I forgot to wash the dishes this morning.
As I was standing in the bathroom curling my hair and thinking about what Sam would have for lunch today, it dawned on me that I had completely forgotten to wash his cups and containers and would have to do so or pull out new ones in the short time he wolfs down breakfast. This isn’t a tragedy and if this was my greatest challenge today, it was a pretty good day. Until I realized why I forgot to wash the dishes this morning.
Gannon wasn’t there with me.
It was our daily routine. Gannon could sense I was waking up before I opened my eyes. I would hear him stand up in his bed, shake himself and walk over to my side of the bed and begin his wake-up call. I would ask for more time, but I never got it… I’d find my glasses, zip up the sweatshirt and downstairs we went. He’d go out the back door and I’d fill his water bowl, his food bowl, pull out a treat and change the faucet from cold to hot. I’d look over the bar and he would be sitting patiently waiting for me at the door. I let him in, gave him his treat and begin the ritual of washing Sam’s cups, plates and school lunch containers from the previous day as Gannon lay at my feet. And off with the rest of the morning we went… in recent months, Gannon would wait to hear if Sam was also awake and would run to Sam’s door ahead of me, wanting to greet his brother and start his day. Which is why I’m even more troubled by the aggression and fear he showed towards Sam at other times and in other ways. It doesn’t make sense that a dog who for four years showed me love and affection like none I had ever known could be so afraid of this little boy who just wanted to be his friend.
I had such dreams of my boys growing up together, even though Gannon was 10 and wouldn’t be around forever. I could see Sam throwing Gannon a tennis ball, laying with him on a blanket to watch TV and feeding him his dinner. The beginning of their brotherhood was sweet – I can still vividly recall the day my dad brought Gannon home after Sam was born. I held my breath… would Gannon bark? Would he be curious or frightened? Would he fall in love? He ran into my bedroom where I held a week-old Sam and immediately jumped on the bed, licked his brother on the cheek and laid down with us… a sigh of relief.
The following months were a mixed bag and once Sam became mobile, life became a constant state of management in our home. Gannon cried and begged for food and sat at the foot of Sam’s highchair like a seal waiting for fish. He began to show his teeth to Sam and growl, putting me on edge. I read the books and listened to the experts who told me that Gannon could sense my energy and if I continued to operate from a place of fear, then Gannon’s behavior would worsen. I tried patience. I tried gates. I tried rewards and encouragement, but in my worst moments, my frustration got the better of me and I became angry with Gannon in a way I didn’t know was possible. I wanted him to love Sam. I wanted him to snuggle with Sam. I wanted him to kiss Sam. All Gannon wanted was his mom back. He didn’t want to share and didn’t know how… and in the end, the fear won out and left a little boy with a bruised face and a mother whose heart is completely broken because of the outcome.
Gannon tore his ACL in April while playing in my parents’ yard. It took a few months, but just before his passing, he was completely healed and walking on all surfaces with all 4 legs. On Monday, as my dad and I walked him into the vet’s office, he slipped going up the steps and tore his other ACL. This dog, an amazing snuggler who had the ability at 35 pounds to take up 75% of a queen size bed, would never in four years sit on my lap. I tried again and again but his growls told me it wasn’t a good idea. On Monday after re-injuring himself, I was able to pick Gannon up and hold him like a baby for the first time since he became mine. I sat in that waiting room, weeping openly, apologizing to him profusely, and promising this little miracle of mine that better things were ahead of him. A heaven where he no longer would live in fear, and would never be second best. A place where all you can eat buffets are customary and walks can be as long and pathless as you want them to be because there is no stroller in charge. He never looked away from me and breathed slowly and peacefully in my arms until he was gone.
Gannon, I’m so sorry. I know the pain is fresh and I know I will feel better. I wish I could have made everything work for all 3 of us. I wish I could have given you more years. I wish I had been better with you the last 6 months… I love you, my sweet Gannon. I will see you again.