Saturday, March 24, 2012

A Dog Named Travis

My first meeting with Travis
I was exhausted. After a full day of work all I wanted to do was go home and fall into a vodka induced coma, something I had only heard about but never aspired towards. But as I was walking past the pet store I stopped. Something told me to step inside and take a peek at the puppies. And there was this one, the cutest baby husky you ever did see, that made me question whether an alcoholic stupor was all it was cracked up to be. I smiled. Not in an I-can't-live-without-him kind of way, but just enough to ask the man behind the counter how much he was.

Without answering my query, the pet store guy--a slightly greasy man who I'll name Serge--asked me to step into one of the back rooms telling me he would bring the husky to me. Then, when the blue-eyed bundle of fluff was in my arms, Serge whipped out an Instamatic and snapped our picture. After flapping it about for the allotted amount of time, Serge then handed the partially developed, somewhat-still-damp photo and declared, "See how good the two of you look together?"

That smarmy asshole! I wonder how many dickheads have been suckered in by this obvious ploy.

It's a horrible picture. Oh, sure, the dog photographed well, but I look like I could use a deep tissue massage with a happy ending. But stubble and Jew fro aside, Serge was right, we do look like we belong together.

Every logical part of my being screamed to put the puppy down and get out of there. I knew Serge was a shyster and would charge me an arm and a leg while telling me what a great deal I was getting. I knew the dog was probably born in some puppy mill in the backwoods of Minnesota next to a moonshine distillery, or somewhere equally dubious. I knew my busy New York life didn't have room to properly raise and care for a puppy, no matter how fetchingly beautiful his eyes were.

Yes, that's what my brain told me, but I chose to listen to my heart instead and whipped out the plastic. Serge's technique worked like a charm and I became a dickhead of the highest order. When I left that Astoria, Queens pet store not only did I have a puppy secured in a cardboard box, but I also managed to rack up even more debt.

That was fifteen years ago.

For the first week he was with me I called him Clancy. But for some reason that didn't feel quite right, so I was always on the lookout for the perfect name. Out of the blue "Travis" came to me. I racked my brain to find "Travis" references. The only thing I came up with was the Levi's 501 ad for women, where the cowgirl, who starts out lounging in a car in the classic James Dean pose, stands up and yells, "Travis, you're a year too late." I still don't know what that means, but enigmatic message aside, take a gander at my handsome husky's face...definitely a Travis.

Early on, Travis let it be known that his spot was at my feet. Whether at the computer or watching TV, Travis's routine has been to nudge my legs apart and settle in.

My biggest success with Travis was that I trained him to walk off leash, and from what I understand, that isn't easy to teach huskies, who are bred to run ahead without looking back. But Travis always looked back, always kept tabs on where I was.

Travis and I accepting Michael into the pack
Six months after Travis entered my life, Michael came along, and Travis was obliging and allowed Michael to stay. When we moved to Los Angeles, I saw first hand how big Travis's heart can be. First, he had to welcome our second dog, Cosmo (also named Clancy for about a week...I don't know how I know this, but I'm destined to have a dog named Clancy at some point in my life). Then when Michael and I started the adopting children, Travis graciously accepted Thing 1 and Thing 2, who have systematically pulled, prodded and pulverized his tail, his ears and pretty much every orifice without uttering one bark of complaint.

If I feel guilt about anything it's that over the years, as life has gotten more complicated, Travis has received less and less affection. But no matter how busy I've gotten, Travis has remained faithful and loving, maintaining his spot at my feet.

About a year and a half ago, Travis let it be known that he didn't want to sleep outside anymore. This was a big deal for a dog who loved outdoor weather, the more inclement the better. His sight and hearing started deteriorating shortly after that. Now, it's harder for him to get up and down stairs, and Travis distrusts the wood flooring we have in our house, and only goes into the kitchen with its slate floors and our dining room which has a rug. Travis has had four or five seizures that I know of. He falls to the ground, voids his bladder and shakes uncontrollably. It was after one of these seizures that I told the children that Travis wasn't going to be with us too much longer. That was two years ago and Travis is still here.

He's been bleeding from his mouth recently, and when last week I searched for the source I felt a mass at his gum line. We took him to the vet and it turns out Travis has cancer, a golf ball sized lump grows under his tongue. He's in no pain, but the doctor wanted to euthanize him immediately, saying the growth was metathesizing at a rapid rate and he will eventually have a hard time eating and breathing. And even though Travis is the equivalent of a 95 year old, I decided against the vet's recommendation. I want Travis to be at home when he goes.

After such dire news, I expected to witness Travis's failing health during this past week, but quite the contrary, he's his old self. His eyes still light up for suppertime, he's been more social with Cosmo and the kids, and he's even attempted a happy dance or two.

I may have him only a couple more days--maybe a couple more weeks--but when the time does come, I don't intend to write about it. I'd rather marvel at the life force that is Travis, from the blue-eyed puppy in a box to the distinguished family pet he is now.

My old man today
There's my good boy!

8 comments:

Jeff said...

Beautiful! What a great piece!!

Vodka Logic said...

Great story. What a wonderful dog despite his dubious origins.

May he go peacefully xx

Rita Templeton said...

Oh, my heart!

Travis is gorgeous, and I'm sure he's as wonderful as you describe. I hope for a calm and peaceful transition ... for everyone involved!

www.DiatribesAndOvations.com said...

What an absolutely beautiful and loving tribute to a wonderful member of your family. Thank you so much for sharing it.

Leigh Anne said...

Beautiful - thanks for sharing! My dogs will both get extra hugs tonight thanks to you & Travis!

eeny meany said...

Heartbreaking, but what a great companion you've had.

CSY said...

Thank you for sharing! Hugs to you and yours!

eric robinson said...

Thank you for that wonderful story. i cannot stop crying. may your day be filled joy, and your weeks filled with much laughter.