Athens, Georgia, Dogs, Emotional Support Animals

“We have a ‘code brown’ on aisle three…”

Reggie finally settles down under the table

“We have a ‘code brown’ on aisle three….”

His booming voice came over the loudspeaker.  I felt the embarrassment kick in right away.

You never want to be that person whose dog has a “code brown” in the middle of the store, even if it is Pet Supplies Plus and “it happens all the time,” according to the young man who made the announcement for the whole store to hear.

Of course, I laughed pretty hard…who wouldn’t? It was so funny!

But… then I teared up.

“Audie would have laughed so hard at this,” I said to Reggie as I stood staring at the poop bags and Nature’s Miracle bottles (Yes, Reggie had the runs right in front of the shelf displaying all the cleanup products – I kid you not).

I felt the pain well up inside my chest as it often does these days when something happens that reminds me of Audie.

“I miss him,” I said to Reggie.

I took a deep breath. And waited a few minutes. I thought I should be there when someone came down aisle three to clean up Reggie’s “code brown.” It was my dog and I felt responsible for him – it seemed cowardly to leave the scene of the crime.

But, I left pretty soon, before they got there to clean up the evidence. I was thinking about Audie too much, wishing he was there laughing with me, and I just couldn’t stay.

We always did laugh whenever something funny happened with the dogs. Although, this “code brown” was a first. I was certain Audie and I had never gotten nailed for a “code brown” before, much less over a loudspeaker.

It was like something out of a comedy movie.

I love those moments in life.

And those are the moments when I miss Audie the most.

This last week has been tough with Reggie. Training him to be a service dog has been harder than I thought it would be.

Part of the problem is I keep forgetting to give him treats when he does what he’s supposed to do. And the weather in Athens was close to freezing rain for about four days so I could not bring him out with me often. In the meantime, he grew depressed, being home alone, and I realized consistency is very important, as it always is with dogs and children.

Lately I’ve been exhausted, frustrated, worried, and I realized earlier this week, I never got a break between Lizzie’s illness, her death, and Reggie’s illness. And going through it alone has taken a toll on me: not because I can’t handle two dogs, much less one, by myself (I did it for years with Toby), but because it didn’t start out this way.

Grief has taken its toll on Reggie, and it is beginning to wear on me, too.

I suppose if I had been blessed with a child and my child had been chronically ill (God forbid), it would feel similar, probably a lot worse, if I were facing the day-to-day struggles by myself.

The unknown is the hardest part. And December 10th, the date of Reggie’s colonoscopy, feels so far away.  Not to mention, there are so many other hurdles to jump over before then.

I feel especially responsible for Reggie because I am not his original owner. In fact, I am his third.

Audie’s ex-girlfriend adopted Reggie from the animal shelter in Seattle back in 2007, or thereabouts. He was a backyard bred escape artist, and when the shelter found him wandering on the road, they brought him to safety, neutered him, and from what I understand, checked his microchip to locate his owner (not in that order). Reggie’s name was Lucky back then. The backyard breeders didn’t want a neutered stud (I hate backyard breeders, puppy mills, all of that crap). The shelter kept him and put him up for adoption.

When Addie adopted him, Audie changed Lucky’s name to Reggie. (He really does look like a Reggie).

And, yes, their names are Addie and Audie, no joke, but she still calls him by his original nickname for years, Art. (In fact, everyone called him Art before me).

When he and I began dating, I asked him if he had a different nickname. He told me  that he had been called Audie, as a child, by some people. It is a German name, (he’s partly from German descent), and I loved it. So, Art became Audie when we began our life together.

Nowadays, no one knows him as Art anymore, unless they came before me.
The nickname, Audie, has stuck with him – and now everyone in Athens knows him only as Audie.

But I digress.

Some may find it strange, but I think Addie is the “bees knees.” I have so much respect and admiration for her. Addie did something back in 2009 that I don’t think I could have done: she gave up her dog, Reggie, to Audie and me so that their two  dogs, Lizzie and Reggie, would not be separated.

Addie and Art/Audie remained friends after their relationship ended, and they became roommates two years later. Art/Audie had already adopted Lizzie in 2005, and then along came Reggie in 2007.

That’s how their two respective dogs, Lizzie and Reggie, bonded.

When Art/Audie moved from Seattle to San Diego in January 2009, he left Lizzie in Seattle with Reggie and Addie under the premise that eventually he would take Lizzie back, but not right then. It was a generous and unselfish thing for him to do as well, albeit temporarily. Addie was living with MS and the dogs provided emotional support (I know a lot about that myself). Audie and I often talked about what to do about Reggie because he wanted both dogs to come live with us, especially because Lizzie and Reggie were a bonded pair, and it was becoming more difficult for Addie to take care of both of them.

It was a dilemma with no easy answer.

By December 2009, the three of us were debating what to do about Reggie and Lizzie. On top of the question of whether or not to separate the two dogs, I was very worried about 16-year-old Toby having to adjust to two new, younger dogs at once.

We seriously considered leaving Reggie with Addie, but in the end, she gave up her dog so that the five of us (Audie, Toby, Reggie, Lizzie and me) could all be together.

I can’t imagine how hard that was for her (Well, yes, I can, but I’ve never done it myself). I don’t think I could. Maybe I underestimate myself, but I can’t imagine permanently parting with any of my three dogs by choice.

Since then, Addie has become one of my favorite people, and I hope to meet her in person one day.

In 2009, she entrusted Reggie to Audie, and now, in 2018, she’s entrusted him to me. We had a good talk about Reggie two weeks ago and it gives me comfort to connect with her: just in case.

If the end of Reggie’s life is coming soon, to me, it is only right that Addie be part of whatever decisions I make. I have always thought of her as Reggie’s original mom, and when I talk about her to Reggie, I refer to her as “Mommy Addie.” I don’t feel that she gave him up the way some people do – for good or bad reasons – she made a sacrifice, and for that, I feel she still is, and always will be, part of the family and part of Reggie’s life.

I know she’ll laugh at us being called out for his “code brown.”

I hope there will be many other funny moments like that. I think with a dog like Reggie, that won’t be a problem.

Reggie still gets feisty with me in public places, but he’s also getting a lot better at settling down, most of the time, when I take him out with me.

Reggie still has not quite accepted me as his exclusive human yet. I definitely need to buckle down on the training more than I have been lately.

And I need to remember to bring the treats!

I can’t expect to train him to lie down quietly if I can’t provide a proper incentive to listen to me. (I can’t blame him for going after muffin crumbs on the floor, either. It’s in his blood).

Reggie is well-loved, though, that’s for sure.

When I brought him inside Marti’s at Midday the other day, the girls went gaga over him. Marti even brought out a picture of her dog, Lucy, a Boston Terrier/pug mix, and told me to bring a photo of Reggie so that she could make a table placeholder for me with his photo (so people would know it was my table).

I usually just get tuna and chicken salad to go, to last me for the week, but if they make me my own table marker with Reggie’s photo, just for us, I may have to stay and have a salad now and then.

Those are the good days that keep me going.

Some days are so hard, and I feel guilty.

I’m not mad at Reggie. I’m mad at the situation. It is tiring to nurse a dog who has the sickness that he has. I spend a lot of time doing things no one wants to do – when I wake up in the morning, the first thing I have to do is clean up the mess from the middle of the night. I suppose I should be grateful he’s quiet – he used to bark at 2 or 3 in the morning to get me out of bed to take him outside.

It’s a toss-up as to which option is harder on me right now.

One thing is for sure, I am spending a lot of money on paper towels and floor and carpet cleaner.

He’s worth it, though. I don’t know what I’d do without Reggie. And, I know I may find out what that would look like sooner than later.

I hope not.

I hope that I get good news for Christmas.

Every time I feel the frustration and anger at going through this alone building up inside me, I think about how much Reggie needs me. He is hurting more than I am, I believe, or I choose to believe it, at least. It’s such a strange circle, the way this has all come around to Reggie and me, and I feel responsible for giving him the best life I can.

He deserves that.

He is a loving and sensitive dog.

He’s been left behind in the crossfire of a major life event that he didn’t provoke and he can’t understand.

I’d like to think that no matter what happens, and no matter how much longer I have Reggie in my life, that he will have had the best life – a loving life, a safe life, and hopefully, many more “code brown” moments that we all can laugh about when we look back on our memories of Reggie one day.

I am praying, and hoping, that “one day” is far off in the future.

Reggie in my sitting room

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