A few folks have asked me, “How’s Oliver doing?”
Well, I’ll be honest. Oliver and I haven’t had any real heart-to-heart talks since Henry’s passing.
In fact, the day we took Henry to the veterinarian’s office and they told us to leave for an hour while they took some tests to figure out why Henry wasn’t his usual self, Oliver and I went to mall. Granted, an outdoor mall in one of San Diego’s tony neighborhoods. But about all we did was walk.
You see, where the vet’s office is located there’s nothing but auto repair shops, countless furniture stores, tile stores, car washes and oh, a strip club of the X-rated kind, I kid you not.
Not the kind of place I’d want to pass an hour with Oliver.
So when the doctor told us to leave, all that came to mind was the mall located about two miles to the west. For Oliver, that was a special treat, because normally, I NEVER take my dogs to the mall, where it’s crowded, noisy and dogs aren’t allowed inside stores.
But it seems that others do and on that day it was a parade of dogs with their owners. Fancy, chic dogs trotting about on Burberry-type leashes held jauntily by their owners. Dogs wearing trendy sweaters and plaid bows, with the female dogs bedecked in colorful ribbons. All were dressed up except for Oliver, who on that particular day was looking very much like, well, a dog of rather diminutive stature. He’s a Maltipoo, after all.
We walked from one end of the outdoor mall to the other. It was a sunny beautiful day and at that time I was still thinking that soon we could pick up Henry to take him home. That they’d probably prescribe some newfangled medicine for Henry to take and he’d be back to normal in no time.
After an hour of Oliver-and-Me-Time, we headed back to the vet’s office and soon learned that normal meant the “new normal.” Life without Henry. Yes, that was the moment of my first rush of tears.
In those first days, I cried and cried. It seemed just about anything would bring on memories of Henry, followed by a flood of new tears. And with each new person I told, more tears came. Every once in a while, I’d sit in my Lazy-Boy type chair and Oliver would jump on my lap, as if to say, “Don’t forget about me.”
That first evening I almost forgot to feed Oliver some dinner, but he kept following me every time I went into the kitchen and pretty soon I got the message.
I still have Oliver and he needs caring.
For I lost one son that day, not two. I don’t know what I would do if not for Oliver who in his own way, keeps bringing me back to reality.
“Look at me,” he seems to say. “What about me??”
I throw his tennis ball across the room and he fetches it lickety-split and drops it in my lap. Play time, he is saying, and even though I want to cry, because I just spotted Henry’s leash, rolled up neatly on Henry’s now, unused dog bed, I toss the ball for Oliver.
I keep looking for signs that Oliver is mourning the loss of Henry, but so far I’ve only seen it twice. Once when I caught him sniffing at Henry’s leash. The other time is when we go for walks. When Henry was alive, they’d always line up by the patio door to go out, with Henry, the oldest, always first in line. Nowadays, Oliver doesn’t move up in line. Instead, he leaves a gap between him and the door.
The gap is for Henry. Out of respect for the fallen, I say. And who can blame Oliver for that. This little act of respect makes me love Oliver all the more.
The week after Henry left us, Oliver had his annual checkup. I told the doctor that Oliver doesn’t seem to notice Henry’s gone. She said, that’s good. Real good. Apparently she’s seen dogs suffer genuine anxiety or depression, at the loss of a fellow dog, so Oliver being so happy-go-lucky is good for him and his well-being.
On the plus, now that Henry’s gone, Oliver can go back to eating chicken. Henry was allergic to chicken so I wouldn’t serve it, but now on the weekends I make boiled chicken and rice and Oliver eats it all up and makes a smacking sound of satisfaction.
Of course, this weekend I had a scare. I took Oliver to the park to play fetch and one of his rear paws was stung by a bee. I was fearful that he might have an allergic reaction and go into shock. I could see he was having trouble walking, so I carried him all the way home–my arms feeling sore with each step I took and tears welling up in my eyes. Once home, we got into the car and I rushed him to the animal hospital.
Luckily, he was okay. A technician shaved his paw in order to find the stinger, and the doctor kept him for observation for a couple of hours, but other than that, he turned out to be just fine.
I am thrilled Oliver is okay, because I couldn’t imagine life without him. He’s just what I need and seeing him happy gladdens my spirits.
Oliver and me. We’re just two, no longer three.