Insure your car, home and valuables with iWYZE
The date didn’t go as planned. A downpour had scuppered my plans of a picnic blanket, spring flowers and the sound of frogs in the nearby stream. Just the two of us, alone at last. But I had made a promise and I wouldn’t break it.
I parked the car. “Back in two minutes,” I yelled through the rattle of rain on the roof. I sprinted across the parking lot into Steers. “Two cheese burgers and chips, please,” I told the cashier. “One vegetarian, the other without tomato or onions.” I nearly told her about my date, but thought better. I was already wild of hair and muddy of boot. I didn’t want to confirm my insanity to a Chantal.
Back at the car, the sky raining cats and tarantulas, I had to make a quick decision – we would have our date in the boot. Right here, in the parking lot opposite the vet, where two days earlier we had discussed cremation options. I squeezed in, pulled the door closed and kneeled back on my wellies, smearing mud all over my jeans. I didn’t care. This was a significant meal.
“Right, that’s yours,” I said, opening a Styrofoam container containing a meek burger drooling sauce the colour of pig. “And you get these too,” I said, laying out a greaseproof packet of chips. “Go for it, dude.”
By the time I’d had two bites of my burger, Bella had polished hers off. A dollop of pink sauce clung to her black nose. She moved on to the chips, but they were too hot. With the car windows steamed up and no one able to see in through the cataracts, I blew on each chip before feeding them to Bella. She gobbled them up and burped.
I gave her the rest of my burger and then we sat staring at each other – two brown dog eyes the colour of toffee gazing at two human eyes, slightly misty.
Soon, Bella would be dead.
Dogs shouldn’t have burgers. I’ve been around enough dog crazies to know that. “They mustn’t have garlic, chocolate, human food or bones,” they say earnestly, armed with their homemade treats and nose leads.
Last night, I shared half a slab of Lindt with Bella (everybody should have Lindt before they die) before bequeathing her a lamb shank gnawed on by a man at the restaurant table next to us. Bella can barely walk, but she can sure sort out a dead sheep.
When it comes to the dying, there are two types of people: those who nut up and carry on as normal, or those – like me – who feel the immensity of it all and scurry around trying to cram in all the good stuff. We’re like ADD tour guides trying to lasso the last breath out of life.
When my brother moved to Cape Town and, in his own way, was dying, I took him to the Company’s Garden to see the squirrels. He wasn’t impressed – until one of the critters attacked me from behind, leopard-crawled up my back and settled on my head. He laughed. He was dying, but he was laughing.
Bella is just a dog. I’m acutely aware of that. She’s a 14-year-old, arthritic – and now cancerous – Labrador with an inexplicable hatred for Jack Russells. She waits for me at the gate every evening, whether it’s snowing or blowing a gale.
She likes to lie on my shoes and is happiest in water with a ball in her mouth. At the beach, she’s the Jacques Cousteau of dogs, diving down to retrieve stones.
She smells, she creaks, she snores and follows me into the bathroom and watches me pee. She’s my white-faced shadow; my big, oafish Skeletor.
The vet has given her a maximum of two months, but realistically two weeks. At night, she whines and I get up to administer pain killers and then lie next to her and rock her to sleep. It has come to this – I spoon a Labrador.
In the past two years, she’s survived so much – a dislocated hip, three palm-sized tumours, an infected uterus, splintered joints. And always, her tail has wagged like a fat corn snake.
Which is why, on Friday – the day of the dreaded vet’s appointment – you will find me on my final date with Bella.
Come rain, snow, hail or gale, we will be swimming in the ocean – she light of body, me heavy of heart. We might share another burger, maybe a beer. We’ll be out there, wagging and shrieking and diving down. Living in the moment.