When humans are bitten by love

My daughter’s dog died. Her name was Chelsea, and during the decade or more that Sara took care of her, she bit my wife once and bit me at least three times.

Yet I am saddened by her passing.

Chelsea was a foundling, I guess, who lived for a while at the office of a vet where Sara worked for a few months. She was adopted out twice, and both times brought back because she bit someone in her adopted family. After the second time, the vet decided it was time to put Chelsea down, deciding that no one would ever take her and keep her.

Guess who spoke up?

“I’ll take her,” Sara said, and off Chelsea went to her new home, first in Portsmouth, then in Exeter.

She took a bite out of my wife one Christmas Eve and nailed me, or tried to, almost every time I came into Sara’s home.

The odd thing was, outside the house, on the lawn, I could play with Chelsea, chase her around, be chased by her, throw her a ball, take the ball out of her mouth … but once inside, uh oh, she had eyes on my ankles.

For the last several months, Chelsea was blind and deaf and only knew someone other than Sara was in the house because her nose still worked. The last time I saw her, I was sitting on the couch and here she came, sniffing and trying to decide if I was the guy she was wont to bite. Before she could make up her mind – and, friends, I knew what she was going to decide, believe me – Sara put some pillows around my feet as if it were the barricade on the streets of Paris and I were Enjolras, singing:

“Can you see the dog come sniff, trying to see if she should bite,

“She will find my ankle soon enough despite her lack of sight … “

Yeah, well, I didn’t write “One Day More” either, so there.

As was the case with my late grandmother, I have bought into the Rule of Three – there are always three deaths, so now I am doubly worried about Mandy, our cat, who turned 19 on July 13 and, while still very active, isn’t quite herself, which is understandable, given her age. The doctors at Wilton Animal Hospital cured her urinary tract infection and have put her on a low-protein diet to keep it from returning, and while she is fond of the dry food – she doesn’t like the canned, which is a blessing giving how disgusting is canned cat food – she doesn’t eat nearly as much as she did just a few months ago.

So I worry.

And if Mandy were to go, which beast would be the third? I worry about Tiny and Zipper, the two cats of friends Wendy, Dean, Joely and Anna. I take care of them when that group of humans is away – the cats and the two guinea pigs, who, I think, have names, but if I ever knew them, I’ve forgotten – and I will miss them when they die. And given that Tiny and Zipper were litter mates, I worry that should one of them shuffle off this mortal coil, the other would soon follow.

Here is a sad, and strange, story told to me by someone in New Boston:

He had two dogs, one of which was a border collie named Pepsi, the other of which was some breed I can’t remember, but kind of looked like a husky, but wasn’t. His name was Gold. I got along with both. When I came to the house, the not-a-husky and I would chase each other around the yard. The border collie would bring me something – anything – to throw. If he couldn’t find something small, he’d bring me the biggest tree branch he could drag across the driveway, and I’d break off a piece and throw and throw and … if you know anything about border collies, you know they’ll fetch all day and all night, if your shoulder holds up.

Anyway, one night, the not-a-husky suddenly dropped dead of an apparent heart attack. The border collie howled and howled, wailing in sadness, and stayed out of the house all night. The next morning, my friend couldn’t find him. Until he did.

The border collie was floating dead in his pond.

I don’t know much about dogs, but I don’t believe in coincidence. I think Pepsi wanted to die.

I’d never heard of anything like this, and I’ve been around dogs – mostly other people’s – for as long as I can remember.

Cats aren’t like that. I’ve had more than one cat at a time, and when one died, the other just kept on. Cats, man … independent little beasts. Although I really do wonder about Tiny and Zipper, and I worry.

So now it is safe for me to use my keys to enter my daughter’s apartment – hey, I own it; I’m Johhny Evil Landlord, and I’m a’comin’ in when you ain’t home, kiddo (nah, I really wouldn’t) – but that might not last. Whenever Sara talked about the end of Chelsea, she said, “Next time, I’ll go to the shelter and get a cat and a dog so they can keep each other company.”

Great. Given my luck, the second they meet me, the dog will whisper to the cat:

“Wanna bite a human?”

Mike Cleveland is former editor of The Cabinet.

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