I meant to write this months ago while Chaos was still alive. Yet, like so many other things in my life, I put it off thinking there was always tomorrow. Now tomorrow has come and I am without the most loving boy I have ever known. Chaos loved. There wasn’t a single person he met that he didn’t love. He knew the names of each of my friends. Each week on Thursday night he would become excited because he knew they were coming, even if no one told him, “It’s Thursday” (which would send him into a barking, corgi-butt wagging fit). Yet as much as he enjoyed hanging out with my D&D buddies, he loved our neighbors and their small herd of chihuahuas like family. Hanging out at their house was absolutely his favorite activity. Because of this, three years ago my wife and I thought he would like a fur brother of his own. So we started looking at rescue sites. After several weeks of searching, this photograph appeared in one of my feeds.
I immediately put in an application with the rescue group. The news we got back was not great. The dog’s name was Jesse. He had just been rescued from a kill shelter and was deathly sick with giardia and kennel cough. However the rescue group was willing to let us meet him due to our past experience with corgis and the fact that we had a back yard. So we made arrangements to go to the group’s next adoption event at a big chain pet store in northern Ohio. We brought Chaos with us.
My wife and I stood in the lobby of the store, waiting anxiously for the volunteers to bring in Jesse. Chaos sat at our feet. We watched through the large automated doors as the head of the rescue organization walked Jesse towards the store. The tiny dog bounced nervously from foot to foot as they walked.
“Awwww,” my wife cooed.
“Whoooooshhh!” said the automated doors when the pair triggered them.
Jesse collapsed onto his side and pissed himself.
“Shit,” I thought, “this isn’t going to work.”
Yet we spent the next two hours walking Jesse around the store. Chaos didn’t seem to mind. There was no hint of aggression between them. And while Jesse started out the day as a shivering, piss-covered wreck, by the end of the visit he was wagging his tail, following Chaos, and snuggling with my wife. We agreed to adopt him. There was just one hitch. Due to the nature of his illnesses and because he was not yet fixed, we had to wait a week until we could bring him home. When the volunteers walked him away from my wife, he started to wail. It was a long drive home followed by a long week of waiting after that.
The next few months were trying times around our household. Jesse didn’t want to play or go for walks. All he wanted was to be held. When my wife left his sight, he started crying. He destroyed I-don’t-know-how-many pillows during these separation anxiety attacks. He chewed on our furniture. He ate a wicker doggie bed. For real.
At one point my mother-in-law had to watch the dogs. When we called her to get an update, she made her exasperation known.
“Chaos is a GENIUS!” she said. “Jesse has the brain of a god-damned grasshopper!”
However Jesse did one other thing: he took to Chaos right away. Aside from my wife, Chaos was the main calming influence in Jesse’s new life. While Chaos made his dominance known from time to time, it was clear Jesse idolized his new brother. It was by watching Chaos that Jesse learned to play fetch. It was by watching Chaos that Jesse learned that, when playing fetch, you give all humans watching a turn to throw. It was by watching Chaos that Jesse learned the joy of running the fence with the neighbor dogs. It was by watching Chaos that Jesse learned to enjoy the company of other people. Wherever Chaos went, Jesse followed.
As the years passed, Jesse’s personality developed, yet he still deferred to his big adopted brother. If he noticed Chaos gearing up to play fetch, he’d often locate a toy and drop it at Chaos’s feet. Whenever the neighbor dogs came outside, he’d wait for Chaos to start running before joining the charge. Sometimes Chaos, being ever inquisitive, would sneak out of the house or the yard when we weren’t looking. Jesse always came running and led us to him. I don’t know if Chaos appreciated it, but Jesse was looking out for him.
Chaos’s death hit all of us hard. I still grieve, which makes writing these words difficult. We expected it to affect Jesse, too. What we weren’t prepared for was the degree it would. Each morning, I make myself a fruit smoothie. Part of the ritual is sharing a banana with the dogs. After Chaos’s death, Jesse would leave exactly half of his share uneaten, as if leaving it on the floor would somehow call Chaos to the kitchen. He ceased playing ball. When the neighbor dogs came to the fence, he would just sit and watch them. When he went on walks, he often cowered as cars and other dogs went by. It was as if all our work to rehabilitate him these past four years was being undone.
My wife had an idea of how to make him better.
“He needs another dog around to either lead him or force him to become more dominant,” she said.
But I didn’t want to hear that. My pain was still too fresh. Any dog we brought into our house would be compared unfavorably to Chaos. I wouldn’t consciously try to compare them, but it would be inevitable. It wouldn’t be fair to the dog, and I wasn’t ready to lose my heart again to a puppy.
to be continued. . . .