Friday, December 30, 2005

Personal myth

Some kids have to share their moms with brothers and sisters. Since I'm the youngest by seven years, I had my mother all to myself. No sibling rivalry here. Except for Chi Chi. I can imagine a pre-Doug time when it was just my mom and Chi Chi. Knowing how my mom is with dogs, Chi Chi must have lived in a state of bliss. She would have garnered my mother's full attention and love, and she wouldn't have had a care in the world. Then I came onto the scene, and Chi Chi's life changed forever. How she must have hated me! Here was this squealing, pooping, puking creature; such a shameful sight, no self-respecting pup would ever put on a display like that. How could my mother tolerate it? Growing up, Chi Chi fascinated me, all the more because she was untouchable. If I came within six feet of her, she would bare her teeth and growl. I wanted to make her happy, but even gifts of table scraps had no impact on her demeanor. She was a bitter, depressed, hateful old bitch who could not be pleased by anything I did or said. Only one person could thaw her -- my mother, of course. I did the only thing I could do. I begged my mother to pet Chi Chi and praise her. Mom would oblige, but she seemed to tire of it quickly. Nevertheless, for those brief moments in time, Chi Chi was happy, energetic, young again. When I was five, my parents bought a male Chihuahua whom they named Chico (their names for pets have never strained the imagination). From Chico and Chi Chi I learned that sex involves a lot of yelping, and couples always end up back-to-back before it's over. Anyway, Chi Chi became pregnant, gave birth at home, fell asleep on top of her puppies, and smothered them all. This did little to help her mood. When I was twelve, she developed a cough. The vet called it a "heart cough," which means something to me now, but bewildered me back then. I never had a very good grasp on sickness or death, and my apparent callousness landed me in trouble on more than one occasion -- but that's another story. Chi Chi became weak. She needed help getting off and on her pillow. We moved her pillow next to the back door so that she could be close to her food, water, and potty stomping-grounds. She woke me up one night with her coughing. Sickness had mellowed her, and she had long since decided I wasn't worth the energy it took to growl; she allowed me to help her off the pillow -- that's what I'm trying to say. All she wanted was a drink of water. Afterwards, I helped her back onto her pillow. In the morning, I checked her, and she was dead. I would carry on about the burden of guilt we feel towards our pets, but Jurassic Pork covered that poignantly in recent weeks. I don't think I can add much. What interests me more is the depth of grief I felt for Chi Chi. It sounds horrible, but her death touched me far more than the deaths of any of my grandparents. Nowadays, I think about my grandparents more often than I do Chi Chi, but at the time, Chi Chi's death really got me where I lived. I had grown up with her. Am I alone in creating a personal creation myth? I don't know if my mother bought Chi Chi before or after I was born, but in my myth, I tell myself: It was before. She was lonely, but the dog didn't cut it. So she discovered the wondrous magic of pinholes in condoms, and that's how I came to be. Little Dougie: because a dog wasn't good enough. My parents deny all of this, naturally, but I am unperturbed, and I will not listen to their objections. Myths lose power when subjected to close scrutiny. D.

4 Comments:

Anonymous fiveandfour said...

I had such an odd childhood that I don't recall a personal creation myth. Thus, I find it interesting that my husband and I have been working one up for my daughter. I mean, we're trying to tell her the truth, but memory is an unreliable witness to events so undoubtedly the result will be that when she's an adult it will be myth-like, at a minimum. It'll be interesting to hear the spin she puts on it on that distant day :).

12/30/2005 11:15:00 PM  
Blogger mm said...

Heart cough - cardiomyopathy?

My uncle, an unhappy and often unpleasant man, got a chihuahua one year and lavished all his love one it. You'd think some of it would be directed to my aunt and 2 cousins, but no. All I really remember about Rosita is that for such a tiny thing, she had breath that could peel wallpaper.

My lab had good breath most of her life. The vet said it was because she was always gnawing on a bone. We gave her bones because they were the only thing she couldn't chew up and swallow within 20 minutes. So bones kept her amused, and as a side benefit she had the teeth and the breath of a much younger dog right up until the time she got sick.

Oh - except for a brief time when she was a puppy, and took a keen interest in cleaning up after herself. Do I have to make that clearer? We'd look out the window, and there she'd be, eating what was clearly... let's leave it at that.

I took her to the vet for that behaviour, and he told me some dogs, almost always puppies, just do that. And he agreed with me that it was utterly gross, so he sold me a product that I was to spinkle on her food. It would stop her from eating her own stool.

"How?" I asked.

"It makes it taste bad," he said.

"But it already tastes like shit", I said.

"I'm a vetrinarian," he said. "You have to believe me on this one."

Anyway, the product worked, and she stopped her revolting behaviour, and her breath became sweet again.

12/31/2005 05:46:00 AM  
Blogger kybruno said...

My mother had a cocker spaniel, a huge beast with a bad tempter, especially when a tiny baby would pull on it's tail. The bog bite me and mother had to get rid of the dog, as it really didn't like me. I don't think my mom ever forgave me for that.

12/31/2005 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks, everyone.

"Heart cough": nowadays, I'd assume the doc was referring to pulmonary edema secondary to congestive heart failure.

Gross story, Maureen. Thanks for sharing ;o)

12/31/2005 11:14:00 AM  

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