Missing Things

It’s a strange feeling knowing that within a half an hour someone you love will no longer physically exist.

The last few days my dog, Satchmo, has been unable to use his back legs. My family had talked about what we would do given any possible direction that this might take. We’ve talked about what we were even were capable of doing. So it should not have felt like a surprise when I received a call from my mom today saying that he wasn’t getting better physically and seemed to also be deteriorating emotionally and mentally. But it did. All three of us, my mother, my father, and I, knew what we had agreed we would do given this situation, and so my parents were there with him as I got off the phone nearly 5,000 miles away.

Three days ago I read an article about a man put to death in South Dakota. This man had been convicted of something terrible that I don’t want to mention. The article went on, for some terrible reason, to describe the execution. I don’t remember it all, nor do I want to, but I can paraphrase: “turned a slightly purple” “took eight heavy breaths” and “eyes remained open.” The next day I found out that Satchmo couldn’t walk. The day after that he received his own final injection. I am not arguing for or against a death penalty or a change in the way that executions are carried out, but I just couldn’t stop thinking that my dog, whose biggest offense was eating my CD collection and the freezers electrical cord, was going to be taken from the world the same way that this man had.

I could go on and on about memories. About the time he rode on my lap as a puppy during on our way home for the first time. About the time he ate my friend’s hat and sunglasses. And his leash (with him attached). And my CD’s. And a pizza. And just about everything, really.About the time he had such a high fever that he likely burned off a few too many brain cells. About learning (almost) how to fetch…just last year. About spending hours playing a forced game of hide and seek through the orchards in the freezing cold nights. About all of the times that he put his happy little head in front of mine as I tried to watch TV and with that smile convinced me to forget everything except a pat on the head and a flip of the jowls. I’ll reminisce some other time, this isn’t the place.

Instead, I’m writing this here, in my travel blog, first of all because I felt the need for some kind of memorial, but mostly because this is part of my abroad experience. I feel the need to point out something very important to anyone who thinks they want to travel: You are going to miss things. Some good things. Some bad things. For however long you travel you will miss them all. You know this when you leave, of course. Depending on who and where you are you realize that you won’t be around for a friend’s birthday or maybe the beginning or ending of a life.  You know that things won’t be the same when you get back, for better or for worse. I know I thought about that. But it is different when that moment of change actually happens and you aren’t there. That moment where you realize that things will not be the same. That there won’t be that same happy, grinning, oafish, slobbering face there to greet you like it has for every return since you were 11 years old. The moment you realize that is the only moment that matters and no matter what you can’t prepare for that.

For me this moment was the loss of a friend but I know that for many of my friends here their moment has been played out on national TV for the past week. For them it is the loss of a home, a school, or the catalysts of childhood remembrance now eaten away by a hurricane. The thing is, everything is always changing and you are bound to miss something. But, the way I see it, and I think the only way to make it bearable, is that for twenty years I was missing everything in Denmark. I know it doesn’t make much sense, but that is what I need to tell myself. You can’t be everywhere, so it is better just to accept that no matter how much you try not to, you are going to miss things, so make the most of it.

Satchmo, this isn’t a fitting remembrance, but it isn’t supposed to be. That doesn’t belong here. That belongs somewhere more private and with me. What matters is that idea comes across and that I write something vaguely about my dog who is thousands and thousands of miles away.

Goodbye, Satch.


3 thoughts on “Missing Things

  1. Riley, thank you for sharing your thoughts and tender feelings as you lose Satchmo. I met Satchmo and Wally in August 2011 while on business in Yakima. I remember how affectionate he was, and he’d take all the attention I could give him.

    I’m sure his life ended gently. What you described about Satchmo’s last several days matches the condition of my beloved Bernie. You met him when you were very young. When the time came and the vet made the injection, Bernie just slowly put his head down. It was very peaceful.

    I’ll remember Satch very fondly.


  2. Thank you for sharing a little of our lovable, sweet, gentle, silly Satchie with others. You’re a great guy Riley and we love you so much, Mom

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