My husband kept his last name when we married; only our eldest dog, Auggie, chose to hyphenate. Augusta Matson-Johnson does what she wants.
“It’s a good sign when the dog who knows you best connects with your new wife,” I explained to my husband. He agreed. He and Auggie are the best package deal. Like Auggie, I have imagined so many ways to get through the banalities and indignities of daily life. Until a few years ago, I never could have dreamed of sharing it with a man as good as her owner, and her.
Mornings are exciting. After feeding the baby, I walk the dogs, then feed the dogs, then take a shower, then feed the cat. No one waits patiently for me to do this on my own timetable. Two labrador chins rest on my side of the mattress while I nurse, Auggie wanting her walk and Joon wanting her food. If it’s early, I will walk beneath the stars with the dogs, Auggie leading the way with her wagging tail while Joon searches for scraps of anything to put in her mouth. This time is a religion for me.
When we get home, breakfast time in the kitchen is Joon’s purpose in life. Auggie, not so much. Auggie often waits before eating. “She’s reminding us she’s not a dog,” my husband says. This was funny until she stopped eating.
Eventually, I fed her slowly on the floor, pellet by pellet, between my fingers. I did this two times a day around the time our baby was two months old. She took some of the food, so it was worth it. Then she stopped taking the pellets, even from my hands, even one by one. We came up with a series of elaborate rituals designed to stop the cat from eating her food, in case she might want it later. We started using wet food. She took it for a time, and then she stopped.
As a former anorexic, I can relate to the emotional tinnitus Auggie must feel: The stupid, hollow ring of someone’s well-intentioned and totally fucking clueless “Why don’t you just eat?” in response to obvious emaciation and declining health. I suspect there are many reasons why Auggie doesn’t just eat, many of them going beyond her arthritis and being almost 14 years old. But she is weak and we had to do something.
Saturday, we took her to the vet. He expressed surprise that she wasn’t falling over given her dramatic weight loss, and told us to start feeding her whatever people food she would take. He used the word “hospice.” And so, though my husband and I are both vegetarians since childhood and frankly find cold cuts to be disgusting, we now have a refrigerator full of meat.
I pick up some smoked turkey and it’s slimy. I roll it. I smile. I call for Auggie. And she eats piece after piece after piece. This is a time when I could start to get really sad, because I love this dog. But I love this dog. This is a dream come true for her. I am making her sandwiches, feeding her cookies, and giving her exactly what she wants. When she gets up, I hear her, and call for her to come my way, cheering, “Yay, Auggie!” She comes in a little less wobbly now, beaming. We are not sorry and we are not sad. Life is a present moment. It should be so fun.