I am broken.
Today one of my dogs died. His name was Fezzik. He was four and a border terrier and he was fuzzy and sweet and his heart was so full of love we joked he would pop. He annoyed our 12-year-old terrier, Finnigan, as is a little brother’s right. And he became our rescue rottie’s adopted baby because Lola never had a chance to mother the puppies she was used to produce before being dumped in the desert. And because Fezzik was the runt of his litter and was pushed away from his own mother, kept from her warmth and his food supply, until we brought him home and made him ours and she made him hers and it was perfect.
He was so tiny. His food bowl was one of those little white restaurant ramekins you get ketchup in to dip your fries.
The first time he had a little bowl of kibble and a water dish to himself, he ate and drank so quickly that he made himself sick. The Husband held him for over an hour while Fezzik’s tiny self shook and he burped himself into a happy sleep against the warm heart beating against his. And that night, he curled up against my neck, his head on the pillow next to my own, and sighed blissfully as he fell asleep. Just like he has so many nights since.
When we moved to Maine, it took Fezzik the longest to adjust to the weather and the snow. He was a desert dog. But he love us so much that he hunkered down over the last year and a half and he dealt with it. This year, he didn’t even need a winter jacket. Little man was good at rolling with the punches.
I let him down today. And I’m so very sorry. We live on five acres of remote land in northern Maine. Our driveway is long and lined with evergeens and there is an apple tree at the end (or the beginning, depending on which end you are looking at, I suppose). It’s that tree that our SOLD sign was posted on when we bought the house this past summer. And it’s that tree that the Lola, Finnigan, and Fezzik liked to run to in search of fallen apples. It became apparent that we had a problem when the neighbor called to let me know the dogs had been in the road.
From the end of my drive, I can only see her house. And while remote with little traffic, the cars that do drive by aren’t paying attention to the speed limit. There’s no one around, after all. No police cars to be pulled over by or tickets to deal with. We have the equipment for the electric fence we talked about putting up. But the snow came early, before Halloween, and we figured we would wait it out. So far, so good. Until today.
I let the dogs out while Eliana was finishing a math lesson and went downstairs to take care of the laundry and get more logs for the fire. It was almost out, so I added bits of torn up cardboard and nursed it before remembering the dogs. I heard Eliana open the door for me and call them in by name as I finished up downstairs and moments later I was back on the main floor, taking care of sorting the clean clothes and checking her work. I saw Finnigan on the couch as we marched to the beat of the 10 times tables.
I saw Lola sleeping in her crate. I didn’t see Fezzik, but I didn’t think anything of it because there’s so many places for him to snuggle up in the house. I didn’t hear my phone ring when the neighbor found him in the road when she came home from work because I was trying to figure out dinner and get the folded clothes put away (and plan my work for the evening to allow for a bedtime before 4 a.m.) so that Eliana and could work on a craft after dinner. We already had our workout clothes on for a planned family health time, too. It’s been too long since I’ve fought beyond the haze I let myself sink into and it was time to pull myself out. For me. For her. For The Husband. I wasn’t waiting for tomorrow anymore. Maybe that’s why today got away from me.
I noticed a missed call and realized it was my neighbor, so I called back. She told me about the dog in the road and that she had him and I didn’t understand and apologized for them getting out again and I asked which one as I grabbed for my jacket so I could go get the troublemaker. My brain hadn’t processed yet that I was looking at two of our three or that two hours had passed since the neighbor called and another hour before that since Finnigan and Lola had come inside. That’s when my neighbor told me she was sorry. That it was too late. That Fezzik was in a box in her garage. She found him, already lifeless, in the middle of the road. His poor, broken body had been hit by one of the assholes who flies around the curve and left there because they either didn’t notice or just didn’t care.
The Husband had just arrived home and he drove to pick up our Fezzik. The box with his body is on our porch, covered with Eliana’s sled, because she doesn’t need to see him like that. Twice already I’ve told her it wasn’t her fault. Because it wasn’t. Countless times since, I’ve accepted the blame as my own.
I sat on the porch by that box for hours tonight apologizing to my little guy for letting him down. I am still crying. Today I was starting over and hauling my ass out of whatever self-imposed pit I had let myself fall into. No more pointless all-nighters. No more not working out because when I do, I can’t help but feel good and be better for myself and my family. No more aggravated ADHD craziness made more severe with each passing day from each sleepless night piled on top of the last. I had my gym shoes on, Goddammit, and today was the day. But today was yesterday’s tomorrow. For Fezzik, it was too late.
I know I didn’t kill my dog. That was the driver that didn’t stop. I did forget him, though, and I am truly sorry for that.
In his honor, I still got on the elliptical after paying my respects to his sweet little soul. I kissed my kid goodnight and high-fived her before leaving the room for the 10 minutes she got in before I took my turn at being healthy and strong. And at 1:17 a.m., I’m hitting publish, adding a log to the fire, and getting myself into bed three hours earlier than my usual. I may not have control of how my brain works, but I do have control of how I take care of myself. Not doing so affects more than just the face blinking back in the mirror. Because my dog died today because I forgot him, I will promise to try harder — starting today — to never again wait for tomorrow.