Dog Love In August

August is the start of the dying season. Garden things begin their slow shrink into the earth, the days grow shorter and cooler, lazy ocean- or mint-scented summer days snap into rigid schedules of work and school.

August is also the month that I lost Diego, my first dog. You can get acquainted with Diego here, a post I wrote a few days before he died. But I would like to share a little more now, on the second anniversary of his departure.

Diego was a poser, in a very literal sense of the word. He loved having his picture taken; in fact, he insisted on it whenever he saw me holding the camera. This picture, for example: it was taken the day I brought my daughter home from the hospital, the day after 21 hours of hard labor produced an eight-and-a-half-pound baby who actually stopped halfway out of my body, looked around, and scowled before resuming her reluctant journey onto the planet. (She was 12, twelve days overdue, FYI all you mothers out there who can surely feel my pain.)

There is something screaming in the bed. Please make it stop before it explodes.

I laid baby Isabella down, stepped back with the camera, looked up, and there he was: Diego, staring. Fifty-eight pounds of solid, unmoving dog. Insisting that I photograph him, too, with this creature that he wasn’t sure if he should guard against or lick. This child who personified the singular emotion of furious for the first nine weeks of her life (if she was not sleeping or eating, she was screaming).

Oh, hi Aunt Rosie. I know you’ve passed on, but I’ll bet you can still hear that screaming baby wherever you are.

When my doula told me that the colic or distemper or petite innards or whatever it was making Isabella so unhappy would resolve itself in about nine weeks, I said oh, that’s nice. But I won’t be alive for nine weeks of this. I’ll be in an asylum acquainting myself with a selection of opiates, or at the bottom of the mighty Rio Grande; so behold, an orphan.

But somehow, I survived. And Diego was part of it.

You see, from the very beginning, it was just us — the two of us, the three of us.  I was abandoned by my husband before Isabella was born, a painful time that I don’t often write about.

Within a matter of weeks, the married-and-expecting life I’d known was gone, and I was left to fumble around with the pieces, a wreckage sitting on a pile of broken glass in the dark. The small hours of it were the worst, waking up alone and panicked in the middle of the night wondering how (or if) I would live through the next weeks and years. And Diego was always there, a silent and comforting presence curled at the foot of the bed or coming up to lick my tears if I was crying, which was basically all the time. He was always there.

I have a teenager now and those days seem ancient. While I rebuilt my life, Isabella grew up and Diego grew old. And finally, in his sixteenth year, he began to deteriorate to the point of pain. I knew he wouldn’t be with me much longer and I had already called the vet to ask her how it worked — when do you know it’s time? Do I take him to the office, or do you come to the house? Will he feel anything? I planned to schedule an appointment soon; I hadn’t had to make this decision before and it was a very painful.

On the morning of August 9 before I left for work, I told Diego that we would have to say good-bye soon because his body wasn’t working right anymore. I told him that I loved him and it was okay for him to go. Over and over I told him I loved him.

Less than two hours later, he drowned in the pond.

I think it was his way of avoiding the vet (he hated the clinic), and maybe sparing me that particular pain. I’m not going to say that I wasn’t devastated. But rather than remembering the urgent phone call at work from Isabella, or the vision of him when I got home, or my step-father struggling to carry the terrible weight of him away, I like to imagine Diego simply being received by the fish and toads. Delivered from his pain by warm water, wrapped in a blanket of lilies.

Anyone who has cared for pets perhaps knows that there is one, a special one, who will always occupy the largest piece of real estate in your heart, though others may follow. That was Diego for me.

But now we’re lucky enough to share our lives with another dog, the rascally, neurotic, road trip-loving Velma. I’ll end this post with a short video of her that reminds me of exactly what I love about dogs: their absolute and abundant connection with life, free of judgement, agenda, or desire to be anything other than what they are. That’s what I think of every time I see Velma in her Writhe of Exquisite Happiness. Perfect contentment of being.


34 thoughts on “Dog Love In August

    • Thanks, old ham (feels strange writing that, but I’ll check out your blog and find the name behind the shank!) So many of us have had the honor of dog companionship… I’m happy you had Marvin.

    • Thanks Guess. Well, soon enough, you’ll have your own tiny latke to watch grow up. Tato thinks you’re neurotic, BTW. He thinks you’re a Chihuahua hoarder and wants to send you to a psych. Choose a Mormon with 8 dogs!

  1. Ahh Laura that was so sweet! Best thing I had with a dog was my ex-husband’s doberman. He went on our honeymoon with us and ate up all my bras and undies. I should of listened to the dog and run fast……….

    • Hilarous! Yes indeed, you should have flown away from that one (I doubt that normal legs would have carried you fast enough, but maybe if you were bionic…). I don’t think I will ever be able to un-see the image of a Doberman gobbling up your delicates!

  2. I miss Diego, too, but his timing in your life couldn’t have been better. You needed a loyal little man. I am sure he has lots of stuffed squeaky frogs in heaven. Remember how he sat with you through your whole labor til we hauled you off to the hospital for more laboring?.

    • Thanks, Guap. And yes, I do have so many great memories! I think the very worst part of adopting a dog is know you will also watch it die. But what they bring into your life is so worth it. 🙂 Lots of smiles!

  3. Sorry to comment on your lovely dog post. I couldn’t see your email anywhere. My husband and I own the Dirty Dash Mud Run which is coming to Abq September 8. We’d love for you to do a giveaway and would give you a couple entries for yourself as well. Email me at and I’ll give you the codes and details.

    Courtney Bankhead

  4. I would say this post is beautiful, but that word is SO overused in your comment section. =p

    I hope you’re right about it being worth it. my little Essa is inching me closer and closer to a four-legged family member.

    I loved reading this, Laura, and I truly feel both your laughter and your tears.

    • Hi Stacie, nice to see you. And thank you… yes, both laughter and tears, but that’s life, right? I would definitely encourage you to adopt a four-legger! They are wonderful and add so much life to a household. My one piece of advice — just know a little about the breed you choose (even a mutt, if possible!), especially exercise needs and general energy level. When we went to the shelter looking for Velma, we actually had a list of doggie features that we knew would fit in well with us. And got a great match!

      • I just signed up to be a foster dog parent to rehabilitate injured dogs. It seems like a great way to wet our fee without jumping in all at once. Who knows, maybe one of our foster dogs will end up being a fit! Loved this piece, you are truly a gifted writer. =)

        • Woo woo! Great idea, Stacie! I wish we could foster, but Velma is too much of a bi….atch to other dogs. And thanks, your opinion of my writing is very valued, as I am a big fan of yours too, as you know ! ;))

  5. Laura, among my many memories of Diego, my favorite is my earliest: the morning I went outside to our compost pile to discover this tiny reddish ball of lint animatedly and assertively protecting my compost pile from…me. He’d apparently been dumped by someone, either at next door neighbor Wally’s house or in our yard. From Day One he assumed guard duties with perfect loyalty. He fitted into the family immediately and become your constant protector. I also remember him jumping out an upstairs window and patrolling our roof, hence my recollection of him as America’s first-ever Alpine Cholo dog.

  6. I love this post. Anyone who has ever owned a pet would love this post. You’re such a brave and inspiring woman – and behind every amazing woman is often an amazing friend with four legs and the heart the size of the Atlantic. I wish I’d had the opportunity to meet Diego. He looks just like my friend’s dog, Oxford, who is also no longer with us. It seems like he wanted to spare all of you a difficult goodbye. Good dog!

    • Thank you, CCL, even tho you’re more of a cat person, I know you know. Thanks as always for stopping by and I look forward to your new bloggie adventure! And here’s hoping the hurricane adventure isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

      • We’ve only gotten a smattering of rain so far today, but tomorrow’s when we should start seeing some bad weather. At least it’s shortened the RNC by a day and a half and pissed all over their hopes to have an opening event today.

  7. yes, there are little tears starting out of my eyes. I feel it’s beautiful to remember, even with pain, your dear Diego, I can feel the sweetness of him in you and your honouring of him. what an end he took himself to, into the hugs of lilies and fishes. what a terrible thing to have to say goodbye.

    Velma looks like a cracker. and I read about her sniffing out your poo-ey hair dye and she and you made me laugh a lot. I wanted to tell you at the time but abstained from doing so on account of my then revealed secret and the waiting I made myself do… (I really felt quite illicit to visit you at all in that moment!) x

  8. Hi Laura,
    Jerry has sent us your past two posts and i just subscribed. Found this one about Diego and want to say i remember Diego and your post made me cry. Thanks, Jeanne (formerly of Santa Fe, now surviving hurricane Sandy in Charlottesville, VA)

    • Jeanne, how nice to see your comment! Of course I remember you and Gene (sp?) fondly. Thank you so much for the kind words. I didn’t realize that you ‘knew’ Diego…. And I’m honored that the post inspired tears. I hope you both are well, enjoying grandkids and not suffering too terribly the effects of the hurricane. Much love–Laura

Talk to me! I spend too much time alone in the studio.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: