My dog died yesterday morning. He was a good dog, but he didn’t have a long time on this earth. He was my first pet and I really loved him.
One time I was acting as an AA sponsor for a guy who lived on my block. He had a huge, old dog and we’d go for walks or I’d go to his house to chat. He was having a hard time staying away from drugs and had been around AA for a while. You get a guy like that and you just hang out with him and encourage him, because there really isn’t anything to tell him that he doesn’t’ already know. He moved away from my block, and I didn’t hear from him for a long time and then he called me one day to say that he had relapsed (no surprise) and that the big dog had died. He was calling because he felt terrible. The dog was ready to die but was hanging on and was uncomfortable and my friend had been using drugs for a few weeks and so he dealt with the dog’s impending death by purchasing a large stash of drugs and holing up in this bedroom and when he finally came out, the dog was gone. If you’re an AA sponsor you hear this kind of thing all the time and you’re supposed to A) not judge and B) be compassionate. I didn’t do any of that. I told him something like “Grow the fuck up” and asked him not to call me anymore. I feel bad about that now. I did much worse and the sponsor’s that really made a difference in my life didn’t act like that to me. The reality of staying sober is that I’m able to cry when my dog dies, hold my wife while she cries, stick around with her for an entire afternoon when I have an upcoming deadline on Friday, because, really, the deadlines are important, but maybe not as important as being the kind of guy someone can rely on when everything feels so shitty.
When we told my daughter the dog was dead, she started to chuckle and said something like, “You guys are kidding us.” She did the same thing when we told her Santa wasn’t real, and we let her get away with that, so she is still deluded about where the Christmas presents come from, because, really, who wants to tell their kid Santa isn’t real, if the kid really wants to believe in Santa. My kids cried for about half an hour. And then they went to swim. And then they came home and cried on and off most of the night. And so I guess the point is I feel terrible, too, but maybe not as terrible as the guy I was sponsoring must have felt, not that I’m any better than he is, but it’s just this strange mix of feeling terrible and feeling satisfied with myself all at the same time.
For a guy like me, that’s a pretty good deal.