Sunday, January 5, 2014

Farewell Wicket, May the Force Be With You

Two years, one month, and one day ago, a little ewokian creature wandered into my life.  He had been wandering awhile, out in the world, and finally a kind neighbor, thinking he should wander no more, took him and tried to find him a home. He asked around and around for someone to take the little guy in, and finally I, having been toying with the idea of adopting a dog already, replied that maybe I would take the little dude. He spent that weekend with my boss and her partner, as I was off gallivanting somewhere as usual.  When I walked into the office Monday morning, I met the little guy. Having seen pictures of him already, and knowing immediately who he looked like, I had a name all picked out. I went up to this shaggy little furball, quiet and staring, and asked if he would like to come live with me.  The poor guy had bounced around so much the questions probably had no meaning for him.  I told him if he would, in fact, like to come live with me, I would call him Wicket.  I told him my name was Mac and that I would like to be his friend and that I would take care of him.  In his characteristic Wicket way he appeared completely indifferent to me and my question.  After spending the day together at the office, and making a quick trip to the nearby vet to get the little guy and his papers in order, Kearney—tante Kearney, as he would come to know her—took Wicki (as I would come to refer to him) and I to the pet store for provisions.  Dishes and food, a leash and collar, a dog bed and toy—all the essentials.  Then tante Kearney took us home.  He explored a bit as Kear and I watched, probably wondering what the purpose of this, yet another new place, was.  We set up his dishes and tried to get him to eat, but in his (what we would discover to be) usual stubbornness, he refused.  He just kept walking around smelling things.  Kear cleared out and I was left alone with my little creature.  We looked at each other, each trying to figure the other out.  I put his little dog bed next to mine, and that night, after watching me climb into my bed as I chatted at him, explaining his new life to him, Wicket climbed into his little bed and continued staring at me.  It would be the only night he would spend in his little bed.  The very next night, he jumped onto mine at bedtime, apparently now comfortable enough to exert his will over Whipple House and his person.  He curled up at the foot of the bed and promptly fell asleep. 

The next few days were a blur of adjustment issues as the ewok and I settled into our new life together.  There were many late arrivals to work, as I spent mornings trying to get him comfortable at home; a fair amount (read: a lot) of anxiety (on both our parts) and one set of completely destroyed window blinds—chewed up the middle.  That’s how I learned that one of Wicket’s favorite pastimes was staring out the window—and he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way of that.

I wasn’t sure, at first, in those early few days, that this was going to work.  Maybe I shouldn’t have a dog—I’m gone a lot.  Also, this particular dog eats window treatments. And scratched doorframes trying to burrow out of the apartment to follow me when I leave.  And we don’t connect.  We don’t seem to understand each other.  He is unimpressed with me.  Blah, blah, blah.  These were the concerns I expressed to friends and family in the beginning.  Then one day, as I was expressing this pessimism to a friend, she replied by saying “Yeah, maybe you should get rid of him.” “What? Are you crazy? Get rid of my dog?  How could you even suggest such a thing?” was my internal reply.  And I realized how ridiculous I was. I knew, I understood what was happening.  I went home that evening to an anxious little dude having committed the usual amount of destruction, and I didn’t mind.  I put his leash on him, grabbed a bag, and took him out for his evening walk.  And when he leaped up onto my bed that night, I pulled him up towards me and told him I was glad he was here. That I liked having him with me and that I was happy to be his forever family. He wandered back down to the foot of the bed the moment I released him from the hug I was giving him, but still, he gave me that moment.

From there, it was more walks, more bedtime snuggles, and slightly less destruction.  There were bike rides together—I hadn’t known it was possible to make bike rides more joyful until I started biking with Wicki. There were lazy days spent lounging around at home, which I think were his favorite.  He came with me everywhere I could bring him—work, friends’ houses, family visits, street fairs, even one piano lesson.
Wicki became my best little furball friend.  My favorite little companion, my family.  Over the course of two years and one month I fell hopelessly in love with my little grumblebucket.  I was as excited to come home to him every day (that wasn’t already with me) as he was to see me coming up the stairs, returning to him.  For all my hollow threats of beating him senseless or selling him to the circus (neither of which he ever for a moment believed or heeded, and rightly so) I actually grew more fond of him by the minute.  He made me indescribably happy even when he was driving me nuts.  My first thoughts were always of him—every social engagement, work scheduling puzzle, day of errand-running, was  figured around allowing myself ample time to spend with my dog.  He did so hate being alone, I always wanted to be with him as much as possible.
One of my favorite days ever was a little over a year ago when I came home from work and got my usual ecstatic greeting from the little furball—and then found that he had learned to play.  After jumping up and down around me for a few minutes, he raced (and watching him run and slide through my apartment was endlessly amusing) into the bedroom to his little pile of then, mostly untouched, toys—and grabbed one.  He raced back to me with it, dropped it in front of me, and stared at me, curly little tail wagging.  I tossed it across the kitchen, he ran for it, and it was his first fetch.  He never graduated past three fetches, but he did keep playing.  He had a few favorite toys, which he would bat around and chase after, or lay and munch on; I loved watching him play with them.

He was the best biking companion I’ve ever had.  Clad in his little red racing jacket, wrapped up in blankets, or covered in a makeshift doggie poncho, weather depending, he  almost always sat calmly and well-behaved in his little crate. Other travelers—bikers and drivers alike—loved seeing him looking out from his milk crate, examining the world we were pedaling past, enjoying the ride, wind in his face, ‘mom’ pedaling away, re-tucking his blankets at red lights and patting his head. 

I think though, for him, nothing compared to lazy days at home.  What to me were great annoyances—migraines and tension headaches—were to him, jackpot wins.  They meant Saturdays in bed with movies all day.  They meant mom not going anywhere.  He would spend all day snoozing next to me, getting up only to walk a circle and rearrange himself into a little ball.  His company, too, helped ease the pain in my stupid head; knowing I had my little companion with me was a comfort that far exceeded what one would think possible a little 15 pound meatloaf to be capable of providing.

I like to think that this past week plus, from a few days before Christmas to the day after New Year’s was a good one for him because we got to spend so much time together.  Over a solid week of time together at home and time together out in the world.  I hope I’m right that he had a lot of happy moments in there, and enjoyed spending so much time with me; I know I loved getting so much time with him.

Two days ago—two years and one day short of one month after he wandered into my life, my beloved little Wicki wandered out.  I couldn’t bring him to work with me that day because the weather was so bad.  So I left him at home, sitting in the middle of my bed, light and radio on for him, as always.  I petted him and explained why he couldn’t come with me that day, and said I was sorry I couldn’t bring him with me.  I told him I loved him and that I would be home after work, and I would see him then.  I told him to be good.  I think I called to him again as I was leaving, that I loved him.  I hope I did, I usually did.  It was a normal day at work, I left a little early to grab dinner with friends, and afterwards we decided to continue hanging out at my place, since I had to get home to see to the little dude.  I was so excited to bring more friends home to him, and after so much time together until then I really missed him that day.  I bounded up the stairs and called for him as I walked in the door.  Usually he was at the door already jumping up and down to greet me.  He didn’t come when I called him—sometimes he was so engrossed staring out the window he zoned out and I would have to walk up to him to get his attention.  I walked into my room calling his name.  I saw him from the doorway, lying in his little bed, tucked underneath the desk like a little cave.  I could tell from where I stood.  I walked up to him and knelt down.  I laid my hand on his little leg and nudged him. "Wicki?” 

I shouted for Gene and tried to understand what had happened.  Good luck to me with that.

With Gene and Pete keeping my company, and making sure the whiskey kept pouring, I, as always, called my dad to my rescue.  Periodically, while waiting for him to come and collect us, I walked back into my room to say something to Wicki. “I love you.” “I’m so sorry.” “You are my favorite little guy.”
Yesterday, he was buried in one of his favorite spots, with his racing jacket and few favorite toys.  I am staring at the spot under the desk where his bed is supposed to be.  I am staring at the foot of my bed where he is supposed to be.  I am rapidly depleting the world’s Kleenex supply.  I am fighting the urge to go back and dig him up and hug him and refuse to ever let go, as if that would bring back the Wicki I know and love.  I am wondering why I only got two years and one month with him, while trying to remind myself that those two years and one month were wonderful and happy and I was lucky to have them.  I need to be grateful for them, and I am.  But I’m also heartbroken.  I feel so alone without my little ewok friend.  I feel so sad I wasn’t here with him when he went; I wish so much that I had been.

Wicki, I love you so much.  Everyone keeps telling me that I probably gave you the best two years of your life, I hope so.  I know you gave me two of the best of mine.  I am sorry for every time I yelled at you, even though I know you didn’t take it seriously anyway.  I am sorry for every time I had to leave you alone, I never wanted to.  I hope you know you were always one my mind when I wasn’t with you, and that I was always excited and happy to come back to you.  I hope you know that I meant it every time I said I was glad I found you and that you were my favorite little guy.  I hope wherever you are now, you have good company.  I hope you get to munch on leftover turkey and walk as slowly as you want, stopping to smell every tree and fence you encounter for as long as you want.  I hope the shades are up at the window you stare out from.  I hope you know how much I loved you when you were here, and how much I still love you now.  Thank you for coming to live with me. Thank you for every grumble, every snuggle, every laugh, every moment of comfort you ever gave me. Thank you spending the last two years with me. It wasn’t enough, but no amount of time would have been.  I am grateful for the time we had together.  I will miss you for the rest of my life, I will love you forever.  You are my favorite little guy.