(Originally published November 29, 2015)
I want to let everyone know that this past Friday my dog Eclipso died as a result of an undetermined cancer. Eclipso had just turned 18 and enjoyed, I hope, a good life as well as a lengthy one. Heather and I found her in a garbage ditch while staying at a bed & breakfast in Ceiba, Puerto Rico--and she never quite gave up her penchant for eating garbage. (As a puppy she especially liked used chewing gum and cigarette filters!) She was born without a tail and was such an unusual-looking and striking dog that on more than one occasion someone stopped their car to shout out: “What kind of dog is that?!” We could hardly walk around the block without being asked this question; the truth was that she was some sort of mix, but people wanted a better answer so Heather and I invented a breed: the tail-less East Caribbean Garbagi [pronounced Gar-BAH-zhee]. Such a lofty name deserved a back story so we gave her that too; this “breed” was originally bred to sniff out errant unexploded bombs from U.S. Navy training missions in Vieques. It was a wicked lie, which most people accepted with a nod, and some would say knowingly, “Oh, a Garbagi.” When one guy said flat out to me, “That’s not a breed” I quickly retorted, “Well it’s not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club but we’re hoping the paperwork will get through this year, so keep your fingers crossed.”
At the Dome, in Connecticut
Eclipso’s best friend was my other dog, Vanya, and she played plentifully with Heather’s cat José. She’d follow Heather around our apartment throughout the day and knew her as “Mommy” as that’s what I would tell Eclipso she was called, as in “Here’s Mommy!” and “Go to Mommy,” etc. But because Heather didn’t reciprocate by telling Eclipso I was “Daddy,” I remained nameless to my dog. I think she thought of me as some canine version of “that guy”--that guy who took her on walks, made her food, took her (yikes!) to the vet, and otherwise cared for her. Eventually, she and I were the only two left from our original family of five, and she kept an extra-sharp eye on me, always expecting me (I imagine) to abandon her, or disappear. In the past year when I was brushing my teeth at night, Eclipso would come from her bed into the bathroom to make sure I was still there, and then, satisfied, would return to bed. Sometimes she’d check on me two or three times until I finished my dental hygiene.
Eclipso, age 15, at the top of High Tor
The past year was a tough one for her as her arthritic back legs wouldn’t hold her up very well, (despite glucosamine sulfate with MSM, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, rimadyl, etc.) but she improved once the summer humidity abated and she was walking fairly well around the block up until the day before she died. When she was 16½ she went on a 2-3 hour hike to Leatherman’s Cave in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, New York, holding her own with the six humans accompanying her. This past Thanksgiving morning Eclipso had the rally which so often occurs prior to the end of a life. She was up and walking and greeted my brother and father, hung out in the kitchen while Julia, her mother Bonnie and I cooked, mooching and getting in the way, as she always had. It was wondrous--lasted about 7-8 hours before she again began to decline. She died in our home at 2:35 the following afternoon, five minutes before her scheduled vet appointment, which I had finally decided to use as an opportunity to euthanize my darling dog. But she was able to die on her own, before we could leave for the vet, and while it was difficult, I was relieved not to have to follow through with the horrific choice to take her life, and grateful that Julia and I were present at the moment of Eclipso’s death, along with her vet, Rebecca Stronger, who joined us by phone.
In 2003, after Vanya died, (also at home and on her own, without euthanasia) Eclipso was despondent. When I fed her breakfast Eclipso looked up at me as if something was amiss and made no move toward her food; I knew something was wrong because, unless she was tremendously sick, Eclipso never turned down a morsel, much less a meal. I was puzzled for a long minute but I finally figured it out.
Eclipso was used to having Vanya on her left when she
ate--so I picked up her bowl and put it in Vanya’s place and Eclipso then
chowed down as usual. Heather said, “Wow. Now we know how to honor the dead: by
taking their place.” I have tried, since Heather died, in some small ways, to
take her place, though I fear I’ve fallen far short of the mark. Now I must
find some manner to fill Eclipso’s paw prints, though I am currently at a loss
as to what that will look like.
|Eclipso & Vanya, circa 2000|
When Julia first met Eclipso four years ago she thought to herself, Oh, this dog doesn’t
|Chillin' in Greenwich, CT|
have very long to live. She was wrong, as Eclipso eclipsed her expectations and wormed her way into Julia’s heart. Eclipso would mooch at the table from Julia, but though she wouldn’t give her any food, Eclipso persisted.
“Why does she keep asking me for food--I never giver her anything.”
I responded, “She knows what she’s doing.”
Eventually Julia broke down and became Eclipso’s Chief Advocate for Extra Food. Because of her sensitive digestion I had to limit what Eclipso ate. “But can’t she have a little egg?” Julia would ask me.
“Yes, that’s fine.”
“Didn’t you want to let her lick your cereal bowl scraps?”
Julia worked for Eclipso.
It’s fitting that Eclipso died on Thanksgiving weekend--a reminder to me of how thankful I am to have had her in my life. Our time together spanned the very beginning of my relationship with Heather, Heather’s illness and subsequent death, and the start of what I hope to be a lifelong relationship with Julia, who immediately received the Eclipso Good Vibe Person Seal of Approval. She was a weird little dog, who was a holy terror as a pup and a sweet tolerant elder dog--and lots else between the extremes. She will be in my heart for as long as it beats, in my mind as long as it remembers and in my soul for as long as spirit survives. Thanks Eclipso, for being Eclipso--no one could have done it better.
ALIASES: Clipper, Clipso, Clippy, Clipso-Facto, Clipper-Dip, Dippersmith, Clip, Tip-Tap, Dances for Food (her Native American name), Your Little Friend
All photos by Julia Fischer (except Eclipso & Vanya, by Vincent Collazo)
|Stealing another dog's bed|