When my dad was growing up, his family had a dachshund named Fifi. Whenever his friend, the other Reverend, would come over, he would pick Fifi up and dance around with her. She would get so excited that she would pee on him. If you bring this up around the other Reverend, even now, he will start laughing so hard it brings tears to his eyes.
Before my parents had children, they had a dachshund named Fred, who died an unfortunate death after eating ant-poisoned roses.
Fresh off that success, my parents had me.
A year later, some folks in my dad’s church got together and gave my parents a little black and tan dachshund named Hans.
For some reason, my mom could not remember “Hans,” and so, for the seventeen years he graced the planet, we called him “Fritz.”
(This brings us to porn names. Supposedly, to generate your perfect porn name, you take your childhood pet’s name as your first name and the street you grew up on as your last name. This makes my porn name Fritz Irving. That’s a Pulitzer-winning playwrite, but not a porn star. Oh well. If I ever leave blogging for play writing, I will go by the pseudonym Fritz Irving.)
Living to be seventeen years old meant that for most of his life, he was old. But even when he was young, he was a laid-back dog. Mostly, he chased tennis balls and slept in the sun.
One Halloween, he was a hot dog. My mom bought a big loaf of crusty bread and cut it down the middle and tied it to him. This went poorly, of course, because he kept turning in circles trying to eat pieces of his bun when my mom wasn’t looking.
One summer, before the Butcher was born, back before we knew of such things as child safety, my parents drove us from Illinois to California in an Oldsmobile. They filled the back seat with necessary crap, put a big sheet of peg board down on top of that, tucked Fritz into the rear window ledge and let the recalcitrant brother and I ride across country on a slick piece of particle board balanced on the back of the front seat and the rear window ledge.
The only justice that would have been derived from the accident in which we were launched out the front window onto the hot asphalt would have been that they would have been decapitated by the peg board, which they neglected to fasten in any way.
Luckily, that did not happen.
But it did set the precedent for where the dog preferred to ride in the car, up there in the back window.
The only time Fritz was ever really excited was when we went to visit my dad’s mom. That dog could have been in a coma, but when we turned onto my grandma’s street, he would somehow know and wake up and start barking and wagging his tail. He loved my grandma, and I don’t think it was just because she slipped him all the scraps of meat he could eat.
When he got very old, he spent all of his time sleeping, nestled in a stinky blanket, in a smelly green chair we designated as his. Eventually, he went blind, which we learned only when he made his way to the middle of the living room, barked to be let out, listened to me open the front door, walked forward enough to be outside (except that he’d misjudged where he was in relationship to the front door), did his business by the couch, turned around, walked back to where he thought the door ought to be, and barked to be let back in.
He didn’t move from that spot, despite coaxing, until he heard the front door open again.
It was shortly after this that my mom and I sat in the kitchen and told each other our favorite stories about the dog and we laughed and laughed and cried and Shug and her cousin showed up and were like, “Oh my god, did Fritz die?” because we were just a wreck, the two of us.
And when we said that he had not, they were really confused.
But I think that was the moment my mom knew it was time to put him down, since we’d already had his funeral.
In our family, my mom is responsible for all the difficult things. She puts the animals down. She catches the wasps and lets them go outside. She climbs the tv antenna to see if she can see my grandpa and grandma’s car (well, obvious, cable put a stop to that). She plants and harvests the garden. She makes the school lunches and teaches the kids to write their names. She reads the stories about Daniel Boone when we’re trying hard not to go to sleep while we’re tucked safely into sleeping bags high up in the Appalachians. She runs out to see the two-headed snake the boys found over at the dump. She welds her RA into her room with a torch she “borrowed” from a construction site. She hunts down my dad when he’s AWOL from the hospital, hiding at Dairy Queen, and brings him back.
She’s the one who always says, “No more pets!”
We never listen.