Wednesday, November 19, 2014


I realize it's a tad early in this new venture to be requesting time off, but life events require I do so.  I returned from a fabulous five days spent at Bouchercon in Long Beach to discover my computer had died.  As in wouldn't even turn on.  Where are all of my reviews?  On my computer, natch. And while I have fabulous IT folks at work who are hopefully going to fix my wicket, it will be a while before I can get to my prior literary musings, if at all.

I may write something new, but the country song I came home to threw a wrench in my emotional works as well.  Upon arriving home, I received a call from my pet sitter that Hank wasn't doing well. I rushed to pick him up, then rushed to the vet, where the news was not good.  The worst of news, in fact.

Hemangiosarcoma is a blood tumor cancer to which golden retrievers are prone.  It's one of those bastard cancers that doesn't present until it's entirely too late for an intervention.  Many dogs simply die on the spot once the tumor ruptures and begins to bleed.  I've been "lucky."  Two of my four goldens have died from H-sarcoma, but I've had a day or so to spend with them and "get our shit in order."

With Hank, that meant taking him home, making him comfortable, and making an appointment with Dr. Anthony Smith.  God bless vets like Anthony Smith.  Dr. Smith provides in-home euthanasia, so your pet can die in as much comfort as possible in its own surroundings.  He is understanding and gentle and, as much as possible, allows the pet owner to direct how things play out.

This is the third time in twelve years I've invited Dr. Smith into my home.  You might think he's a person you never want to see again, but I'm of the opposite view. If I'm going to own pets (and having done so my entire life, I'm not likely to break the habit now), it's a comfort to know Dr. Smith is there when the time comes. And it always does.  Seeing him reminds me there are people out there who do difficult jobs so the pain of others can be borne more easily, that while my current situation might suck the biggest of big balls, I will love another pet enough to put myself in the same situation all over again.

I was so very lucky to have Hank in my life.  I had recently lost my first golden, Dakota, and that loss was so great I swore I would never get another dog.  It would just be me and my remaining golden, Jake, to the end.  Nine months later, a scrawny, obviously beaten and abused Hank wandered into my yard.  He was full of scabbed-over wounds.  He had lost half his tail to frostbite.  But it was love at first sight, and he rarely let me out of his sight from then on.  He would walk backwards or sideways so he never had to take his eyes off me (I never had DNA tests done, but I swear he was part Lipizzaner stallion).  He would smile on command, but also every damn time I walked through the door.

Hank morphed from an abused shell who was afraid of everything (and yes, I even saw him, quite hilariously, almost jump out of his skin at the sight of his own shadow) to a confident dog who loved everyone and everything.  He was never happier than when running across the neighborhood Bengal cat, who would rub noses with him and allow him to check out every inch of feline goodness.

Dr. Smith came at 11:00 a.m. yesterday morning.  For the previous 24 hours, Hank and I lay on the floor together.  I tried to look at and touch every inch of him, knowing soon enough I'd have to call on memory for those pleasures.  He was comfortable, but never left his bed, moving only his head to adjust it from my lap to my chest and back.  We talked.  I told him how lucky I was and what a good dog he was.  I swore I would never do this again at the same time I promised him I would. That I would save someone else, which really meant I would let another someone else save me.

All too soon, I helped Dr. Smith load him into the carrier and watched as he was wheeled away.  For the first time in my life, I was without a dog.  The energy in the house has changed.  I dread going home today.  But I will.  And some day, another beaten, scrawny, frightened dog will find me and save me all over again.

But god damn I will miss this magnificent bastard:


Holly West said...

God dammit. I hate that this happened. And I hate that I know (somewhat) how you feel: we found out Stuart had a malignant tumor the day we returned from Bouchercon in Cleveland. We were lucky to have a few more weeks with him, but called in our own Dr. Smith eventually. All my love to you.

Lauren said...

Thanks, Holly. I know you know. Too well. I remember you and Mick going through Stuart's diagnosis. God damn it sucks, don't it? Yet we do it all over again. There's a great poem about that I'll have to track it down and send it to you.
On a better note, it was so great to see you guys. Never enough time (in any good part of life it seems, right?), but so much fun. I'll never forget the treasured night you shared your fitbit stats. That sill makes me laugh.

Sam Belaqua said...

Aw, Hank. Sorry for the pain and loss, but good to know of the happiness you shared.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thanks, Sam. As a pet owner, I know you get it.

Rhonda Hicks said...

I never got to meet Hank, but I know he was special. I'm glad you found each other and were able to share as much time as you did. xoxo

Janet @ said...

I am soo sorry. Hank was special. Goldens are special. They are our best friends. You shared wonderful times together. I felt like I knew Hank, even though we never had that walk together. I heard about his quirks and antics. Frank and I send hugs at this sad time.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thank you, Janet. He did have quirks, but was the best-behaving dog I've ever had. So very easy, from day one. He spoiled me for sure. Thanks for the great card, and my thanks to Frank and the kids as well.

Malcolm Avenue Review said...

Thanks, Rhodie. Wish you'd been able to meet him. He's a gem. He would have loooooved LG.

About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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