Roxy


Opening tip

This morning, after Roxy survived the night without vomiting and took several poops containing macerated bits of the leather leash she’d eaten, J and I drove to Connecticut for a WNBA game. Since we didn’t want to leave Roxy at home unattended for long, we watched the first two quarters of the game then left at halftime.

Dancers

The last time J and I left a basketball game early was in November, 2014, when I was recovering from asthmatic complications from a respiratory infection. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve often thought of that sickness, which laid me low for weeks and subsided only after a round of antibiotics and two nebulizer treatments from a doctor who told me my blood-oxygen level was so low, it was a wonder I didn’t pass out on the drive to his office.

T-shirt toss

During that years-ago Celtics game, I spent as much time watching other spectators as I did watching the players, marshaling my energy and saving my voice by cheering only quietly. These days, my asthma is well-controlled, but I don’t take any breath for granted.

Anthem

When J and I left the game at halftime, the Sun were losing; in the fourth quarter, however, they rallied to win the game. Although some would argue J and I missed the best half of the game, I’d counter that we enjoyed the two quarters we saw, as well as the drive there and back again.

On the Jumbotron

Next time, we’ll stay for the whole game, health willing. In the meantime, Roxy is sleeping beside me as I type these words, happy to have me home again.

Roxy sunbathes

Whenever colleagues or friends ask if I teach during the summer, my response is immediate: “Not a chance.” I teach at two colleges during the academic year so I can have the luxury of teaching nowhere in the summer. The lazy months of summer are my reward for all my working weekends the rest of the year.

I submitted Babson grades on Monday night, and I’ll submit Framingham State grades later this week. But this morning, I stepped away from my paper piles to renew my summer ritual of refilling the well by reading and writing on the patio after taking Roxy for her morning walk. It’s a cherished chance for both of us to find a spot in the sun before tackling the rest of the day’s tasks.

Roxy wants a cookie

In late July, a week or so after Toivo died, J and I adopted a white pitbull named Roxy. (My friends, family, and social media followers have seen plenty of pictures of Roxy, but this is the first time I’ve mentioned her on-blog.)

Roxy's bedroom eyes. #SNELovesPets

If I had my way, I’d spend months, years, or more mourning a pet, but J belongs to the “move on quickly” school of pet bereavement, and I’m coming to see the wisdom of his approach. When you lose a pet, you have a dog-shaped hole in your heart, and although you won’t ever find another dog to perfectly fill that void, you can distract yourself by finding another creature in need of a home.

Roxy nests on laundry day. #SNELovesPets

The goal isn’t to replace the dog you lost: that can’t be done. The goal instead is to drive out the Phantom Dog–the almost hallucinatory sense that the Dog That’s Gone is still there–that arises when you’ve lost a pet. For the first week or so after Toivo died, I habitually looked for her on the bed every time I walked into the bedroom, even though I knew she wasn’t there. When making the bed in the morning, I habitually put Toivo’s chew-bone in the center of the bedspread even though she wasn’t there to chew it, and at night I automatically latched the door to her crate even though there was no one inside.

One of the first things I did after Toivo died was to gather and put away the omnipresent reminders of her presence. I put away the pet steps she used to climb into bed when her hind legs weren’t working, the cone she wore during and after her hospitalization, and the long lead I used when we sat outside on the patio or porch. But I purposefully didn’t dispose of Toivo’s biscuits, treats, or rolls of poop bags, knowing I’d need those things again, eventually. Keeping the accoutrements of daily dog-care close at hand was a way of keeping my heart-door open to whatever dog might choose to wander in, and that’s how Roxy arrived.

Both Djaro and Roxy prefer my side of the bed. 🤔

Now that Roxy has lived with us for a few months, it’s abundantly clear she isn’t Toivo. Physically, Roxy looks nothing like Toivo: when it comes to appearances, a white pitbull is almost the exact opposite of a black Belgian Maliniois. Whereas Toivo was slim and sleek, Roxy is solid and muscular: a sturdy girl. Toivo spun like a top when she got excited, and Roxy bounces straight in the air. Toivo liked to sprawl when she slept, and Roxy likes to curl into what J and I call a pitball.

Roxy says she'll miss me terribly while I'm on campus teaching today, but I'm not so sure. 😊

Roxy now sleeps in the crate that used to be Toivo’s, but whereas Toivo loved to sleep atop a thick, fleecy bed we bought to fit her crate, Roxy will destroy anything with stuffing. Given Roxy’s predilection for hiding under blankets, we’ve learned to line her crate with two repurposed bedspreads: one for her to sleep on, and one for her to burrow beneath.

We still sometimes (often) call Roxy “Toivo” by mistake, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Although Roxy never met Toivo, Roxy wouldn’t be with us now if Toivo hadn’t been with us then. In this way, the two of them will always be linked, like sisters from another mother.