thank you.

Thank you so much and thanks for the opportunity to bring "Sunny" back to life.

Thank you. To think it made you cry is a compliment. Truly.

Thanks so much. That makes my heart soar.

Thank you for reading and comment. It means a lot to receive feedback. As all you writers know!

Thank you! I don't think I ever want another dog. It's too easy to get attached and they are such fragile animals with a short life span.

colleen said...

I like the chair like a shell-shocked soldier and the draft ringing the chimes. My friend used to say 'Don't just do something. Sit there!'

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks Colleen,
The art of daydreaming has been maligned in modern times.

hyperCRYPTICal said...

I love your words Yvonne, all of them - they are so absorbing.
Sad about your dog, but love how she has entered your thought process.
Anna :o]

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks Anna!! It was a sad time. I can still see her forlorn little face. Wish we could have afforded that vet bill.

Jim said...

We've been through both, Yvonne. Still have, in the house, ashes from two dogs and a cat. Both those dogs were having seizures so were euthenized. Also two dogs and a cat are buried beside the garage of out former home. Mom and Dad were both buried in Nebraska, in February where the ground freezes deep and hard. There must be some modern technology used to dig graves into the frozen.
I like your doing nothing poem. Dogs and cats can do that wonderfully.
BTW, my mom was half Ozborne and half Corkill. The Corkills came from the Isle of Man, her Osbornes from England.
Note, I wrote about my fish for Tuesday. She does mostly nothing resting or sleeping in her tree.

Thotpurge said...

Oh this was a great piece...so sorry about your dog...

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hi Jim,
Yes, we too have left behind many a buried dog along the way, but no cats. I don't know about modern grave digging technology but so many die in the waning of the year. Thanks for commenting and, yes, the Osbornes originally came from England but I can't trace my husband's ancestry beyond Kentucky. (I love the Isle of Man!)

Thank you so much!

Liza said...

I am sorry about your beloved dog.

Your poem is lovely. It's raining here today, a blustery Nor'easter, and you have inspired me to do your kind of nothing.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks Liza