One day, I cleaned up the kitchen a bit before rushing into work for a regular day. For some reason, I decided to come home an hour early. As I stepped onto my porch, I peered through the glass door and smiled at my dog, Pajamas, sleeping on the couch. I swung open the door, so happy to see her - and was immediately enveloped in the putrid smell of natural gas. Pajamas raised her little head (okay, she’s a pittie, so it’s kind of a big head) from the couch and gazed at me as if in a stupor. I ran over, heart pounding, and grabbed her by her pink collar and dragged her outside into the fresh air. I began frantically waving my hands in front of her snout between hugs and apologies for almost murdering her. Oxygen! Oxygen! It probably looked a bit like I was prostrate and bowing repeatedly to her, Queen Pajamas of Austin. Part “I’m so sorry!” and part “I’m really not worthy/capable to care for an animal!” Once I felt fairly certain she wasn’t dead or about to die, I went inside to open windows, turn on fans and figure out what the hell happened. Ah - I had tweaked the knob on the stove so that for more than seven hours, natural gas was pouring out of the stove with no flame. I had locked my dog in a veritable gas chamber all day long.
That night, after the gas had dissipated into the evening air and I tried to win back my dog’s affections with steak and tennis balls, I thought about what might have happened had I not decided to come home early. I allowed myself to feel how I might feel if Pajamas had died. The guilt was there, of course, but it was mostly sadness and yearning for my best friend. My attempted murder of Pajamas reinforced, for me, how much I love her and appreciate her. Death has a way of doing this, showing us our true feelings. It also has a way of reminding us what’s important in our lives. So sometimes, like last week when I left work to go shopping, halfway down the road I took a screeching right and skipped the mall to take Pajamas to the dog park instead. Because if she was going to die tomorrow, I’d want her last day to be a steak and tennis balls kind of day.