Monthly Archives: May 2018

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It’s been 2wks. I still miss her. Every day. But it’s at this time of night, when no one else is awake, that I feel her absence the most. She’d be asleep, snoring away. But she’d be here with me. My constant companion. My Penny.

I haven’t been able to watch a baking show, or any cooking show, since she’s been gone. Those were her favourite. It was the only time she’d lift her head up and vaguely pay attention. I wonder if she was making mental notes about what she wanted to eat.

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It’s Quiet Uptown – Day 6

‘It’s Quiet Uptown’

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
Then push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
Feels easier to just swim down
And so they move uptown
And learn to live with the unimaginable

I spend hours in the garden
I walk alone to the store
And it’s quiet uptown
I never liked the quiet before
I take the children to church on Sunday
A sign of the cross at the door
And I pray
That never used to happen before

(If you see him in the street, walking by himself
Talking to himself, have pity)
You would like it uptown, it’s quiet uptown
(He is working through the unimaginable
His hair has gone grey, he passes every day
They say he walks the length of the city)
You knock me out, I fall apart
(Can you imagine?)

Look at where we are
Look at where we started
I know I don’t deserve you
But hear me out, that would be enough

If I could spare his life
If I could trade his life for mine
He’d be standing here right now
And you would smile, and that would be enough
I don’t pretend to know the challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost
And you need time
But I’m not afraid, I know who I married
Just let me stay here by your side
And that would be enough

(If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity)
Do you like it uptown? It’s quiet uptown
(He is trying to do the unimaginable
See them walking in the park, long after dark)
Taking in the sights of the city
Look around, look around, look around
(They are trying to do the unimaginable)

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There’s a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable
They are standing in the garden
Standing there side by side
She takes his hand
It’s quiet uptown

Forgiveness, can you imagine?
Forgiveness, can you imagine?

(If you see him in the street, walking by her side
Talking by her side, have pity)
Look around, look around
They are going through the unimaginable

~ Lin Manuel Miranda ~

I realise I have no pictures with Penny. She hated hugs.

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Normal Service has Resumed – Day 5

I woke up this morning. No tears. Managed to make tea. Almost a necessity because I’ve developed a cold. A reult of my being so run down. No tears. We went to Costco yesterday so that means pastries for breakfast. Penny would have been all over that. No tears.

I’m being left alone for the first time. I’ll busy myself. There are things in the fridge I need to do something with before they spoil. I understand now why people bring dishes of casserole and meals that freeze beautifully to families who are grieving. Everything feels like you’re moving through treacle.

A beautiful three day weekend, our first in so long. Clear blue skies. I plan to sort through laundry. Well, that’s the plan. It’s not like we would’ve gone out anyway. It’s Sunday, Lazy Sundays. When Penny and Cordi unapologetically lie on the couch and do absolutely nothing, encouraging me to do the same. Mostly I would read or catch up on shows. Not wanting to disturb their Sunday because I never wanted to do much on the either. Everyone’s day of rest.

Cordi has gone back to demanding meat be the major part of her meal. No more eating carbs to make us feel better. She sticks close to me. If I sit on the sofa she’s right up by my side. I go to have something for lunch. Again by my side. I look down at her. I know Cordi, you don’t have to be so fast anymore. No one to snatch away your treats.

On the sofa again she’s on my lap. I take her collar off and give her chest rubs. Is that what she think always happened when she was our of the room? Is this why Penny always stayed out here with me? No Cordi, I didn’t give Penny half as many chest rubs as she deserved.

Occasionally she glances up. Are you looking for her again Cordi? I don’t know if I’ll ever stop wondering if she’s looking for her. And I say to her, trying not to cry, “I miss her too Cord.”

First day without a breakdown. Day one.

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Who Tells Your Story – Day 4

I didn’t cry when I woke up today. Progress. For the first time in months I didn’t go to my escrima class. I always go. I even went on my birthday. No days off for me. But I still can’t today. I can’t carry on with my routine as though everything is still the same, not yet. I am not ready to let life start rushing by me as I start…living.

I decided to make a cup of tea because my throat is a little scratchy. My first since Penny left us. I was doing okay. Teabag. Boil the kettle. Then I got told there were mini doughnuts. That did it. And we’re back to tears.

I went to see Hamilton last night. I bought these tickets over a year ago. Fourth row. I wasn’t sure if I would go. Because of our ticketing system I knew I had to go get the tickets, but in my mind the option was also there to leave. This from the person who listens to show tunes all day, every day. I loved it. It was smart and well-written. The cast were amazing. It was exactly what I love about musical theatre. And to my surprise, though there were some moments that could have triggered me, I did not cry. An earlier hug might have taken care of all I had left to give that day.

I spent today listening to the soundtrack. It is intricate enough to occupy my mind without the thud being too jarring when I think of Penny again. More than white noise but enough of a distraction. It is the first music I have listened to since that day. But where I would randomly burst into song, I do not. I feel the music but it does not move me. The lyrics become familiar but I do not even hum along. No fingers tapping along to the beat. I feel numb, but at the same time I feel everything.

I can’t turn it on. Who I am. My default is the smile. I accommodate. I joke. I make people feel at ease. I apologise when people brush into me. I offer help before it needs to be asked for. I charm. I find the joy. I am an automatic ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you.’ A ‘Bless you’ when you sneeze. I can’t be that person. Second nature feels like effort. I cannot find the smile.

There is a lyric in the show, ‘Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?’ I suppose that’s what I’m doing with these posts. Telling Penny’s story. Our story. The storyteller. That one part of me that still works.

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Looking for Penny – Day 3

I made the mistake of going to bed last. As I walked to the bathroom I’d normally rub Penny’s head as I passed the sofa. That’s probably how she’d know it was almost bedtime. When I finished I looked to my left, this is where I’d say, “Come on Penny, bedtime.” And she would waddle her way past me and into the bedroom. Pause at the stairs, sometimes needing a few words of encouragement to get up there or simply for a path to be cleared.

It’s those moments. The every day occurrences, the ones that make up your day that you miss so much, that you leave to your mind to commit to memory. So many nights, and I only have this fallible memory of mine to remember that and so much more.

When my nephew was eating his lunch I took a piece of his chicken and gave it to Cordi to eat. She sat up, looking for something… Someone. She went to the table, looking for something. Maybe it was to see if more food had fallen, but my heart tells me she went looking for her sister. Because that’s exactly where Penny would have been. Waiting for something magical to fall from the sky. Or for the awaited, “Clean up!” instruction that signalled whatever had fallen was no fair game. But she wasn’t there. And these moments are another unwelcome reminder. Another trigger.

Every sound that would’ve meant someone was in the kitchen, maybe food is coming. Penny would always be alert. And the paws would follow soon. If she wasn’t sure then she’d stay on the back of the sofa, but her nose would be turned up trying to figure out what was being eaten. She knew when she needed to get up. Whenever someone sat at the table the ears would go up, nose sniffing, on alert…Food? No Pen, just water, nothing you need to get up for. Cordi walked into the kitchen when I was getting water. I think the first time since Penny passed. Hearing the paws on the floor. The expectant looking up for food. Triggered.

We’re worried about what’s going to happen when we have to leave her alone, because she’s never been alone. She went from a household of four dogs, three dogs, to her and Penny. Always Penny. Cordi was bad before, if we’d leave the room it was only a few moments before she came looking for us. Now we make sure we never leave her. That won’t be able to continue for much longer.

I know she appreciates the constant attention, the extra treats, the not having to share anything. But I know if Penny walked through that door Penny would be in her face giving her a million slobbery kisses as Penny growled back. She’d relish giving her a hard time because I know she misses her. I know she loved her sister so much. I see it. I can see how happy and excited she would be. Wagging her tail because her sister was back. I see it. I feel it.

We’re looking at finding her a new friend, even as a foster, so she’s not alone. It’s too soon for me but we have to think of Cordi, we don’t want her to be alone. It’s not fair to her to not have someone. But it’s not just got Cordi. Me too. People are blaming themselves because I’m always sad. That stoic Britishness, gone. I feel everything. I feel it so much. And it hurts.

Finding a dog is proving difficult, the various shelters saying we live to close to a main road, we don’t have a garden, the dog would be better in a home with no other dogs, a myriad of reasons. And then there are those ads for dogs that “need” a home…for a significant fee. Puppy brokers acting under the guise of people trying to rehome the dogs they’ve overbred. They’re the ones responsible for taking Penny. Their greed and callousness breeding dogs that weren’t well, raising them in horrible conditions just so they could make money. They make me sick. How can they claim to care about giving a dog a home when they’re keeping them in cardboard boxes?

And this constant thudding in my head. Exhaustion. Dehydration. The lack of caffeine. Not having Penny to lean against on the sofa, only the cold hard table. The pain does not stop.

Every time we take Cordi out or we come back home, or even go into a different room I keep trying to see if she’s looking for her sister. Does she think she’s just gone somewhere and she’s going to come back? Maybe she’s hiding because she doesn’t want to go outside… She’s never hid for this long before. Maybe I should eat all my food quickly because she’ll suddenly pounce out and take it. Does she think these things? Is she looking for Penny? Because I look for her. And I know she’s not going to be there. But I so very much want her to be.

I don’t know how to not want to look for her.

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Without Penny – Day 2

I broke down again after making dinner last night. It’s not like I hadn’t already. Multiple times. Annie did me in several times over. ‘Sandy’ and the lyrics, ‘And he really comes in handy. ‘Specially when you’re all alone in the night, And you’re small and terribly frightened it’s Sandy, Sandy who’ll always be there!’ is not what I needed to hear.

It was nothing complicated, just a can of soup. Everyone said I had to eat something because I hadn’t all day. I was heating it up and then the tears came. And they didn’t stop.

I couldn’t remember the last time I ate dinner, or any meal, at home without Penny at my side. She was always there, waiting to the left of the chair I always sat at, looking up, waiting for something to fall from the sky. Never begging or pawing at me. Just waiting. Even if I sat in a different chair she would wait in the exact same spot until I called her over or she realised I wasn’t going to sit there. She expected me to be a creature of habit because I was.

Now, heating this can of soup, my body gave out its cry as I realised I had lost that too. My constant companion. I would be alone. I looked at the bread and thought, if she was here I’d probably prepare a slice or two because I always had to make sure there was some part of my meal that I could share. No bread tonight. Who would eat my crusts?

Last night I went to bed just before midnight. My body ready to collapse from exhaustion. Usual routine. Wash face. Brush teeth. “Come on Penny, bedtime.” She would wake herself up fully because she always fell asleep, yet was always aware of when it was nearing my bedtime. She’d shake herself, stretch out, hop off the sofa. If the bedroom door was slightly ajar she could push it open. If not I would. Then she would enter first, heralding my presence. She would take her spot. I mine. A few chest rubs and a goodnight.

In the morning when she would get up to go out she’d usually step across me. Her belly would rub against the back of my legs with its soft fur. No more.

That didn’t quite set off the waterworks. I’d like to think because it’s getting better, or perhaps I’ve run my stocks dry. I know neither of these things is true.

I couldn’t bring myself to make tea, because that is part of the breakfast routine that she was part of. She would sit on the floor just outside the kitchen door because the floor in there was too cold. Waiting whilst the kettle boiled and I did my stretches. Deciding what to make for breakfast. Toast. Penny can eat the crusts. Today, no. Today I ate a banana. Drank some water.

Cordi went for a run around Hyde Park. Ran three miles, walked the other two. That was the only park Penny liked, through Kensington Gardens. If you took her there in the stroller that is, not if you made her walk. That set me off.

Did I give her too many treats? If I hadn’t shared so many of my meals with her would she have been able to run? Would that have made her a fitter dog and stopped the heart murmur developing? No. I’m assured. She had bad hips, she was never good with running or walking for long distances. That f-ing dog breeder probably fractured her hip and it never healed properly before she was rescued. Once again the life she had been born into finally deciding how it would play out.

I couldn’t put the shirt I wore as I held her for the last time in the laundry. It was one of the t-shirts I got during the first trip when I met her. I was always worried that she’d had an accident as she lay on the back of the sofa behind me and that there was something on my shirt or that I was covered in “chihuahua glitter.” I would do laundry every other hour if it meant I could feel her sat behind me right now.

I tried to take Cordi to the seaside but she was too anxious in the car. She didn’t stop shaking so I had to come home again. I couldn’t tell if she was scared because of the car, or because Penny wasn’t there, or if it was new surroundings, or if she thought I was taking her away and not bringing her home again. Penny liked the car, at least she used to. But we never went on trips. I never took her to the beach. She wouldn’t have known what to do at the ocean and it would’ve been too cold, but I should have taken her.

I need to eat. I feel myself getting weaker. But what can I eat? Fish and Chips? Penny would’ve wanted some chips. Every time chips are suggested I cry. Egg fried rice? Onions, dogs can’t eat onions. Leftovers? That was the last dinner I shared with Penny. I can’t.

I made eggs. She would’ve shared those with me. As I waited for them to boil I looked down to my right. No Penny face staring up at me silently asking if it was ready yet. Was there anything I could give her to tide her over in the meantime? I’d never stood in this kitchen for this long without her at least trying to join me. If there was oil that might splash a quick, “This isn’t your room Penny” and she’d know to leave. But she’d only get as far as the doorway. That was the safe line. At the sink I turned because I thought I heard her nails on the tile. The little taps I knew would come. I was wrong.

Cordi shared my eggs with me. Some day I’ll eat again without getting teary. Maybe.

I deleted a game app off my phone. I was too busy playing on it during those last days. Too busy trying to win a jackpot that would materialise into nothing. My focus divided. I should’ve spent more time with Penny. I should have been paying more attention then just sat here preoccupied on the sofa as her breathing laboured.

I watch Cordi now as she sleeps. Her body tucked in close to mine. I wonder if this is how she used to spend her days with Penny. Both asleep, waiting for us to come home. She sleeps too soundly. With Penny I would check to make sure she was still breathing, it was a joke. As soon as I’d hover over her she’d know and her eyes would open. Cordi not so. I touch her. No movement. I gently shake her. Nothing. Momentary panic I lift her up. She’s fine. I got scared. I miss Penny’s breathing. The rise and fall of her chest. Her legs poking into my back as she made herself comfortable.

Today was the first time I had to take the pups…pup…singular for their evening bathroom break. Three legs. Not seven. We would say Penny had three and a spare to help Cordi know she only needs the three. I took her down to the usual spot. She peed where they always do. Just by the first tree. Penny would always go on the tree, Cordi would give her space. Then Penny would choose where to go. Sometimes by the large plant pot. For the first poop. Then she’d move on, sometimes under the overhang. Sometimes she’d venture even further to near the community theatre. These last few days, she didn’t go much further from the first tree, and there would only be one poop deposit.

I didn’t know how long to wait. The timing was always determined by when Penny was done, she was the one who had a lot to do. Cordi is quick, and doesn’t always poop. Pee once. Is that enough? Is there more? I don’t know if I have to wait Cordi. I don’t know if you’re walking around because you have more to do or if you’ve picked up Penny’s scent or if you’re looking for it. I don’t know how to do this without her.

Cordi ate the other half of her breakfast for dinner as soon as we got back upstairs. No question. I didn’t even need to ask. This never happens. Penny always wolfed down her food first. Then Cordi would wait and wait, sometimes not eating it at all until much later. It was the kind of crappy thing a younger sibling would do knowing that their older sibling wanted nothing more than to eat it. I would make Penny wait on the floor before allowing her back up on the sofa incase she ate Cordi’s food when my back was turned, because Cordi wouldn’t make a sound if she did. Eventually I would give up and put the food up and then let Penny back up to assume her spot on the sofa. I don’t have to worry about that anymore I suppose. I’m glad she’s eating.

I worry that she’s sleeping too much. It’s one of the signs of depression. It’s what often happens when dogs lose their owners. I can’t, not Cordi too. I can’t remember what it is they used to do. I would come home. Put my bag down. Tell them it was time to go out. Cordi would race down the hallway and Penny would follow. Cordi would get in the way as I tried to hook Penny up to the lead. When we got downstairs Cordi would try to shoot off and I’d have to hold her back so she didn’t drag Penny. Then we’d come back up. I notice Cordi is hesitant now as she steps out of the elevator. It’s like she’s scared her leg will go down the gap. She didn’t have to worry before. Penny was her anchor.

All Cordi seems to do is sleep. And I cannot remember what they did before after they ate. Penny would sit on the back of the sofa, moving from one side to the other. She’d lie on her back. On her front. Sometimes watch TV. Cordi would sit next to me. On me. Wedge herself between me and the sofa. I can’t remember what’s normal. Penny not here isn’t normal.

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My Penny

This is Penny. Within a few days of meeting her she had already peed on my stuff. It would not be the last time, and it would not just be my stuff. On more than one occasion it was me.

We joke that Cordi is my puppy because she looks like me – black hair and tan. Penny though, she has my temperament. We like to be left alone. I knew she and I had reached an understanding because she would always make sure her butt was against me because she trusted me.

Here are a few facts about Penny:

She was a rescue from a dog breeder who had tried to breed her too early. I think this has a lot to do with her mistrust of others and also her attitude.

When she was adopted her name was Maggie but it had to be changed because that name was already taken.

She is scared of dinosaurs. I learnt this when we watched Jurassic Park and I saw absolute fear in her eyes.

Her nose is crooked.

She can talk. I have video. She’s very adept at telling you, “No!”

She is our Florence Nighting-puppy. If you ever got a cut of scratch she would lick it to make sure it was clean and would often inspect your legs just to make sure everything was okay. She takes care of us.

She has a Curious George monkey, he’s her boyfriend. But the only time I’ve ever seen her act like a dog and actually chase a toy was when we threw this little yellow duck that squeaked.

Even though she is technically a Jewish American with Mexican ancestry, she quickly adapted to life as a British-Filipino Catholic and loves pork and could eat rice with every meal. She’s also incredibly adept at guilting you into sharing your food. Catholic guilt is real.

She hates putting her hoodie on because she knows it means a long walk was in store, but she looks like the baddest dog on the block when she did. The real B.I.C.

Her collar is sky blue.

She is a terrible guard dog but she’s a great alarm. She makes a lot of noise when the doorbell rings but that’s about it. And you have to thank her for letting you know someone is there.

I taught her to give high fives in exchange for chest rubs. This does not mean she did tricks. She would tap her paw on my hand to tell me I wasn’t finished.

She loves massages. If she had her way this would be my only job.

In the mornings when I wait for my tea to brew she sits up waiting to see what I’m making for breakfast and whether it’s something she can have. I feel guilty when it’s only cereal because I know she wants no part of that. She prefers pastries, particularly croissants.

When she poops she has to do it in at least two places, usually three.

She is not a morning person. She only tolerates them because they involve food.

Baths are definitely not her favourite thing. However, she doesn’t seem to mind having her fur blowdried.

Her favourite place is on the back of the sofa where she can lie on her back, front, side, any way at all, watching the TV – particularly food shows.

She does a creepy winky thing when she’s half asleep and you wake her up and her tongue’s hanging out the side of her mouth.

She has the softest fur, especially on the top of her head. I kept trying to make it into a mohawk but it wouldn’t stay.

She hates hugs.

When I come home and open the door she’s sat on the bed and she tilts her head so she can see who it is. She doesn’t come down until I call her.

You could put her dinner down and it’d be gone in 60 seconds. Less.

She likes to sleep in front of the fan. Never under blankets, even when it’s cold. Other times I’d wake up and her back would be against mine.

She snores. Loudly.

We call her our ‘Chicken Chimichanga’ because sometimes she looks like a chicken. Cordi is our ‘Black Bean Burrito.’

I’m convinced she’s learning to cook because she pays avid attention whenever I’m cooking or baking. In another life she would have been a chef.

People always say that she needs to lose weight without realising how much she has already slimmed down. Sometimes we are the shape we are. Penny and I are okay with that.

She stays up late with me, even if her version of staying up was passing out on the sofa. She wouldn’t leave until I said it was time for bed and then she’d hope down from the sofa, and open the bedroom door heralding my entrance. She is the Silver Surfer to my Galactus.

I don’t know when it was I started to love her, but I do.

She is my last goodnight.

She is my constant shadow.

She is my pup.

I want to imagine her in a field somewhere that she could run and chase birds, because she ran after the occasional pigeon. Or maybe on the beach, by the ocean. But I know she would have hated both of those things. So I imagine her where she was happiest, riding on the back of a bus when the doors used to be open, as her favourite conductor petted her. On her way to Starbucks to get a croissant. Or maybe just lying on the back of the sofa, not a care in the world, as we enjoyed one of our lazy Sundays.

She would have been 12yrs old on June 21st.

She died last night at around 1am. We held her and wished it could have been more easy on her, knowing she deserved a better life than the one she had been given, that she tried to make the most out of.

My heart is broken. I don’t know how someone so small could leave a hole so big.

Penny Jacob
Penito. My Penny. The best dog.
(June 21st 2006 – 2 May 2018)

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