My heart is breaking.
Yesterday was wonderful. Green tea at a bookstore and early Christmas shopping were all that was on the agenda. Then at a little before 4, the phone call came. We didn't answer it in time so had to listen to the voice mail message. It was Susan. Her voice was grave. We were to call immediately. I misdialed twice, my big thumbs nervously missing the numbers. But she answered and immediately explained that Eric. My Eric. My little dog. Was seriously ill. She had taken him to the vet to discover that his 16 year old body was wearing out. Suddenly and without warning a disc gave in his back and his hind quarters stopped working. He was resting comfortably after a traumatic visit to the vet.
We weren't due home for two days. Three hundred people were booked to come and hear me speak on Friday. We cancelled. We packed the car. We drove nine hours home. I lasted until just past the Pennsylvania border and grief overtook me. I wept. I couldn't then, and can't now, imagine life without Eric.
He had come to us, like all truly wonderful things, as a surprise. The day we drove into the shopping mall and found an abandoned puppy wandering the lot - was not a day that we expected to meet such an amazing creature. I picked him up and he grabbed my heart and that was it. He came home.
You could feel the abuse he suffered under the fur in his skin and deep within his heart. While we would love him for 16 years he would always be, in his mind, an abandoned an abused dog. This is not to say that he wasn't happy because he always greeted life with such incredible abandon. He felt safe with ritual so we built many. He liked being able to predict what was happening in his world - he liked a sense of control.
I identified with him on so many levels. This is why, I think, that as he learned to trust me, I learned to trust him. Trust does not come easily to me. Though I look solid, my heart is skittish. Suffering an evil childhood, I boarded up different rooms in the mansion of my heart. It was those rooms that Eric scratched at - he wanted in. And in time, I let him. There is no part of my affection that is restrained with Eric.
I know each of his 14 looks. I understand all of his barks. He understands too much. He reads our moods and knows just what to do. Some where along the way, he went to cute school and can do more with his eyes that Bette Davis could ever imagine.
So we came home. Knowing that many will think us silly. But as Eric is being called home, he called to us to come - and I think he knew we would. Whenever we come home from a trip, Eric was at the door barking. But last night, arriving home at 2. The house was silent. We went in and found Eric asleep at his spot on the floor at the end of the bed. He looked up and wagged his tale like he was saying, "I knew you would come."
And now we wait. He is on some extreme medications that have a small chance in working. So we have planned the day to be full of Eric rituals. He loves to sit and listen to the story of how we found him in the parking lot but he equally likes the stories of how he got his name and how he ended up, mentioned by name, in the Globe and Mail. Then there is the 'housecoat ritual', the 'Dave stood up ritual', the 'your not just making tea ritual' and a zillion others.
Human beings use rituals to worship God. Today we, and Eric, will worship together. I will pray for his recovery - however slow. But whatever he prays for, we will do.
But I make this promise to Eric, here and now, "I opened the doors of my heart to you. I will never lock them up again." This is the only fitting tribute I can think of to the love he's give me.