I’ve never been good at showing emotion. My friends always make fun of me for never crying during movies, or even books. And for the most part, deaths never bothered me because I was always too young or disconnected from the person to feel any real pain. But that line had to be crossed eventually, right?
My grandmother constantly had issues with her health, and had pancreatitis when I was in fourth grade. Even then, I was still too young to understand how serious the situation was, even when my mother was constantly at the hospital, extremely stressed out, arguing with doctors over whether or not it was time to sell my grandmother’s apartment. Meanwhile, I was at home, playing with my puppy, Cocoa, trying to sneak in one more episode of Spongebob before bed. I remember crying after a spelling test once because I thought I did horribly on it (which is kind of sickening, since I had gotten a 93), but my teacher just hugged me and said not to worry about my grandma instead of calling me a perfectionist bitch like she probably should have.
As ominous as everything was, I became a little less oblivious only after my grandma miraculously recovered. She moved in with us for a couple of months, and nurses would stop by my house while everyone else was at work or school. I felt like I had it all at home: my parents, my sister, even a grandparent and a dog.
But that was the problem: my dog. Cocoa was a German shepherd, and (like most dogs) would bark up a storm and jump around at the sight of a guest. And we couldn’t run the risk of having her accidentally scratch my grandma’s stitches open, or even bothering one of the nurses. My grandma was too weak to chase her into her kennel, so she would just let her roam in the backyard to take an hour long shit until that day’s nurse left.
A week after my dog’s first birthday, my sister and I walked out of school to find our neighbor, who told us she was going to bring us home that day. Since my mom clearly loved and cared for us too much to ever miss getting our asses home, we knew something was up. I was still in a semi-oblivious state of mind, while my sister feared that our grandma had fallen ill again.
When we got home, we found our mom at the entrance, her face red and puffy. My sister asked if it was our grandma, and she shook her head (this was kind of a stupid question, since my grandma was sitting right behind us). I asked if it was our great grandmother, who—oh, by the way, my great grandmother had lung cancer too. Maybe I’ll write something about that.... But again, my mom shook her head.
It was then that I realized it. There was no barking, no tail hitting the wall with excitement. No whimpers waiting to be relieved by a pat on the head.
I screamed. My sister screamed. My mom…well, she didn’t scream but she did cry a lot. My grandma, on the other hand, just sat there and didn’t do anything. I’m trying to figure out how it was even possible for her to remain so tranquil with three females wailing so terribly, but I guess that’s where I get my emotional rock-ness from. My mom told us how my dog had jumped through the basement window while outside on her poop hour. I ran outside, not really sure of what to expect, but there it was. The window, with a hole in the middle just big enough for a dog to make. There were shards of glass all around, and blood. A lot of blood, some still trickling from the edges of the hole.
This was when I stopped being so oblivious. It took my dog’s untimely death and the traumatic image of the bloody window, but it happened. If that wasn’t bad enough, my sister had to read Where the Red Fern Grows in her sixth grade English class. In case you aren’t familiar with it: kid gets dogs, kid loves dogs, mountain lion kills dog, other dog starves itself to death, red fern grows. Obviously not the best time to be reading such a thing.
But after a few years of acting bitter toward anyone who mentioned Cocoa, I began to see the humor in it. What could have possibly driven my dog to jump to her imminent death? Sure, garbage trucks and strangers had the potential of spooking her, but enough to force herself through glassy hell? My friends joke around about this too, but maybe it’s true. Maybe dogs really are more intelligent than we think. Maybe my dog was in a depression. And as absurd as it sounds, enough people are convinced of it.
Maybe this was a successful canine suicide.