Farewell old friend.
December 8th 2013
Wilder is six weeks old.
I made what might be the hardest decision of my life today. I chose to say goodbye to my best friend of nine years, my beloved dog Brando. Although the decision is one that has literally broken my heart into a thousand pieces, I know it was the only true option that I had. I cannot even begin to express the depths of my depression right now, as it has engulfed my hopefulness and left me feeling alone and miserable. I know that it is impossible for me to always feel this way, but right now I’m in the midst of despair.
I found Brando on Canal Street near the Claiborne overpass on December 11, 2004. He was trying to board the streetcar and was happily mixed in with a morning crowd. I pulled my car onto the median and scooped him up in my arms. He was terribly thin, covered in fleas and had a collar tied around his neck. I had never in my life held a pit bull and had every intention of finding him a home but that home became my own. I named him Brando because of Streetcar Named Desire. He shared a life with me and the other dogs I owned at the time for several years and ended up outliving all of them. Although I loved my other dogs, I felt a special bond with Brando that I hadn’t experienced before. He was so loving and cuddly and wanted nothing more than to be by my side.
Through the years I went through some really heavy and terrible shit – my mother’s murder spree/suicide, Hurricane Katrina, rape, drug and alcohol abuse, my nephew’s addictions, my father’s death- and all the while the one constant in my life was my loyal boy Brando. I can’t even begin to tell you how many hours we cuddled, as he loved to be hugged and kissed on the face. He was there for the best of memories as well as the worst. He made me feel safe, not just in the physical sense of protection but in the emotional sense of having a friend who loved me unconditionally. He was a constant in a life that at times made no sense whatsoever. He made me a better person. We eventually added Harlow to our lives as well, and we both loved her and her strange quirks.
Over the last year or so Brando’s behaviors had become more erratic. Even before the upheaval of moving into a new house, or even my pregnancy, something in him just wasn’t the same. A few times in the past he had growled at Andy for reasons unknown. While that behavior was not one that made sense, he had never acted violently towards a person, so I dismissed it. I trusted Brando around all my friends and their children. In the past we had many parties and Brando never had a problem with anyone who was invited into our home. He loved being social and would get very excited to greet guests at the door. I overlooked some of the smaller indications that his personality was changing because I didn’t want to think about Brando growing older.
This past weekend, one of my worst fears came true. A good friend of mine had come over to hang out and bake cookies with me. Being a dog lover himself he was happy to see both Brando and Harlow as well as spend time with the baby. He had been at the house for several hours and we were having a wonderful time. Andy and Lee Kyle had also joined us at the house and we were all sitting in the living room watching a movie on television. I was sitting next to Brando and my friend was also very near to us. He had been petting Brando for several minutes when out of the blue Brando attacked him. There was no warning – no growl, no body movement – just biting. I jumped up and was able to pull Brando off of him, but the damage had been done. He had received enough puncture wounds and scratches on his arm to need a trip to the Emergency Room.
We were all so shocked at what had just occurred. There was no logical explanation for the attack. At the ER my friend and I replayed the events in our minds over and over trying to solve the mystery. We both desperately wanted there to be a good reason for what had happened. But there was no reason to justify Brando’s actions. I knew in my gut that something was different about my sweet dog. The Brando that I had loved for so many years just didn’t seem capable of such an erratic action. I would have bet my life earlier that night that Brando would never bite a person, especially someone he knew. Luckily my friend wasn’t seriously hurt, although the hospital trip was necessary.
When I arrived home at nearly 2 am, Andy and Lee Kyle were waiting to speak with me. We discussed our options as a family, noting that Wilder’s safety was now the top priority of the household. Lee Kyle felt that if Brando was to stay in the house he would need to be constantly monitored around Wilder. We all agreed. Then Andy and I spoke about how we would have to handle company and that Brando would also need to be kept separate from them as well. When I considered the mental health of my dog, I knew that a life of isolation would be no life at all. I couldn’t imagine working all day and coming home to cuddle Wilder and needing to lock Brando away from us out of safety. He wouldn’t have understood why after nine years of being my shadow, he would have to be sequestered from me. I feared this would breed resentment toward the baby. But I also knew that having him around Wilder would be completely irresponsible, no matter how much I love him. A sacred trust had been broken and although I wanted so badly to just forget about what had happened, I knew I couldn’t.
I didn’t sleep but maybe an hour that night. I sat awake attempting to fight off extreme anxiety and petting Brando who had shared a bed with me for the past nine years. I cried and held him and cursed God. I ran the scenario over in my mind a thousand or more times, desperate to make it all go away. I knew in my heart what had to be done. When the clock said 7:55 am I called two of my best friends to discuss what had happened. Amanda, who has always loved Brando as much as I have, cried along with me on the phone. Jackie jumped in her car and came right over. I spent the next few hours talking about the situation with Jackie and finalizing my decision to say goodbye to my best friend. When Andy awoke we all talked it through again. I went upstairs and cuddled with Brando explaining to him how lucky I felt that I had been able to share my life with him. We snuggled and kissed and I said my goodbyes.
Andy had called our vet’s office and talked with them about the situation. They had been treating Brando for years and also shared concern for him. Because Andy is generally the one to take the dogs to the vet, he made the final trip with Brando. I kissed them both goodbye and went to love on Harlow, who hasn’t been separated from Brando since we got her in 2008. I asked Andy to stop and get Brando some hamburgers on the way and to stay with him until the very end. He reported the staff and the vet were extremely caring and supportive of our decision. Brando passed away in the loving arms of Andy having no fear or understanding of his passing. I wanted to be with him in those final moments but knew that my sadness would be stressful for him. I’m very grateful for Andy’s strength and resolve.
The house feels completely empty without Brando in it. Harlow wandered around looking for Brando for quite some time, which broke my heart even more. Several of my close friends came by to offer condolences and voice their support for my decision. Even though I know that letting Brando go was the best thing for him as well as us, I still feel immensely sad about the situation. I have never loved an animal as much as I loved him, and I don’t think I ever will.
Many things occurred in the week leading up to Brando’s passing, but I feel now like they are of little importance considering the tragic happenings of Sunday. Nevertheless, I will try to briefly summarize the occurrences.
I started back at work for a few hours this past week. While it was difficult trying to schedule everything, I considered this a good trial run. I’m starting a new project and it will keep me busy for at least the next few months. I was hoping this assignment would allow me to perhaps ask for a raise in pay which then would allow me to work fewer hours, but that is an unlikely case. As you all know by now, I’m not very fond of my job, but my income is a necessity. I’m going to try to keep a better attitude about work than I have had in the past. This week was relatively easy because it was only a few hours.
Sara babysat Wilder this past Thursday. It was the first time since his birth that he hasn’t been with Andy, Lee Kyle or me. Sara was very sweet and sent me text messages and photos while I was at work. Andy and Lee Kyle both used the day to take care of responsibilities. It was very comforting to know that we didn’t have to worry about Wilder one bit. Sara had a wonderful time with him, cuddling and taking him to City Park. When we picked him up we offered to pay her but she adamantly refused. We feel extremely fortunate to have such trustworthy, generous people in our life, who share an interest in our son. Family is what you make it and I think Wilder may have lucked out in this department.
Andy and Lee experienced their first parenting conflict this past week. Andy and I have been really trying to get Wilder acclimated to a rough schedule, so that we can at least somewhat predict his wake and sleep times. Andy had finished feeding Wilder and putting him in his crib for a nap when Lee Kyle showed up with a good friend of his from NY. They all chatted for a few minutes and then Lee Kyle and his friend headed up to the nursery. They woke up Wilder about twenty minutes before his nap was over and this really frustrated Andy. Andy then got an attitude with Lee Kyle and passive/aggressively hovered while they were visiting with the baby. I knew Andy was frustrated because he mentioned it to me later that evening. I explained that he should have simply asked them to not wake Wilder yet, but he felt Lee Kyle’s actions were inconsiderate. I know there is a bit of contention when we are exhausted and Lee Kyle’s waltzes in all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and think that played a huge part in Andy’s reaction. But I also understand how much Lee Kyle loves our son and how proud he is to introduce him to his people. Lee Kyle spoke with me later that night about the situation and I explained that I completely empathized with both he and Andy. It’s a hard mix at times, and it’s going to be in the future because both Lee Kyle and I can be overly sensitive and Andy can be passive/aggressive. I suggested that they set some time aside to talk about it. They did, and things were easily worked out. I think that as our relationship progresses it is inevitable that we will all have arguments and squabbles, but if we can keep an open line of communication, no problem is unsurmountable.
On Friday Andy and I had to take Wilder back to the pediatrician. This time we saw Dr. Li because Dr. Capone was unavailable. She was really wonderful with Wilder and I wouldn’t mind him seeing her again. We noticed that Wilder’s belly button looked a little different and we feared that he had an umbilical hernia. It turns out that everything is fine with his little belly button. We did however get to speak with her about Wilder’s stomach issues again. She recommended that we stop giving him the prescription laxative and see if that makes any changes in his behavior. If not, she suggested that we then try soy formula. I’ve been hesitant to change formula, even though he has still been experiencing gas and fussiness because the last time we tried he vomited everywhere and cried. But I want what is best for him, so if need be perhaps the fifth time will be a charm. In good news Wilder now weighs 9 pounds, 10 ounces! I suppose that alone was worth the $105 cost of the appointment.
I am truly hopeful that I can get myself out of this current depression that I am in. The holidays haven’t been particularly easy on me since the death of my mother, so I was expecting to feel a little blue, but this is very far beyond that. I love my family, especially my dear little son, but even that is not enough to buoy my spirits in this current situation. I’m doing the best I can because I would like to be able to share in the joy of Wilder’s first Christmas instead of feeling isolated in my depression. I must say that I have some of the very best friends I girl could ask for. A million thanks to Andy, Amanda, Jackie, Lee Kyle, Daphne, Christine and Gabby for all your immediate kind words and love.