Beyond The Pale

Terra R.I.P.

This one’s for me.

Probably not really worth reading.

Sappier than most.


I started talking to Andrea about wanting to get a dog probably just about as soon as I stopped talking to her about wanting to get married. I’m sure that the topic came up in Gatlinburg, probably just as we finished the conversation about Se7en not being an appropriate movie to show to your young bride on your honeymoon alone in a cabin in the woods. The general consensus among rational adults in our confederation (aka, Andrea’s opinion) was that we should probably have some kind of living arrangements that would allow for a dog, and maybe at least one of us should have a job before we started looking for another mouth to feed.

We were married May 4th, 2002. On May 30th, 2004, Andrea picked me up from somewhere, either work or school, and told me that she wanted me to go with her to pick up my birthday present. She said that she didn’t want me to pull a Jim Root, her father, and guess what it was on the way there, so I had to blindfold myself, which I did, and keep my mouth shut, which I didn’t.

We promptly got lost. Mind you, this is pre I-phone, aka, the stone ages. We had already come out of the trees, but we had moved directly into the caves, from which humankind was yet to be lured by the serpent (Steve Jobs) or the Space Odyssey monolith (the Google guys). After about an hour of picking lice from each other’s hair (for food) and driving in circles, we pulled into what sounded like and turned out to be a dusty, eroded, gravel parking lot, and Andrea told me that I could take off my blindfold. I found myself looking at a raggedy green building that I might have thought was a brothel in Juarez if it hadn’t had “Springfield Humane Society” printed in chipped letters above the door.


She smiled. “I think we’re ready.”

I didn’t think we were ready, but I really wanted a dog, so I didn’t tell her that. The first thing I saw walking into the building was an obviously either photoshopped or perspectivaly enhanced picture of a yellow tabby the size of a lion. The Cat’s size might have been legitimate, but unless steroids had recently become popular in the rough Springfield elementary school crowd, there was no chance that the eight year old holding it could have exited the photo shoot without serious and permanent spinal damage. We entered into heated negotiations with the teenager at the counter, and after a being frisked by her forty-year-older-than-her-clone—probably her mother—we were finally admitted into The Kennel.

Rounding the corner, we saw an old looking sheepdog sleeping on some rags, which looked up mournfully at us as we passed—the sheepdog, not the rags. Behind us came one of the handlers, which gathered up the sheepdog and carried it off to what the teenager would later tell us was to be its final rest. I’m glad they didn’t tell me that right away, because I’d probably have adopted the deranged brute and lived (or not) to regret it. We walked down the row of kennels, all of which were on the left, windows on the right letting in a sickly light that is only possible to get from old Plexiglas or decades of corrosion. Half way down the row, we saw Terra.

She was dirty brown, running circles around the kennel, wrinkling her ball-sack forehead at anything that made a sound. I looked at the tag, no one had claimed her yet because she had only arrived today. A glance at Andrea, questioning. Yes? Yes.

We got the Disgruntled Youth to let us take her to the outside get-to-know-you area, where she promptly tried to kill the Chihuahua that a thirty-something couple and their four-year-old were breaking in, and that settled it. She was the one for me.

Terra lived with us for five years, five years that would turn into a very long essay if I tried to write about everything that happened. At first, I didn’t know how to be a dog owner, and she didn’t know how to be my dog, but over time she became an important part of my life, and she always knew she was mine. When we rescued Aidos, who someone had thrown into our backyard, it because apparent that not only did she know that she was mine, but she also knew that I was hers. Chaos ensued. When Aidos got big enough, he started to hurt Terra because he had claimed me for myself. For a time she fought back, then she hid in the bedroom, for months at a time, only sneaking out to eat. Her personality changed. She was grumpy, boring, moody. For a time, I didn’t even like her anymore.

Aidos was my god of war, Terra my good, albeit dirty and boring, girl. When he tried to kill her one day while she was eating, I had to make a decision. I chose Terra out of guilt. Judging from the way that she responded to brooms, Andrea and I were pretty sure that she had been abused in her pre-us life, and when we adopted her, we promised her that she would never have to be afraid again. Now, I was breaking that promise by allowing this violent interloper to invade her sanctuary. Aidos had to go.

In the weeks after we “donated” Aidos to a local farmer (those of you who know what that means, don’t judge me. Those who don’t, don’t ask). Terra’s personality completely changed. She became fun loving, started jumping on the couch to bark at passing vehicles, tried to kill the mailman, became my good girl again. I had forgotten who she really was.

This happens to me from time to time. I let circumstances make me forget people. Sometimes relationships are lost, sometimes I realize in time to rescue them. This time, I remembered in time, and I never forgot again.

The hardest part of joining the Army was Terra in a lot of ways. I dread the time that I am away from Andrea, but every year that I am away from Andrea is seven years that I am away from Terra, and she isn’t very good on the phone and a total write-off on chatting.

This summer, Terra started losing weight. In a way, I probably killed her. I took Andrea away from her for a month, and without either of us there, she pined away until it was too late to bring her back. My last memory of her isn’t one of sickness though. She was happy. I broke my own rule and let her sit with me on the couch. She put her head on my lap, and I fed her Coldstone ice-cream. We enjoyed each other. We enjoyed sitting together while I read. She enjoyed having her butt smacked, I enjoyed rubbing her ears. I split the difference and alternated between butt and ears. She groaned her happiness that I was back.

I couldn’t explain that I was only there for the weekend. That I was going away again, this time for longer than ever, but I tried to let her know that being gone didn’t mean I didn’t care for her.

That night I told Andrea that I didn’t think Terra would still be around when I got back.

I was right.

Terra finally gave up on August 2nd, 2009, after lying with Andrea for an hour and groaning any time she stopped butt rubbing.

My dad always said that there will be dogs in heaven because there will be people in heaven who love dogs, and God will make heaven into whatever it has to be for his people to be happy. I don’t know if I believe that or not. It seems too convenient. If there are though, I hope Terra is there. She wasn’t anything special. She wasn’t smart (at all). She couldn’t do tricks. She wasn’t even especially well behaved. She was mine though, and I loved her—one of the best people I know.


August 9, 2009 - Posted by | Pets


  1. I know of Terra’s love for you. I’m sorry that she’s gone. I was going to write more here, but I think I’ll write a whole entry in her memory instead.

    Comment by wordorgy | August 9, 2009 | Reply

  2. This is awesome.

    Comment by xgravity23 | August 9, 2009 | Reply

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