Forgive me for pulling myself away from the Pinkishness for a moment, but there was a little dog named Caleb whose short life on this earth needs to be honored.
Caleb was a scared little Italian Greyhound who came from a puppy mill. Puppy mill. Those words don’t do justice in terms of conjuring up the horrors that those poor dogs endure. If they’re lucky, they’re the puppies who are bred and then shipped out to pet stores where people are willing to pay $2,000 for a “labradoodle” – which by any other name is simply a mutt. The unlucky ones? They spend their whole lives in a cage, used just for breeding. That was poor little Caleb’s existence – 6 years of stud dog duties, kept in a small cage, and when he finally made his way to a rescue, he not only had no social skills to speak of, but was terrified of everything: people, other dogs, noises, life itself. And why not? Absolutely everything was brand new to him, so it was sensory overload to the nth degree.
But at least he got a chance to try to lead a normal dog’s life at Jennifer and Bo’s place – these are my friends who have Kona’s girlfriend Terra and adorable little IG Dash, and who were also fostering Caleb. I got to meet Caleb a few times, when I’d bring Kona over for playdates. He didn’t really participate in the roughhousing and mayhem, but would observe from a distance, and if he decided you were okay enough, he’d come up to sniff you. He didn’t like change or anything different – so, as Jennifer put it, if he once heard a loud noise by the stairs, he’d forever after decide that the stairs were Bad, and would avoid them. This was what 6 years of a puppy mill did to him – so you’ll excuse me if I say that the sick fucks who run these mills should be stuffed in cages themselves, and left there to rot.
So Wednesday afternoon, Caleb somehow escaped from the backyard. It’s not clear how or why, because Jennifer and Bo’s yard is like Fort Knox with the fencing, and Caleb was so timid that he’d never try to escape into the big bad world – he had no interest in that kind of exploration. We can only guess that he freaked out at something, and found a bunny hole under some part of the fence that his 11-pound self could escape under.
Thursday morning I was heading over there to help look for him, when Jennifer called me, in tears, telling me that Chicago Animal Control had found his body, that he’d been hit by a car some distance away. I went over there anyway, and we spent the rest of the morning tracking down the CAC truck so that we could get Caleb (the CAC guy was very nice, btw, a true gem), then taking him to the vet in Chicago so that he could be cremated, and then going to Petsmart, to get name/info tags for our own dogs. Jennifer wanted extras, and yes, I’m a dumbass who had no identifying tags on Kona, so little Caleb prompted me to take care of that, because the only reason the CAC guy was able to call Jennifer right away was because of Caleb’s tag.
So all in all, a horrible day. The only consolation, if you can call it that, was that Caleb was actually found, because it would have been worse to not know, and wonder what had happened to him, imagining him lost and frightened and injured. There are some things worse than death, and that would have been one of them.
Last night I emailed Jennifer to see how she was doing, as she was obviously upset about the whole thing, as anyone would be. And both she and Bo thanked me profusely for helping out yesterday, especially since Bo had to be at work and so on. And I suddenly realized something very important – had an epiphany of sorts.
You see, since my cancer diagnosis 2 years ago, I’ve had wonderful friends do all sorts of things for me, giving of their time, their money, their thoughtfulness, you name it. They’ve brought me food, gone walking/running with Kona, organized Cupcake Bike Rides, put up with my surliness and overall craziness. They’ve celebrated the end of treatment with me, and have talked me down when I worry about an upcoming test result or read some new study that supposedly says I have only a 55% chance of surviving 5 years. They’ve watched Kona for weeks on end when I’ve had one surgery or another. When I’ve needed it most, they’ve been there for me. And I know how rare that is, to have friends like that.
And I always feel guilty about it. I think about this ALL the time. Like it’s too much, I’m not deserving, and I don’t know how I can ever repay people for their kindnesses. I try, but I know it’ll never be enough, so I feel indebted. Not in a bad way, but like I can never live up to that.
And then this morning, I was puzzling over Bo’s email, because while he was thanking me, I was thinking – but I’m the one who’s thankful, that I could be there to help out a good friend. It truly made my heart glad that I could do at least something on a day of such awfulness, to lessen the burden a little. Even if I were to never see Jennifer and Bo again, which obviously won’t be the case, but let’s pretend – I’d still feel that way, so it’s not a matter of expecting anything in return.
So that was the lesson here, the thing I never knew – that having the opportunity to help your friends out or to do things for others in their time of need, their darkest hours, that’s a gift that fate hands you on occasion. I realized that people want to help others, that you don’t expect or even want anything back, that doing whatever it is in and of itself is enough to lighten your soul.
Helping me realize this, finally, was the gift that Caleb gave me.
All that wisdom, from a dog so tiny, who left his mark despite his short time here on earth. Who taught us a lot about bravery, and continued to make his way through life as best he could, despite being handed the shittiest of circumstances. Rest in peace now, little Caleb, rest in peace….