Thursday, 21 August 2014

For Chibi

Hey y'all.

I'm heavy-hearted this week.  Several months ago, I talked about Chibi, the sweet, adorable dog who has been my mom's constant companion for the last 10 years.  Of course, he is so much more than that, and when I said I was heavy-hearted, I was lying.  Right now, I am completely broken-hearted.  Our sweet furball crossed the rainbow bridge on Monday, a week shy of his 12th birthday.  Today, I want need to talk about him.

My oldest picture of Chibi, at about 4 months old.

Suffice it to say, I haven't really been in the mood to paint my nails this week.  I've tried, under the assumption that maybe it would help me relax, but mostly I'm just sad and my inspiration has been completely drained.  Finally, I managed to settle on this look.

So, without a whole lot of explanation, this is Maybelline Onyx Black, topped with NYC Matte Me Crazy, stamped with Essie Nothing Else Metals, using images on VL027.  The "tears" are SV, and they crinkled when I put them in front of the fan to speed drying (to keep them from changing course as I moved my hands - oops.

Hopefully that's enough to satisfy those of you who only come for the nails.  They also satisfied two challenges which are inlinked below.  If this is you, then I can tell you that this is the part where you're free to click on out or follow the linkups below.  Thanks for dropping by.

If you decide to stick around for the rest of the story, then... well, thanks, I suppose, and I apologize for all the feelers I'm about to spew all over the place.  I have a story to tell about the softest, sweetest, stinkiest little dog to ever grace my life.

In the summer of 2002, I was dating a man who had a mean little rat terrier.  One evening after dinner, he told me that his terrier had been visited by the frisky neighbor dog, a white shih-tzu, and asked me if I wanted one of the puppies.  I hadn't owned a dog since I was an angst-y pre-teen, and for some reason I went against all logic and agreed to take one.  Specifically, I wanted a boy, and that was my only pre-req.  In early September he told me that there was only one male in the litter, so unless I changed my mind, there wasn't a lot of choice in the matter for me.  I didn't mind - it had almost made it a bit easier, because hey, that's almost destiny, right?  I went to researching dog names, and after doing a lot of searching, I decided on the name Chibi, which means "small" in Japanese.  Given that his father was a shih-tzu and that his parentage almost guaranteed his adult stature in life, I felt this was a perfect name.  The first time I went to see the pups, they were around 3 weeks old, and Chibi fit snugly in the palm of my hand (which he promptly then pissed all over).  Three weeks later, my freshly-weaned puppy was brought to me, where again, the first thing he did was piss all over me.  I should have known it was a sign of things to come, but I didn't care.  I had a beautiful, sweet, furry puppy and set about training him and playing with him and loving him the way a girl does when she gets her first puppy (as an adult).  A few weeks later, I even had him immortalized on my body, in the form of a tattoo on my right foot, a black paw print with the kanji for his name inside.  I would learn over the next few months that he really was the best looking dog out of that litter; most of his sisters looked like pure rat terriers, and the ones who didn't were kind of pitiful looking creatures with bulging eyes and wild, wiry hair.  Chibi's only "defect" was his underbite, and frankly, I still think it's adorable.

"But, Ali," I hear you wondering, "I thought Chibi was your mom's dog!"  Hold your horses, gentle reader; we're coming to that.  A couple of months after I got Chibi, my life circumstances changed.  I ended up having to move back in with my mom and her husband.  Though I had a good job, I wasn't making enough to afford rent in an expensive city as well as a rather expensive car payment, so I had to do what I had to do for a bit.  Neither of them were incredibly happy about having a still-potty-training puppy in the house, but it was really, incredibly hard not to love Chibi after spending an hour with him.  He was so affectionate with everyone, and adorably cute, and he did all the work for me to win them over. 

He quickly became the king of the house, with three adult humans cooing over him and attending to his every need.  As a young woman in her mid-20s, I was pretty constantly out and about.  I tried to include Chibi in my travels, but after a couple of months, I realized that he was not going to be the "go everywhere" companion dog I had craved, instead getting very carsick pretty much every time we went anywhere.  Though my friends loved him and he was really well behaved, it was better for him to stay home unless he had to be somewhere.  He was happier for it, I think.

The side effect of him being left at home so much (remember that I was working 40+ hours a week in addition to my busy social life) was that Chibi ended up bonding really closely with my parents, and they with him.  He morphed rather quickly into a dog for little old people, and seemed to relish this position and life of leisure.

When I decided to move to Florida on the promise of a really great job in 2004, my mother pleaded with me not to take away her sweet dog.  It pained me greatly to leave him, but I decided that he had definitely become their dog more than mine, so with a heavy heart I packed up and moved to the Sunshine State.  The great job never really manifested itself, but I got by for the better part of a year working at a couple of different desk jobs.  In January of 2005, I adopted Isis from the Humane Society because I was deeply missing having a canine companion.  She was just slightly over a year old when she came home with me, and it didn't take long to realize that she was the traveling companion I'd wished for but never got in Chibi.  I won't say that I loved her more, only that she and I were better suited for each other's needs, and when I eventually moved back to Texas that spring, Chibi had a big "little" sister (also with an underbite - coincidence?) with whom to play.

And play they have done.  For the better part of ten years, these two dogs have run, chased, wrestled, tugged, and bounced around each other as the best of buddies.  She always went with me when I visited my parents, and he always came to stay with me when they had to go out of town, so Chibi and Isis had a lot of time to love on one another.  When my step-father passed away in 2007, Chibi became my mother's closest confidant.  Profoundly, they mourned his loss together, and I was so grateful that she had him there to cuddle and care for.  Taking care of Chibi helped her cope with the loss of her husband in ways that even I don't completely understand, but I'm thankful for it.  I think had it not been for that little white puffball, I might have lost her that year as well.  Any shred of resentment I might've held towards her for "stealing my dog" quickly evaporated when I realized that I was only ever meant to be the vessel by which he would come to be with her.  As much as he loved me being around, he pined for my mother if she wasn't there.  He was meant for her, and she was meant for him.  I have loved him with new appreciation from the day of that realization forward.

Moving to England was a hard decision for me, not because I worried about my future husband, but because it meant uprooting not only myself, but also my beloved Isis.  Unfortunately it also meant I was separating two playmates who loved each other as only a brother and sister can.  I knew when I put us both on a plane for London that my two senior dogs would probably never see each other again, and also that I would probably not be around when Chibi eventually slipped from the mortal coil. 

I *never* imagined it would only be a little over a year later.  I struggled at the end of last year when he took ill, and his final prognosis really took me by surprise.  On our last visit in March, I spent a lot of time cuddling Chibi and playing with him on the possibility that it would be the last time I saw him.  He seemed fine, though, as though his medications were working and that he should be able to see out his final years at least a little while longer.  I knew, but didn't want to believe.  I still don't.  Mom told me at the end of last week that he was sick again, that his meds weren't working anymore and that he was having trouble breathing, and his vet (a lovely woman who also treated Isis before we moved) didn't really have any more treatment options available.  There was nothing left to try.  After an incredibly emotional conversation, I reassured her that I understood what was happening and gave her my "permission" to do what was best for him, because she didn't want to have to make the decision on her own.  I spent the weekend on pins, expecting to hear news that it had happened and praying that the news wouldn't come.  Unfortunately, the odds weren't in our favor, and the decision was made to let his pain end. I'm told that he went quickly, and that it almost seemed a relief to him because he was so very tired after laboring to breathe for so long.

My sweet boy came into our lives on a whim, and brought with him years of laughter and love and sweetness.  He didn't much care for strangers outside the door, but once you'd been thoroughly sniffed and deemed okay, he never met a person he didn't love.  His favorite way of showing that was to lick your face.  Incessantly.  His favorite toys were anything that made noise or that he could throw from his mouth, and he assumed that any plastic drink bottle was his to play with once you drained its contents (his earliest toys were old socks and empty plastic bottles because, hey, I was poor, but he loved them for the rest of his life).  He loved playing fetch, but you always had to play tug-of-war before he would let you throw the toy again.  I have a lot of pictures of him laying down or sleeping.  That's because it was almost impossible for him to sit still long enough for anyone to get a picture any other way.  He was full of energy and joy and he loved peanut butter more than just about anything on the planet.  He snored loudly, and if he was sleeping, he wanted to be touching you somewhere, usually on your foot or against your thigh.  For such a tiny dog, he had a surprisingly large and incredibly stinky amount of gas.  His fur was so soft that I would spend hours running my fingers through it and marveling at its fine, sparse texture.  He single-handedly destroyed my favorite suede jacket by puking all over it, but I don't care.  I loved him.  Mom loved him.  He loved us to no end.

When you become an expat, there are certain unavoidable moments from your former life that you know you're going to miss, and you have to accept that reality.  As such, I knew this moment would eventually come, but I was in no way prepared for it the way I thought I was.  My next trip home is going to feel very empty, and I dread walking into that house knowing that he isn't there anymore.  But I am so grateful for the 12 years that we had with him and for the funny, sweet, adorable memories he has left us.

Rest in peace, my little rat shiht.  I will miss you for the rest of my life.

Chibi, Aug 27, 2002 - Aug 18, 2014

If you've made it this far, thank you for allowing me this self indulgent memorial post to a damned dog.  Above all, I want Chibi's story to reflect that life doesn't always take the twists and turns you expect, but sometimes that happens for a reason.  Chibi happened for a reason.  I hope each and every one of you gets to have a Chibi in your life, because even though saying goodbye hurts, the love and joy you get when you love an animal is the measure of your humanity, and that feeling is completely irreplaceable. 

That said...

This month has been complete and total shit.  Losing Chibi really has been the proverbial straw for me, and so I hope you all will understand that I need to take a little break.  I have some posts scheduled for the rest of this week and through the weekend which I am going to let run, but I think maybe I'm going to take the rest of the month off and try to get myself ready for my classes, which start Sept 1.  Please bear with me during this tumultuous time, and I promise not to spend any more time making either of us cry.   

Please take care of yourself and each other, and if you have a companion animal, please give him or her a cuddle in Chibi's memory.