The ER vet is the new nightclub. Except for the fact that girls are falling apart in places other than bathroom stalls, and no one asks if I come here often. They already know I do. I’m on a first name basis with the staff. It’s 11pm and the receptionist is running out of tissues. Photographs of party animals cover the walls. Boy horses should wear pants- that’s simply too much to see. There are rainbow flags everywhere. I want to tell the vet tech, “It’s so cool you welcome gay dogs!” just to see the look on her face. I’m funny even when I’m grieving these days. This is the only place in the world I oblige patriarchy, pretend to stare at my phone so grown men can cry in peace. I too, love far too many puppies to not spend half of my life in tears. My cheeks, gardens I never stop watering, my face in full bloom each time I’m here. Love keeps us alive. It never does the opposite. But it doesn’t always feel that way.
Every day my puppies get closer to being born into another world. I don’t want them to be born anywhere else until they’ve licked the plate of this planet clean. I want the same thing for myself. Give me every last spill and crumb. Even what I’m allergic to. Illness. Loss. Pain. Pain is one letter away from piano. Can I hire someone to tune my pain? Oh right, I already have. My therapist. As a kid I tried to make a violin out of rubber bands and scraps of wood. Couldn’t understand why it sounded terrible. My best friend and housemate Emily and I once had a neighbor who was a violin teacher. His dogs howled whenever he was teaching a beginner. You should hear how loud they get when there’s a master playing! I imagined him saying, while trying not to plug his ears. They only sing along to beautiful music!
Emily and I were permanently banned from the Pepsi center in Denver for protesting the circus. I love Emily for many reasons but the main one is this: The day I called to tell her the circus elephants were finally free, Emily said only, What about the big cats? Are the big cats free? Emily is relentless when it comes to loving animals. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who loves other people’s dogs as much as they do. It’s Emily’s dog Willow who I’m here with. Emily is out of town. How do I do this? How on earth do I do this?
There is a large photograph of two chickens beside my head pondering whether or not to leave their cozy shelter and brave a walk through the snow. For years, Emily would dress as a chicken and I would dress as a cow and we’d roam the city filming videos about being kind to animals. Once, when Emily was a chicken, she read a poem on a mic and I called it a poultry reading. That’s funny, but it’s making me cry right now. My therapist says animals don’t relate to death the way we do. I heard when a bird is killed and eaten by a cat it doesn’t think “This is terrible!” The bird thinks “I’m becoming a cat!” I loved hearing that. Though I’d prefer to not become what kills me. Unless it’s a dog. Especially if it’s Emily ‘s dog. Who wouldn’t love to be Emily’s dog? I’m becoming Emily’s dog! I could say as I was being chewed to bloody bits. It would be the most beautiful moment of my life. I just know it.
If I didn’t believe in god my main argument for not believing in god would be this—dogs live 15 years at most, and humans can live to be 115. I said that to my partner, and she said, “Maybe dogs don’t need to live long because they figure out the point of life a lot sooner than us.” I can’t argue with that. I hadn’t begun to see the point of life until this year, and Willow has known it since she was two. That’s why we call her Saint Willow. She’s a mentor to every dog we know. And the people too. I’ve never known a wiser being.
Do dog’s lives flash before their eyes right before they die? What will Willow see? I know what Willow will see. Willow will see Emily. Willow will see Emily and think, I could not have had a more beautiful life, Mom. And she couldn’t have. She was so lucky to have Emily, who is right now racing back home to say goodbye. Though, when she gets here she won’t actually say goodbye as much as she’ll say thank you thank you thank you, over and over. Thank you thank you thank you, Emily will say, as she opens the door to infinity, to set yet another animal free.
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Thank you for reading, everyone. Today I will be donating to Life Line Puppy Rescue, a great org doing great things, and the rescue where Emily found Willow. If you are able, please consider joining me, or donating to a rescue you trust is doing great work. So many animals need our help.
(Not A Saint) Andrea 🖤
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