In Memory of Chupacabra


In Memory of Chupacabra

Chupa Bug Slayer dates in black 02-20-08 -- 08-08-17 700x705

02/20/2008 ~ 08/08/2017


And my best Boy Freddie

and my sweet girl Gwen


How do you describe the feelings of someone suddenly missing from your life? How is it that a little fifteen-pound, pain-in-the-ass dog can leave such a large empty spot in your heart?

Is it because she filled a part of the hole left in your heart from previous losses, and now she’s gone, it’s left that empty, hollow ache just that much bigger than it was before?

Chupacabra, known as Chupa, came to us when our daughter Erika was discharged from the Navy. I’d often wondered why somebody in the Navy would get a pet when there were the six-month or more deployments, with the real chance that they might not come back from it, and then when the ship returned to San Diego, there were the weeks-long practice missions referred to as underways.

In a way I can understand it because a pet fills a void that you don’t quite realize is there until a little furry being shows up and fills it.

While in port in San Diego, Erika made a run to Tijuana, Mexico to pick up some dogs to take back to a US shelter. Somehow in the confusion, one of the little critters escaped. Erika was told to look for a little black dog. Under a disgustingly aromatic metal dumpster, Erika spied a little black dog and managed to coax her close enough to grab her.

Chupa didn’t happen to be the correct little black dog, but Erika decided that particular creature would find a new life in America and out of the slums in Tijuana.

The as yet to be named little dog was stuffed into a backpack as there wasn’t any room left in any of the crates in the back of Erika’s pick up, and the little dog didn’t happen to be included on the manifest. They made their way to the border crossing.

It was a miracle Chupa made no noise as they passed through.

It was soon discovered Chupa was not all black as previously thought. Life in the streets, and diving under dumpsters, can be quite dirty. They also found that Chupa had been spayed and there were staples left behind. They’d been there long enough, the muscle grew around them. It was better to leave them than try and operate to remove them.

Erika felt it was meant to be and she took the scrawny, underfed illegal alien home. She was probably around a year or so old at the time. Her new birth date was 02/20/2008.

A few months later, they both arrived at our place in West Virginia, joining my dogs, Freddie and Gwen, a cat Erika dumped on us a few years before named Tigger, and a few ducks we happened to have for my best boy Freddie to chase back into the pond.

We soon learned Chupa was a pain in the ass and wouldn’t listen for shit. Show my Freddie the boundaries of the yard and he understood that shit. Gwen was another story, but she was my little strawberry blonde shadow and never strayed very far from me. Chupa had to be watched like a hawk.

Or the hawks would get her.

We tried to explain to her that the red-tailed hawks in West Virginia were pretty damn big and were known to carry off small children, but she didn’t listen to that either.

Between the three dogs, no touching was allowed. They all wanted to be in the same room with me, but as they lay there, if one of them moved and happened to touch the other, somebody would leap up from the floor in disgust and reposition themselves.

It was in West Virginia that Chupa became known as The Bug Slayer. Large insects didn’t stand a chance once she spotted them, and we had big ol’ June bugs, some damn monstrous flies, and various other things out there.

Until that time we were strolling through what we called the South Field and Chupa went charging after a bee in the clover. In all the twisting and snapping that was going on, the bee somehow landed on Chupa’s rear end and that’s how Chupa got stung close enough to her hoo-hoo that it doesn’t really matter.

It’s where we also discovered Chupa’s love for rolling in deer shit nearly rivaled my little Gwen’s passion for the sport.

She also learned the hard way that the green stuff on top of the pond was not solid.

The darn ducks had crept out onto the bank, and when Chupa spotted them, she was off like a rocket. She’d have had them if the layer of green goo had supported her weight.

Then there was that time I took them out about dusk. I didn’t let my dogs go outside by themselves due to the coyotes that may or may not have been nearby at any particular moment. Well, Chupa started snapping at something near the bottom of a big flower pot. It was dark enough I couldn’t see what it was, but I thought it might have been a toad.

Then I heard this very un-toad-like buzzing and clicking. Hurried into the house to grab a flashlight, came back out, and Chupa was snapping at a bat.

Whole ‘nother story, but we had a bit of a bat problem in that old house. {{{shudder}}}

Heart in my throat, I snatched her up and was crying before I even got her into the house. All I could manage to get out was, “Bat! Chupa might have been bitten! Rabies!”

Okay, so I panicked a little.

I shoved her into Erika’s arms, grabbed the leather gauntlets we used for filling the wood furnace, and yanked them on. I ran back out to the bat, grabbed it with one hand, tore the lid off one of the metal trashcans with the other, hurled that tiny disease-ridden beast down into the can, and slammed the lid back down on it.

As usual, the husband ignored my upset, but Erika finally broke through my near-hysteria with the calm, quiet voice you use with crazy people and wild animals.

“Mom. Chupa has had her rabies shots. I looked at her and there’s no blood on her anywhere. Chupa will be fine. We’ll give her a bath and she’ll be fine. Mom. It’s okay.”

Crisis averted. That time.

In the meantime, my dogs were aging. Sweet little Gwen was gimping around and went deaf as a doornail, and my Freddie had a case of heat exhaustion and had a few seizures that damn near frightened the life right out of me. He was put on phenobarbital. I crushed the pills into his food.

The last couple years I lived in WV were stressful, but 2011 was tough. There was a lot of bullshit going on in addition to watching my dogs become elderly dogs. The house was up for sale, my Gwen had gone almost totally blind and was failing. In July she passed on. She never seemed to be very bright, but she was the sweetest dog and she loved me with everything she had. Freddie had a real bad seizure that left him with coordination problems, and in August we escaped from West Virginia.

Biggest mistake of my entire life was moving to that place.

Relocated to a fairly quiet little place in southeastern Pennsylvania. Not too many steps to get into the house, so Freddie could still make it okay. Chupa didn’t give a shit.

At the end of 2012, I lost my Freddie. Even still I don’t have the words to express the depth and breadth of loss I feel. It’s indescribable how I miss him and still mourn him.

I have a T-shirt that reads, “In my darkest hour I reached for a hand and found a paw.” That was my Freddie.

In the middle of the night, hours before I was scheduled to pick up my Freddie’s ashes, I woke up with chest pains and could not get back to sleep. A couple hours later, the husband called the local rescue squad, and I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital because we thought I was having a goddamn heart attack.

All these strange people were touching me, and I was getting all these EKG things stuck all over the top half of my body,  IV needles were getting stabbed into me, and folks were tucking nitroglycerin pills under my tongue, and I kept telling the husband not to forget to pick up Freddie’s ashes.

Gotta set your priorities.

Well, I wasn’t having a heart attack. I was diagnosed with pericarditis. Irritation of the lining around the heart. The pain can mimic a heart attack. So I wasn’t dying, though for a little while I thought I was.

I don’t care what those doctors said, I think it was a case of broken heart.

But we still had Chupa, and though she didn’t listen for shit, she was a comfort to me. She was glad to see me when I got back home and I was glad to see her.

When my older daughter Leyna was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army Reserves, there was no question that we would take in her cat Gasper and keep him until she got back a year or so later. I didn’t allow myself to think that Leyna may not come back and we’d have the cat for the rest of his life. I didn’t like it, but I was prepared for that possibility.

Gasper the cat was beneath Chupa’s notice, until she got a wild hair, and then we’d have two little critters racing and chasing through the house, around the pedestal of the table, over the recliner, and back through the legs of the dining room chairs. Total and absolute furry chaos for all of fifteen or twenty seconds before they’d both collapse at opposite sides of the room, panting to catch their breaths. Then the No Touching rule was back in force.

Early summer of 2014 and we brought home another puppy—Jessie. Chupa was not impressed. Jessie just loved Gasper, and tried to love Chupa, but she wasn’t having it. There was no way she was going to allow that disgusting, drooling, clumsy puppy anywhere near her personal space and she let Jessie know it.

This did not deter Jessie in the least as she grew and grew and took up even more room on the pet beds and furniture.

Late summer of 2014 and Leyna returned from the Middle East. Thank God. She packed up her cat, and all the stuff I’d bought him over the year we’d had him, and went back to her life in WV.

Chupa was pleased and relieved the annoying cat was gone. Jessie missed him and would look for him.

Spring of 2015 and Jessie discovered a litter of six kittens had been born to a feral cat under a neighbor’s shed. We plotted and planned and eventually catnapped one of the tiny fuzzballs.

Momma cat was not amused, despite my leaving out cat food for them, and moved her remaining kittens that week. Jessie was ecstatic that we got her a kitten. Chupa seemed resigned to the fact we brought yet another unworthy creature into the house she had to deal with, and the No Touching rule was quickly and firmly established. Thankfully, no blood was shed, but several clumps of fur were dislodged.

Not long after we brought Pepper the cat into the fold, Chupa was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and congestive heart failure. She could have six months to live. There was medication she could take that may help. She took three different pills twice a day, every day, in addition to the flea, tick, and heartworm stuff.

Like with Freddie before, I wrote down pill names and dosages and taped the paper inside the cupboard. In case I suddenly had a real heart attack and somebody else had to take over the feedings.

We got two more years with Chupa. Over those two years, we had to protect her from extremes of cold and heat. Erika had to periodically count her breaths, and we had to try and keep her from getting overly excited or worked up, which wasn’t always easy, but otherwise she was okay to do what she wanted.

She had a few odd seizures and her medication was adjusted. Another pill was added. It seemed to help.

She used to do that crazy run around the yard in big circles and figure eights. Running like her tail was on fire. In the winter, she’d plow right through the snow, kicking up rooster tails of powder. But not this past winter. We didn’t have much snow at all, but she didn’t even attempt it. As winter turned to spring, she didn’t tear ass around the yard anymore. She’d make a lap and be out of breath and have to rest.

Recently, her cough returned and we noticed her slowing down on the walkies. Walkies was her favorite thing. The cough was increasing, but she still seemed to be mostly okay until yesterday morning. She was having a hard time breathing. Even Pepper the cat seemed concerned about her.

We made the trip to the Vet. Though the medicine had initially helped to decrease the size of her heart, it had enlarged again. So much so, it nearly filled her chest cavity, making it hard for her to breathe. There was a lot of fluid around her heart, too. Some medications could be increased, others could be tried, but there was no guarantee that any of it would really work. There was no fixing what was wrong with her. No coming back.

It was Erika’s call and she made that heart breaking decision. It was time.

Again, how do you describe the feelings of someone suddenly missing from your life? Not just a dog. Not just another animal that happened to live here. A part of our family, who was a pain in the ass when she was barking at people walking by with their dogs, or at the UPS guy, or the mail lady. An annoyance who would pace and tremble at the first sign of a cloud in the sky because that could mean thunderstorms were on the way (maybe), and be in the way and get tripped over while I was trying to fix dinner. Or be under the desk where my laptop is and make me unable to move my feet without kicking her.

But a living being who preferred the fluffy-fuzzy dog toys and didn’t know how to play fetch, or refused to learn. A soul who preferred the murmur-grunting toys over the squeak toys, but that didn’t stop her from suddenly deciding to grab a squeaker and start torturing it just as you sat down to watch a TV show.

She’d take her favorite fat and fuzzy toys and stash them under the desk because she decided they were hers, and not Jessie’s, and that’s where she wanted them.

She preferred the meat jerky treats over the cookie-type treats, and she would gather up all the rawhide bones and hoard them, and not let anybody else have one.

Even though the meat treats were her favorite, she would often play hard to get, and we’d have to play the game and pretend to reach for the treat and say, “Is that mine?” before she would take it so we couldn’t have it.

She didn’t really play with toys all that much, although she did like to nest in them. Ironically enough, she was the one who showed Jessie how to “play dead.” Point a finger at her, say “Bang,” and she’d fall over. It was her best trick, besides sitting pretty.

Jessie grew to more than twice her size, and even the cat had grown to weigh as much as she did and was even taller, but she didn’t put up with any of their shenanigans.

And then this morning I went to feed them all their breakfast and reached for the cupboard where I kept her pills. That little cupboard was so empty.

I don’t have to do that anymore.

I reached into the dishwasher for their bowls. Took out Jessie’s and Pepper’s and caught myself looking for Chupa’s little white bowl with the blue paw prints.

I went to the dog food bin. Don’t need two scoops in there anymore.

I didn’t have to watch to keep Pepper out of Chupa’s bowl so he wouldn’t try to eat her medicine-laced food.

I added a few things to my grocery list and realized there was no need to write down the canned dog food that Chupa especially likes. She was always kind of picky. She won’t be here to eat it.

When I got home from the store, Jessie was waiting at the door for me, but Chupa wasn’t there, jumping up at the door knob and barking like a jerk because she was so damn happy that I came back.

It hurt yet again to reach into the treat cupboard and pull out only one of the yummies they get when I come back from the store. The special got ya somethin’ treat. A tradition that started years ago with my Freddie that would always make my kids complain, “You never bring us anything from the store. How come Freddie always gets something?”

“Because Freddie is my best boy and he’s good.”

How do you describe those feelings? You can’t. It starts with when they’re gone, and you knew it was coming but you can’t believe it actually happened, and it slowly seeps into your mind that you won’t see them again. Then it hits you over and over with those little inconsequential, every day reminders that bring the grief rushing up and over and through you once again. She’s not here anymore. Then you think back to who else is no longer here. Sometimes the pain takes my breath away.

And a little fifteen-pound dog that brought joy to our lives and helped to ease the pain and fill a small part of the hole in my heart, has gone, just like that, and the hole left there is just that much bigger than it ever used to be.

I can’t tell you how it feels. I can’t even properly describe what she meant to me because she wasn’t my dog, she was Erika’s. But she was and is in my heart, and I’m gonna miss that dog.


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