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.