“What do you think he’d like?” my grandma asked me in the floral section of Fred Meyers.
“Uhm…” I said nervously looking at the book of balloon designs. “Well, these are nice,” and I pointed to the balloons in the shape of hearts. All I could think was that this whole situation was utterly absurd.
“What about this one?”
“Uhm, that’s nice too.”
The teenager helping us at Fred Myers stared off into space as we debated the various designs.
Having never bought a balloon for a dog I was unsure of which he would prefer. Dogs are color blind, aren’t they? Anyway, I just picked one that read ‘You’re so Special.’ When you buy a balloon for a sick old dog you can’t buy the same kind of balloon that you would buy a person. Somehow buying Dodger a ‘Get Well Soon’ balloon seemed messed up since we all knew we'd be putting him down the next day.
Normally I am all about mocking the grandparents about their mutt herd, but somehow I didn’t want the balloon guy to look at grandma like she was nuts; I didn’t want her to feel like this loss was any less significant than if it were any other gray haired, wrinkled old man with a penchant for bacon.
When we got home I found grandpa sitting on the floor of the dining room, force feeding broth and water to Dodger with a turkey baster. Grandpa never looked so desperate or sad. He’d bought Dodger to keep him company after he divorced his first wife and Dodger was his only company for a few years.
Over time Dodger had grown to favor me. He pushed me out of bed every night, sat on my feet all the time, and barked at me when I’d get home as if to say, “Bitch, get in the kitchen and bake me a pie.” Having Dodger as a pet was like living being married to a tiny, fat, bad-tempered Jewish man with gray chest hair peeping out of his track suit. When I had arrived at my grandparent’s house yesterday, Dodger heard me in the hallway and tried to come over, but he couldn’t make it and collapsed on the linoleum. I picked him up and set him on his bed and patted his head. He was so weak he couldn’t wag his tail. Tears welled up in my eyes when he wouldn’t take a bit of roast beef off of my fork.
After dinner grandma gave Dodger his balloon, forcing him to hold the string with his little paw while they watched World Championship Poker. But the whole time Dodger watched me, looking at me as if to say, “Oy vey, woman! Get off your tuches and help me! These people are crazy!”