I realized the other day that I hadn’t been writing since AJ died. I had nothing to say. Nothing funny or witty came to mind; I just felt this empty loss. I guess I needed the time to get past his death. I still miss him, but now I know that it was for the best for him. No more pain. I’m just sorry that I didn’t clue into his pain sooner. That makes me sad that I didn’t see the signs, the growing rib cage, the slowing down and most of all not picking up on his refusal to eat with the usual gusto he had exhibited in the past. Does that make me a bad pet owner? I hope not. But I hope that I will be a more aware pet owner for Charlie and Orso.
When a member of the family dies all you feel at first is the sorrow and pain of the loss of a dear loved one. All of their faults are forgotten. I could only think of how much I loved him, what a devoted dog he was and that I would never get to see or pet him again. AJ wasn’t perfect, far from it in reality.
He had severe separation anxiety issues that we could never overcome, even after ten years in a stable loving environment. AJ was a consummate counter surfer, stealing and consuming multiple loaves of bread and many coffee cakes that were still in the baking dish. How that glass pan survived multiple crashes to the floor is a testament to the strength of Pyrex. He even broke into the pantry and ate his way through two loaves of bread, chocolate cake mix, taco shells, dry pasta and a bottle of Magic Shell in one scavenger attack. He survived without getting sick, even though I would have felt some sense of justice if he had.
I can look back now and remember the carnage and mess and smile, but not then. Mitch and I went through a period of trying everything we could think of to contain the dogs, with AJ as the ring leader, and keep the kitchen contents safe from theft and destruction. The pantry doors will have to be replaced because of the scratches from AJ working to pull the doors open. I can’t remember how many times AJ knocked over the trash can and dragged the bag out into the room and searched for something that might be tasty, leaving a nasty mess for us to clean up.
AJ chewed his way through a pair of Mitch’s boots, a pair of my gloves, a pair of 360 ear muffs (my favorite ones of course) and a couple of my cookbooks over the years. I don’t know if it was out of boredom or fear, but it was so frustrating on my part, looking at the destruction and the cost to repair or replace what was torn up. We even tried kenneling him when we were gone. There wasn’t a crate made that could hold him for long. AJ had an uncanny ability for escape. His nickname should have been Houdini. First we tried a wire crate. It took him maybe four hours to force the welds at the corners to pop and collapse the crate. I’m only guessing at the four hours because that was how long I was gone. After the failure of the wire crate we tried an airline crate, formed plastic with wire windows and door. The door lasted three days before AJ had pushed against the hinge pins long and hard enough to bend the catches so the door would swing open. Mitch tried to get creative and cut a door out of clear Lexan, drilled vent holes and hung it in place of the bent wire door. That solution lasted one week. Long enough for AJ to chew through the formed plastic base all the way across under the door, causing the door to just fall out. Done, we were out of ideas on ways to lock up Houdini.
What can you do with a dog that is that determined to be untethered with a myriad of phobias and bad habits? The only option we had, love him and deal with the phobias and bad behavior on a day by day basis. For all of the destruction and mayhem, I wouldn’t have missed one moment with AJ.