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R.I.P. Gwen

The house still feels empty.

How could it not? Teddy was such a huge presence, in size and personality. His tail was constantly in motion, always whipping, always thumping, always celebrating your life. Up until the minute he lost his.

And he left such a wake, so powerful an undertow, that when he voyaged Esme was almost swept in the sorrowful currents.

But, slowly, we are both realizing that she now is the dog of the house.

It’s a new role for both of us. She had always been the foil to Teddy’s stand-up, the straight man to his punchlines. In many ways, part of Esme’s —and Teddy’s — appeal were their contrasting styles. So keen, Esme is, that she would leave the house when Teddy ate the wallet, or swiped the brownie, or decided a dress shoe is an awesome rawhide. She knew the horrific screams of discovery to come.

Now, though, she rarely leaves the house unless I do. She’s small enough to fit in the smart, so quick road trips are suddenly on the table. So are spontaneous dog park runs (Teddy required a stroller-full of prep work, including a bigger car and plastic bags big enough to hoist five-pound dumps.)

She fits on the bed with me with room to spare. So the bed is open. So are drawers.

So, too, I realized, was my heart. I still marvel as she becomes the hound of the home. She growls at unexpected sounds and rummages the toy drawer like a petulant six-year old. Which, I guess, in many ways she is.

We made a quick run to the drive-thru tonight. She knows to bolt to the door when I grab my wallet. She knows to wait by the smart when the garage door opens. She knows to wait for the ridiculous new baby-chair harness created to keep her from leaping out the window.

As we pulled up, we came upon a Toyota 4-Runner with its back window lifted. From it peered a beautiful Shepherd mix, perhaps 60-pounds.

I didn’t need to alert Esme. Her gaze was fixed before mine, I’m sure. Finally, the pooch either saw or sniffed Esme, sitting upright in the passenger seat, properly belted (I wonder if I could take her in the carpool lane?). Pooch began to whine a little.

Then we saw it. His tail, once resting beneath the tailgate, was now above it. A furry dorsal fin, wagging back and forth, sharing the common Nirvana for all dogs.

And dog drivers. The motorist waved before pulling off, aware of what we both witnessed.

I waved back. Then placed a large hand on a small back.

Amazing, how a small thing can fill a place.

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1/8/10 12:51:31 -- Los Angeles, CA
USA Today reporter Scott Bowles, 44, plays with his two dogs Teddy the Golden Retriever, and Esme the Box Terrier at the neighborhood dog park in Encino. Without any family on the west coast, his dogs are his constant companions besides some close friends.

Bowles has been suffering from the effects of a transplant he received 10 years ago. July 12th represents the 10th anniversary of Bowles' pancreas and kidney transplant. Bowles, who has suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 14 underwent a transplant, which cured him of the needs of insulin injections, but now has to live with the complications of that transplant and suffers from Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, often sending him to the hospital. 


Photo by Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY contract photographer

Theodore Ruxpin Bowles (4/10/07-7/27-16)

 

Teddy wasn’t supposed to be a big dog. Or a furry dog. Or a male dog.

He wasn’t even supposed to be Teddy.

The plan had been to get a little hound after the divorce. For I can no more live without a dog than I can without a pulse.

I was thinking Puggle, a mix of Pugs and beagles. I fell for their faces and wanted a small, smush-faced female, diminutive and bright. Her name would be Henrietta Pugglesworth.

Then I saw Teddy in a forwarded email.

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He was born in a litter of 11, an unplanned miracle for a Beverly Hills couple who thought their Golden Retriever was fixed. She wasn’t.

The pups were as small as gerbils when I first saw them, each suckling with vigor on a very fatigued mom.

I chose the smallest girl, the runt of the litter. She would be named Esme. You see, it’s humanly impossible to see a Retriever puppy and not take it home. That’s just science.

The owner put a pink ribbon  on her so he could tell the sexes. I waited for my pup to turn six weeks old as impatiently as I did for Christmas morning as a boy. I picked it up, brought it home, showed it the new home, wrestled a little on the floor.

That’s when I noticed the penis. Esme was, in fact, an aptly hung male. I knew the pup looked bigger than expected when I picked it up. But I never looked under the hood.

I called the owner, who was mortified. He apologized profusely, even offered to give me a full refund.

But it was too late. Looking at his tiny maw, chewing on my finger like a rawhide, I realized I would never give him back. To see a Retriever puppy is to fall deep. Again, science and all.

Esme became Teddy, and so we began life together, one often entwined. He was diagnosed with epilepsy in his first year, so we took our meds together. He was once run over by a car, so we both had to sport foreign body parts. We both had shitty eyesight, unreasonable optimism and very keen ears. Though he liked doctors visits more than I.

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Which is good, because he went often. He once ate an entire weed brownie he’d swiped off the counter. He ate anything that smelled like me: wallets, pants, underwear. Even a bathrobe. He once ate $86 in cash. ‘What’s mine is yours,’ he seemed to be saying. ‘And, of course, vice versa.’

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True to his word, he did share. I did get that smush-faced Esme, who Teddy treated like the little sister she was. She may be the smartest dog I’ve ever seen; he is the kindest. She would routinely place her head in his jaws, unafraid he would dare bite her. He didn’t.

Patience, say hello to Trust.

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His body would slow over the years, though never his nature. He still greeted every visitor like a prodigal son, and shed on them like a fur retailer. He still barked  in mock anger at the lawn guy, who wielded the Machines of Great Ruckus.But all he’d do if he broke into the yard was run to play with the guy, who would gently walk him back inside. Ted would never pass up a car ride.

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Teddy left today.

This afternoon, I sat in the shower to mourn and reflect and let the external rains wash away the internal. I left the bedroom door open for the first time (Teddy would feast on underpants otherwise). Esme came to shower and lay on the bathmat. She knew something was different. And I realized she’d feel the loss as much as I.

One day, I decided, she’ll have a younger brother. I don’t know what breed. I don’t know what size. I certainly don’t know what name.

As long as he’s nothing that he’s supposed to be.

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Oh the Bigly Humanity

 

So rare, when sensation meets realization.

How often do we hype up, only to be let down? Titanics sink. Hindenburgs blaze.  Y2Ks fizzle. Super Bowls are rarely super. And you just know the new Star Wars is gonna suck.

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But somewhere, a pig is flying over its pasture. Somewhere, Satan is getting pelted with snowballs. For I have seen far more miraculous.

I applauded Ted Cruz.

Sure, he’s still crazy as a spotted loon. And there’s a residential suite waiting for him in hell for holding gun rallies at the site of school massacres (where he often eats bacon heated only by the hot muzzle of a freshly-fired AR-15).

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Still, there was something gratifying about Cruz’s turning on Donald Trump. Like when a pit bull mauls its dogfighting owner.

Add to that the plagiarism scandal of Trump’s 11th wife, the Hitleresque anger over party dissent and an acceptance speech that Vito Corleone would have envied (Trump may as well have said “Nice country you got here. Shame if something should happen to it…” It was a reality show that lived up to its publicity, if not its promises.

Admit it: Didn’t you expect Chris Christie to burst in anger like a suicide bomber humpback whale when he learned he’d been passed over for vice president in favor of a human cue tip?

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None of the carnival acts, however, broached Cruz’s speech, in which he urged — to a thundering chorus of boos — that Republicans vote their consciences in the next  election. Think about that contempt for thoughtfulness for five seconds.

Because the media did not. In our desperate search for something to filibuster 24 hours a day, we blathered over how Cruz had betrayed his party. How he doomed himself for Senate re-election. And we had truckloads of b-roll footage of Trump’s assault on Cruz’s wife and father that we couldn’t wait to rerun.

But ponder the unthinkable: that Cruz may have made the canniest maneuver of his political career.

Consider: When he knew he wasn’t going to win the Republican nomination, what did Cruz have to lose? He is positioned perfectly for a third-party presidential run.  And while a third party won’t win the presidency this year, it could derail one. Cruz remains an icon of the religious right, which has hardly been converted by Trump. Even the Pope took a dig at Donald, suggesting he tone down the homophobia (when devout Christians tell you to take it easy on the LGBT community, you know you overreached). pope

And to the fellow reporters predicting doom for Cruz’s political career, remember: We said the same thing about politicians who voted against invading Iraq.

Trump may have won the Michigan primary, but he apparently didn’t learn Detroit’s rule of thumb: Never talk about someone’s mother. You’re likely to get the shit beaten out of you. Or, at the very least, a snap-back.

And Cruz seemed hellbent on delivering one to Trump: “Yo mama, yo daddy, and yo slappy happy grandpappy.”