Hey, little dude.
Do you remember that day? The day I picked you up? It was bright and shimmery. You had brothers and sisters there, but it was all you. All you.
My first dog.
There you were a young, 11 week-old pup. I put you in the car; you sat in between the two seats and on the emergency brake of my old black CRXsi. Do you remember the sound you made, your panting from the early afternoon heat?
“Ka ka ka ka ka ka….” you whispered, with a wide open smile.
I remember walking to Petco that first day. And not knowing I could bring you with. And not knowing that I had no idea what I was doing or what I was buying or how big your neck was for your collar. So, I walked back to my apartment to get you, and heard you calling: “Yipe! yipe! yipe! yipe! yipe!”
As fast as I could I ran, responding to the sound that would be your signature call for the next (nearly) 18 years of my life.
I grabbed you and walked you to Petco, where—not kidding—everyone in the store came over and up to you. This would be a repeat event; in later years, friends wanted to rent you to take to Venice in order to hit on chicks (I would have made a fortune). Hell, I remember this one friend who didn’t like dogs, but said, ‘Dude, Superchunk is a great dog.’
“That’s right,” I used to say…. “People who don’t like dogs…like Superchunk.”
And on that first day, you sat (“Sit!”) for the first time. Do you remember? I felt so lucky. I wondered: Would you be smart?
Smarter than I’d ever know.
I remember showing you off to everyone. You stopped traffic. This kind of situation never abated: even just six months ago, people would call to us and say: “Oh! What a cute puppy!…What?? He’s how old??”
Or how about this story:
My friends at an old job I used to have (Precision Payroll) decided to throw me a surprise puppy shower. It was under the subterfuge of Cinco de Mayo: fake margaritas and Mexican food. Somewhere in the middle—all of a sudden—a cavalcade of people came single file into the room with their hands filled with presents.
Ihor: “Dude, we knew you’d sniff this one out, so we planned this whole Cinco de Mayo party just so we could give you puppy presents.” I was overwhelmed and beaming. Just like a proud papa would, I guess.
You played with those toys for years. I’d hide them from you and “recycle” them later. You’d re-discover them as if I had just given you the best. toy. ever.
Remember when Andrea, my girlfriend at the time, and I decided to go clubbing one night on some party bus? It was to be the first time we ever left you alone. And we put you in the kitchen, with a huge gate theoretically blocking your exit.
We got home at around 3 AM and, just as I opened the door, I see this streak of gold fly across the room. There was ripped paper—toilet, news, otherwise—everywhere. Oh, and poop: there, and over there…and over there. And you came flying up to me as if to say, “Hey!!! What’s going on!! I’m having a fricking blast here!! This place is awesome! What time is it??!”
That’s right: you managed to get over a fence that was 5 times higher than your height.
I walked into the kitchen. That was when Andrea heard this from me:
In your frantic worry due to fear of abandonment, you had started digging through the kitchen’s linoleum floors…all the way to the old dark wood below. This newly created “art installation” of yours was about 3 feet in diameter. Yea. That was a fun call to the landlord.
Do you remember how you’d fricking throw up your food the first couple of years?? Yea, so California: I had a fricking bulemic dog! No vet could figure it out. Well, I should say no vet bothered to say, “Why don’t you try changing his food?” until a friend of a friend of a friend recommended it. And duh, like magic, it stopped and you began to gain weight to a more normal size.
Oh, remember that time you and I were wrestling at the Beverly Glen apartment, and you popped out of my hands and jetted so fast across the carpet that you ran into the corner of a wall and landed in a really awkward way? I felt sick to my stomach and rushed to comfort you. I was immediately in tears from your wriggling when I slowly realized that you were wriggling precisely because you wanted to keep playing, your tongue wagging and eyes all crazed.
Here’s something I never told you: You were maybe a year old when you experienced your first rain. We went for a walk, down the stairs, and over to the tree in front of our apartment. You looked up when you realized rain was hitting your nose. You looked up again and blinked –just a bit– when some got in your eye. And then you were fine.
How about that time when, on your first birthday, I threw you a huge party at an old manager’s house. He was out of town, and he consented, hell probably even suggested it. Everyone brought you presents and I played ridiculous pornos on a 61-inch screen TV because well, it was hilarious and because what the hell else do you play on a 61-inch tv screen except perhaps really bad 90’s pornography??
Oh, do you remember that first time I took you to a dog park, and your eyes brightened because you were surprised the world could be so big and beautiful? You took off running toward the other dogs. I suddenly felt different than you, as if I consciously and for the first time acknowledged we were different species.
At one point, I whistled the whistle that I would use to call you forevermore, one I even now use to call Christina and Henry when we’re separated in a large supermarket. In slow motion you came running, like an old 1970’s Alpo commercial.
You were at the far side of the park when you heard me; I had become nervous you were getting too close to the outside and unregulated area. And to the echo of the whistle, as if on a string, you came toward me. That’s when I knew you were mine. Even g-friend at the time smiled and said, “Well, looks like you got what you wanted (out of a dog)…he sure is loyal!”
And you gave me a look I’ll never forget. It went like this: “Hey Dad! All good, right? I’m going to go back and play, ok?” It had this sense of requesting permission, again like a son to a father. It was incredible.
Or that time we went hiking at Big Bear with friends? Like…a five mile hike? And, on the way back, you kept trying to make a bed (anywhere and everywhere) when it seemed we were stopping, because you were so fricking tired? Kicking up sand, while all of us giggled? You slept on my lap the three-hour drive home.
Or the time I took you to Malibu State Park and you swam in the river for the first time?
Do you remember going to practices, and to the recording studios, and meeting big time producers, and making everyone laugh? You made everyone smile. You brought us such joy. Like Sebi said, you were the 5th bandmate. Sometimes, I swear I’d think people were jealous of you, and wished you were theirs. I felt guilty to be this lucky.
Or those times I couldn’t take you with and I’d be stuck there a lot longer than scheduled, and you’d sit at home for 12 hours and never “go in the house?” Thank you for that.
Or how about at Ty’s house, when you’d sit on the stoop of his porch. Like a sentinel. For hours, you’d sit there, happy.
Oh, do you remember this: “Hamburger, boy!” Yea, that one I knew you would. Those little plastic hamburgers were your favorite. You went through 7, I think. I always wanted to put them all on a plaque with their corresponding dates underneath. Sorta thought that’d be funny. And when the new one came, you made it your mission to DESTROY THAT SQUEAKER. But I loved it because I’d know it was you.
Speaking of destruction: how about the time you destroyed the first pair of nice shoes I ever bought for myself…a few days after I bought them? Or when you ate about a thousand dollars worth of Ty’s shoes? Or ate through a satchel I bought , eating that one a day or two after I bought it as well. Or when you ate my iPod because it had a leather case, and I thought I hid it well in my gig bag and was straight up wrong?
How about when someone told me, “If your dog does a lot of chewing, just put a little tabasco on it!” So, I dabbed tabasco on the bottoms of the cupboards you’d chew when you were teething, worried about landlord repercussions. You came up, gave it one lick…thought about it…and kept on licking.
Remember that one time when we were living at Ty’s house and we threw a huge bucket of tennis balls into the air in the backyard all at once? And we thought it would overwhelm you. You started to go up to each of them as if you wanted to put them in your mouth, when we realized you were actually touching…every…single…one…with your nose. You were about ten touches in when we realized it. And you’d run up to ones you had already touched and turn away when you realized, “Yea, already got that one.” Ty and I stood there with our mouths open. We’d never seen anything like it. And you didn’t stop until you tagged them all.
Remember that time I took you to the vet, and we got out of the car, and you started walking toward the vet’s door and then you turned right the fuck around when you knew where you were?? That was HILARIOUS. A complete U-turn! Your sense of timing: I always used to think you were a comedian.
Or the time I took you on the road with the band, and you were stuck in this big van while we played the show. And my heart had a lot of trouble leaving you there, but I had no choice. And I came out, and there you were breathing steam on the side windows, with this incredulous “Dude, what the fuck??!!” look on your face.
Or how about when Christina and I first started dating? And how, because of the trajectory of our living arrangements and how new our relationship was, I opted to get a single apartment which about two weeks later merely served as a storage facility for a year ’til I got out of the lease.
Sometimes, she and I along with you and her dog, Lulu, would stay at this place so I could justify the expense in my mind. And because I had no real bed, we slept on an air mattress..and you’d sometimes wake up at 6 AM in the morning to eat your food, and would quietly <munch>…<munch>…<munch>…your food… so as to not wake us (because you had manners!)?
Do you remember when you, Christina, Lulu and I drove 1300 miles all the way to Oklahoma? In the snow? It was your first time on a farm, your first time in the snow, your first time spent that far away from home. You ran around the wheat fields, and diplomatically posed for photos on bales of hay.
Or when my Mom came to Los Angeles for the wedding. How, up until that point, she maybe never really understood how deep my love was for you (because, well, you were a dog!), that is… until she met you for the first time. And how, all of a sudden…she just knew. (Because when a Mom knows, she knows.)
Or how about the time, just a few days later you were the best man at my wedding? And I put a bowtie on you, and you slept through half the night because so much of the day you spent sniffing the perimeter as you always did and because—around 5:45 pm—according to a diary-like note I wrote myself: “Ok, caterers have arrived, and Superchunk just threw up. Seems he found a doggie bone and fell in love, but his stomach had a dissenting opinion.”
But you were there, and it meant everything to me.
Or the time you met my son? You walked up to him, sniffed him, and sat down, going right into sentinel mode.
Or that time I threw you yet another birthday party, this time for your 15th? Because seriously, 15 is old! And I felt in my bones you’d soon slow down and I wanted those who loved you to see you still happy. And show up they did: our one bedroom apartment packed with 50 people…who came to a party… for a dog.
And when you finally did start to slow down, and I got very frustrated. And I just couldn’t comprehend what was happening. It started with your hearing; then your sight. Then the incontinence, the loss of your inhibitions, the dementia…. I felt like such a shameful idiot. I just couldn’t come to grips with your demise until it was almost too late. All those obedience lessons I taught you, all those tricks I taught you, were all but gone.
But—it turns out—this whole time you were teaching me:
To be patient so I could be a Dad; to be understanding so I could be ready for my aging parents when the time came; to love unconditionally and deeply because that’s the only way to be to my wife and my son.
And when Christina and I were about to get our first house. And, whispering in your ear every night, I begged you to stick around so I could give you a backyard. So I could keep my promise to you.
And you did.
Because I knew this day would come. I knew George Carlin was right. I knew this would tear at my very fabric. I knew, when it was time, you’d let me know. I knew your body would soon give out before your being would, and I couldn’t stand the idea of me not being there for you every step of the way. So this had to be my decision. And you let me know, that Saturday… it was time.
And as the Doctor shaved your leg, and began to quietly ease your suffering, I looked into your eyes, and I thanked you for everything; and I asked for forgiveness for all the times I couldn’t measure up. I am such an inferior man next to you. But you never ever stopped loving me. Not once. Not ever.
And that… I remember.