Doesn’t that sound like the first line of a poem? Speaking metaphorically of course. I am not, however, speaking metaphorically. August 16 is the day my Autumn was born, in 1993. She died July 19, 2005. I chose her the day she was born and she died in my arms. She lived her life with me.
Most people today will go on and on about this being the anniversary of the day Elvis died. I have not yet seen any news sites or anything to proclaim this event, but having spent the last fifteen years noticing August 16, it is difficult not to notice this other event associated with it. I find it remarkable that two decades after the man’s death, the date is still so publicly memorialized. Ah, the cult of celebrity.
Autumn was a gem. She was my little partner. I knew before she was born that I would have a dog and imagined her riding with me in the car. My boyfriend at the time and I drove across the US to go live in Virginia/Tennessee (yes, on the border), and the whole way there I fantasized about getting a dog.
I chose Autumn within weeks of our arrival; she came home five weeks later. I went and held her every day from the time she was born, before she had eyes or ears. I’ve since heard from a rather know-it-all dog breeder that this was completely dangerous because Autumn could have supposedly acquired some disease or other from me, but she did not. All she acquired was the desire to spend all of her time with humans and particularly with me. Throughout her life she followed me wherever I would go, no matter how trivial or short the trip. Going into the kitchen for a glass of water? There was Autumn, at my side. Going for a short visit to the toilet? Autumn would rise from wherever she had been lying, follow me in, sigh heavily as she laid down next to me, then rise again thirty seconds later to follow me back to wherever I had been. I spent a term at school in Munich, Germany when Autumn was just a puppy. Upon my return, she peed on the sidewalk at the airport, her face and demeanor obviously relieved that the person she loved and remembered from the time before she had sight or sound was back. The person she adored had not disappeared forever.
Autumn’s fur was golden, laced throughout with brown hairs and white. She was the color of autumn, hence the choice for her name. She had a white patch on her chest, on two of her toes, and on the tip of her tail. She had the most beautiful brown eyes and I took it as a compliment that people often commented that we looked alike, even more so the year I wore brown contact lenses. Two of her teeth were broken in half from carrying around and chasing rocks. The dog loved fetching. I would mark rocks and then toss them into three or four feet of water in a moving stream. Invariably Autumn retrieved the marked rock from the floor of that stream. She loved to swim, she loved to fetch, diving was the natural result.
Her last years were not pleasant for her. First she acquired interstitial cystitis, then diabetes. All of these I believe now came from problems with her adrenal glands. At the time, no one really knew what caused interstitial cystitis, but I’ve learned that recent research shows a link to adrenal malfunction. All along the doctors thought she had Cushings disease, although she never tested positive for it. Considering Cushings is an adrenal malfunction and Autumn’s diseases were all manifestations of adrenal malfunction, I think it’s a safe assumption that this gland did not work properly for her. Diabetes was the worst. In spite of the twice daily insulin shots I gave her, she wasted away over nearly two years. She lost her sight and grew thin. Yet until the day she died she was lively and happy, chasing sticks and frisbees she could smell even though she could not see, snuggling close to me under the covers after I lifted her onto the bed to be with me.
I am so glad she was born and spent her life with me. I have another beautiful dog named Molly I chose from the humane society when Autumn was two. Molly is a photo negative of Autumn–black where Autumn was yellow, and yellow where Autumn was dark brown. Like two children with their own personalities, each were individuals. Autumn was outgoing, a textbook Leo in personality, Molly is timid and precise. Autumn would attack the vacuum cleaner. Molly goes and finds a corner as far from the sucking machine as possible. She often worries she might be in trouble when you call her. She stares at the floor if someone else has been naughty, human or canine. She will go and hide if another dog potties on the floor, fearful of the possibility someone might get mad. I have now had Molly longer than I had Autumn. She lives with one of my best friends in Oregon. I have missed her stealthy presence, hiding under my bed or in my closet. My friend calls me. He tells me Molly is in the closet. He sent me a photo of her in there staring at his boots. He coaxes her into his basement to eat her food and to get away from the summer heat.
I realized this week that this is the first time that I have not had a dog since I brought Autumn home in September 1993. Growing up we always had dogs. I am not used to being dogless. I like the presence of another in the house always there. I enjoy having my own pack. I miss it. I wonder, sitting here thinking, if maybe I have been experiencing a version of empty nest these last few years, years I have been wanting a purpose, needing something to do, feeling sort of lost. I honestly enjoy taking care of my babies, whether they are dogs or humans. The happiest days of my life I remember are the times when I was taking care of my dogs or my baby girl. My girl has grown enough into herself that she does not require that level of care anymore. My dogs are all gone. How 1950’s housewife of me that taking care of a house and babies is what brings me the most contentment.
I miss Autumn. I love her. Her life is one of the two most important things I have ever experienced. For her life and the time she shared with me, I am grateful. I realized at the birth of my daughter that celebrating one’s birth is a celebration of the fact of being born. I celebrate the fact that Autumn was born. Happy birthday to you, dear one. Thank you for living your life with me.