Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Saturday
Jul292006

Oh My Dog


When I was nine, my dog Sasha was hit by a car and killed. I arrived home from school, barely had time to sling my book bag on the floor when Mom tearfully broke the news. I was devastated. This was death. Unlike Bosco who mysteriously disappeared after Mom claimed she gave him to a nice family who owned a farm, ("yeah, more like bought the farm muttered my older and wiser brother) I could not envision Sasha roaming free, pawing at happily clucking chickens and frolicking among the horses. She was dead.

I immediately set to work building an altar honoring my dead dog. The altar consisted of Sasha's collar, a sandwich baggie of her dog food I scavenged from her bowl and a baggie of dog hair I had feverishly scraped from my carpet. I then placed a Book of Mormon on the floor in the center of my bedroom and balanced my doggie tributes atop the book. This was my shrine. I was certain Jesus would see my devotion to Mormonism and much like Lazarus, bring my beloved pet back from the dead. We must have been studying Jesus' resurrection that week in Sunday school is all I can figure. Or maybe this misguided notion was due to one too many PET SEMATARY viewings once my older brother Brandon discovered the joys of Stephen King.

I secretly told my younger brother Jordan my plan. Of course he immediately told Brandon who promptly set to work mocking me. Understandably, Mom was a bit concerned, but she allowed me to keep my resurrection shrine. Outwardly I halfheartedly laughed with everyone over my antics, but inside I was resolute, certain Sasha would scratch at the door at any moment and prove those skeptical fuckers wrong. They'll see!

Of course that didn't happen and I eventually moved on. But my devotion to all things dog has only increased throughout the years. After Sasha there was Sage, who was also struck and killed. This was just as heartbreaking, although this time I managed to leave the Book of Mormon on the shelf where it belonged. And then there was Spliffy. Oh Spliffer. We got him from the neighbors when their pregnant dog gave birth to a litter of squirming little critters. I was 16. Mom has the ol' boy still.

The Spliffer, he's fathered more than half the dogs in Mom's neighborhood. Mom says neighbors will walk their dogs by the house, "Fluffy there's your Daddy" they'll say and point to the Spliffer lazily sunning himself on the porch. Spliff, that bastard, doesn't acknowledge his seed, can't be troubled to get up and say hello, but is utterly devoted to Mom. They're quite a pair, those two. They eat together, watch T.V. together, sing together and sleep together. Yes, he sings.

We always had medium sized mutt dogs. Mom never wanted some "giant horse of a dog" wreaking havoc on her household. I did. I dreamed of the day I could get my very own "real dog". A Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever. A big boy. One sunny day in June 2003 I got my wish. My own dog. A black Lab. And I called him Max.

Max is my best pal. Like the Spliffer and his girl Mom, Max is never far from my side. He eats with me, walks with me, I can feel his heart beat staccato rhythms across my outstretched hand as we sleep. He is happiest on the bed, nestled snugly in the middle of his Mom and Pop. He loves to have his photo taken and will pause and puff out his chest until you snap the picture. He likes to be told "bye-bye" if anyone is leaving the apartment. If per chance you forget, he'll bark until you come back and bid him adieu. He whines and barks when The Surge and I fight - afterward he places a reassuring paw on my arm and licks my tears away as I cry. All heart. A big, black love sponge. He's just a love machine. An enormous, goofy love machine.

Today my young man was relaxing in the backyard. For my big clodhopper, it was an unusually tranquil scene. He appeared so quiet, so content I decided to get him on video. I was hiding behind the window with my camera cranked awkardly around the corner. Max immediately woke up and tranquility was but a distant memory. As a result, I managed to catch the standard Max Let's-Get-This-Party-Started behavior on video:

Reader Comments (16)

Wow--is that your yard in Brooklyn ( I think that's where you live)? How great that you have a yard--I'm envious! Cute, cute dog. I love labs (all dogs really). I have a one too, a yellow one. Thanks for posting that video.

From: a somewhat new reader, m
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterm
Max is just lovely. He would love it in Vienna. You can take your dog absolutely everywhere. I remember when I first arrived here and I couldn't believe that it was completely normal to see huge dogs sprawled out under restaurant tables. They even have a dog test here, where if your dog passes it (poops in the gutter and not the footpath) you don't have to pay the dog tax anymore. It is a bit yuck though that the majority of old people here love dogs WAY more than kids.
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNiedlchen
It's not MY backyard. It's the backyard to the apartment building but we (and my next-door neighbor who is never home) are the only ones with access because we're on the ground floor. Either way - it's nice to let Max outside whenever he wants as opposed to huffing and puffing down a billion floors just to let him pee.
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

That ain't no yard for a dog!

He should run freely in places as big as his heart!

Viva rural!
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
Awww how cute! I have a black lab too, his name is brinkley, he's three and soooo hyper! lol gotta love labs! :D
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMeLaughing
OH.MY.GOD. love me some of that Maxer. One of the boys, yes he is indeed! Spliffer did some of the very same grass rollin this am, the very same, then gleefully got up and trotted to the neighbors orchard and took his morning poop. Could eat em with a spoon..(sorry, a Butler term)
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
Awwww!!! I want a dog so bad! Loved this.
July 29, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
So Cute! It makes me miss my kitty! I had to leave him with my mom while I'm studying in Maine, and I can't wait to go back and get him. Until then I have to keep hearing how much he misses me....makes me feel horrible.
July 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterktphotog
OMG, Monica, that video made ma laugh so hard! The way that he barks as soon as he's up! hilarious!
Keep up the great writing. You're an inspiration.
July 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHen
The best part: after he's standing there for a bit, smells the grass the bursts into action. He looks like he's going in for another roll and at the last second decides to spring across the yard. You caught that whole scenario perfectly.
July 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDwayne
I love my dogs more than any human. Great dog!!
July 30, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkaren h
Max just chillin in NYC...Bless his heart. He is just so lovable. Bring him back to see us just as soon as you can. His cousin Pete is just waiting to play. Thanks for the video Monica. It is like a little visit with your labby.
July 30, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMother-in-law
max could not be any cuter! i love watching dogs in their element outside - my big fat slobby dog lies on her back and looks for squirrels all day!!!
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterspendqueen
Yeah, yeah the dog is cute. Put you tried to resurrect a dog? With some dog hair and a book of Mormon? God almighty that church churns out some weird shit.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJib
Cute post. He actually looks like the male version of our dog Lola - right down to the rolling and jumping around - though he sounds a little bit smarter! There's a picture of her on my blog if you scroll down a post.
July 31, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAlice Q. Foodie
Max is such a beautiful boy - I really enjoyed this clip. I'm a Retriever Believer - I don't think there is a better breed in the world! I've been blessed to share my life with two blacks (Lady and Spike) and two chocolates (Frankie and Moe). Sadly, all but Frankie have passed on to "greener pastures." Gratefully, it's always been old age that caught up with them and not a run-in with a car.

Lady, however, didn't quite understand the rules of the road. Despite our best efforts to keep her in the yard with thousands of dollars worth of fencing, she'd jump over it, dig under it, and manipulate the latches to go thru gates. Five times she was hit by a car. Five times she survived it. My Mom once suggested that perhaps Lady was depressed and suicidal - and I kept taking her to the vets and saving her life every time she tried to end it all. In any event, she lived to the ripe old age of 17 years and dropped dead of a heart attack at the vet clinic while waiting for her regular check-up.
August 1, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGlinda the Good Witch

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