Today I had leftovers. I lacked my usual enthusiasm when I ate salmon and rice. It was a dry meal, but I generally love dry meals. My mind was too preoccupied with Gladys; I just couldn’t find the joy and excitement that I usually get from eating.
Gladys, my 19-year-old life partner, has become terminally ill. She is in the hospital. And here I am, trapped in our house, barred from visiting and prevented from giving solace in their final hours. So I ate my food alone. When I reached the last bite, I hesitated. I wanted to leave it; I only wanted to save a few bites of the last meal Gladys would ever prepare for me, but I lacked the strength. I ate all the leftovers.
I had a meal of beef and rice from the brand. Gladys’ nurse Ira brought it for me. It was pretty good, but it upset my stomach. The first indigestion came when we were in the back yard. Ira informed me about Gladys. Gladys was expected to die very soon, and Ira promised to go to the funeral with me. I spent the rest of the day restless and awake in bed, ashamed of the mess I made after Ira left. The smell filled the room. I stared at the wall, ashamed of the way Ira had to clean it up in the morning. Still, part of me hoped that Ira would bring the same food tomorrow. It was pretty good.
Get the BARK NEWSLETTER in your inbox!
Sign up and get answers to your questions.
Ira brought me the same beef and rice yesterday. I seem to digest it a little better. Though the possible mess it could cause later was the furthest away for me. Gladys had died that night. The love of my life, my partner, my universe of love is dead. I am really alone in this world.
Beef and rice again. Ira took me to Gladys’ funeral, but they wouldn’t let me into church. I had to wait in the parking lot. My grief escaped in fearful howls. Ira waited with me; I am really committed to your kindness.
After the service, I went with Ira on the funeral procession. It was the last trip of my sweet Gladys. I felt choked and trapped as the line of cars neared the grave site. Panic overcame me; I needed some fresh air. Ira opened the window. I put my head out and drank the wind. It blew all over my face and through my hair. It helped me ground myself and briefly distracted me from the spiraling thoughts that threatened to sink me into the dark pit of the approaching grave, pulling me into it, and drowning me in the darkness.
The funeral service was beautiful and devastating. I sat with Ira and only half listened to the words the preacher read from his black book. My attention turned to the coffin that hung in the ground over the waiting mouth. The sun reflected diamonds and rare jewels of polished wood and gold handles.
The yellow lilies that rested on its lid wafted a scent and with it waves of sadness and memory. Glady’s favorite flower. I hoped she smelled them too. The scent of lilies made me wish I could smell my love one last time. It took all my strength not to approach the coffin, lift the lid and sniff one last time. I knew that Gladys would smell as sweet in death as in life.
I imagined Gladys looking peaceably into her coffin and thought of the last time I’d smelled her. Consciousness slipped and she was rolled away by paramedics. As she crossed the threshold of our house, our eyes met. Mine were broad and fearful; Hers were just slits fighting the weight of her eyelids. In the seconds before the door closed forever to our life together, she whispered her last words to me. “Goodbye my good boy.” Gladys was my good girl and I was her good boy. I wanted to scream in pain the last time I heard her use my nickname, but I stayed strong. At that moment my feelings were blocks of lead buried in the sand in the depths of the ocean.
I don’t know how I can go on without her. The world is sadness and pain.
Ira brought me something special today to deal with my overwhelming feelings of loss. A beef stew with sauce instead of broth. Gladys did this for me; It was my favorite. Ira was so good to me; I don’t know what I did to deserve such a good, caring friend.
Sadness, pain, loss, devastation, leftover beef stew as cold as my heart.
Back to beef and rice today, dry, but that’s okay. The pleasure I had when I ate the stew made me feel guilty. Gladys is no longer here to share my joy. Along with my meal, Ira brought unexpected news. I still don’t know how to feel about it, but Gladys left everything to me. Our house, the furniture, their savings – which amount to $ 20,000 – are mine. The only property she didn’t leave me with was her car, an old, rusty thing that barely drives. I can’t use it anyway. Gladys left the car to Mike, her son.
I think I am very depressed. I haven’t even finished my beef and rice today. It didn’t help that Ira had more news to share. Mike is angry. Very angry. He claims that the house, the furniture, the money, everything that Gladys left me is rightfully his. Mike is going to hire a lawyer. “He could have just talked to me; I would have shared! “I wanted to scream at Ira, but there was no point.
Mike was already a grown man when I met Gladys. He never saw me as a father; I’ve never really seen him as a son, although I’ve always tried my best to be his friend. But every time he visited he pretended I wasn’t there. When he recognized me, it was only through criticism and insults that called me names like “Dirty Reggie”. Still, I was always nice to Mike. I understand how difficult it can be to get used to a stepfather.
Salmon and rice today. I’m happy about the change, but still happy about Ira’s company. She told me that Gladys had indicated that some of the money should be used to pay Ira for my continued care. I have no objections. I am immensely grateful for how well Ira treated me. Gladys, my dear, you were an incredible woman who can still amaze me even from the grave. I long to be with you again, to lay my head in your lap, look up and be delighted in your eyes, eyes more beautiful than a universe of stars.
Beef and rice. Ira keeps me busy; yesterday was salmon, today beef, what could bring tomorrow? Mike decided not to hire a lawyer. Ira said he probably realized he didn’t have the money and couldn’t win. She laughed when she told me, and I realized the twinkle in her eyes reminded me of Gladys. Ira smells nice too. She is completing her preparations to move in with me. Gladys wanted me to be looked after around the clock and I’m actually a little excited. I love you gladys. You were and always will be my angel.
Chicken Sauce Stew! I’ve been pampered since Ira moved in to take care of me!
Mike came over today to pick up the car that Gladys had left him. He was in the driveway for a couple of hours trying to get it going before finally leaving. Ira didn’t let him in and I was grateful. She told him it was against his will, but I knew Ira did it for me. I watched Mike from the front window. I was furious and wanted to yell at him through the glass. And I would have, but Ira sat down next to me and calmed me down. Instead, my anger at Gladys’ ignorant, hateful son came out in low, deep murmurs, too low for Mike to hear, but they made Ira laugh. Your smile is really beautiful. There’s a deep goodness in it. A friendliness that I’ve only seen in Gladys so far.
A meal made from shredded chicken, seasoned to perfection! I felt a lot better. Don’t get me wrong, the feelings of grief and loss are still profound and overwhelm me for a few days, but the weight of depression is much less. I started this journal to cope with the hopeless loneliness I felt after Gladys was taken to the hospital, and this could be my last entry. I still miss my Gladys with my whole being, but it has become more and more difficult for me to feel lonely here with Ira.
Ira made me a chicken broth today. My body no longer has the strength to handle solid foods. I will be with Gladys very soon now, both physically and mentally; I’m not afraid. Ira, her voice so soft and musical, told me that Gladys had one final destination in her will. The rest of the money Gladys has left will be used for my tombstone and funeral. I’ll be buried next to my love Gladys had already written my epitaph. I wanted to cry. My epitaph is:
Reginald “Reggie” Growler
The most loyal dog
The best friends
Notes on translation
During a sunny morning walk in the park near our home in Texas, Penny, my border collie, discovered a small black notebook buried under an oak tree. The notebook was stained, dirty, and smelled of urine, which I could smell before I saw what she found.
Penny often finds various items – cans; the occasional shoe; once a wallet (which we returned!) – but usually she gets bored with everything she finds and drops it long before we return home. However, Penny was acting very strangely about this notebook. She held it gently, almost in awe, between her teeth, deliberately keeping it away from me. When we got to our front door, Penny still had the smelly thing in her mouth. She wouldn’t drop it if I told her so I reached for it. Penny growled at me! Penny never growls at me!
Against my better judgment, I let her bring the notebook inside. She went straight into the living room, where we have a row of buttons on the floor. When Penny presses a button, he says a certain word. I had trained Penny with the buttons for a couple of weeks and she quickly got it. Most of the time she only used the Play and Go buttons, but this time she hit a button I forgot. When Penny looked at me, the notebook between her teeth, the word “Help!” rang from the button under her paw. So I helped.
The next two and a half years were the most extraordinary of my life. After thousands of hours programming new words and arguing over countless drafts, from pages made up of stains, smears, and dried urine, we’ve translated the journal entries you just read. If you don’t believe a word of it, I hope it will provide at least a moment of pause the next time you see a dog marking a tree or perching near a bush. Perhaps you are just about to meet a great writer, writer of epic journeys, lost love, and hunted squirrels.
Or maybe dogs just need to pee sometimes. I dont know.
Take care of yourself and take care of your puppies.
Penny and Laurence Mitchel