These are words for Parker Dudley, my beloved yellow Labrador Retriever, as recorded by his best friend a few times over the span of his life.
(The beginning of a draft of a letter the 15-year-old version of me envisioned handing Parker’s veterinarian prior to his neutering surgery. Sadly, this first paragraph is all I composed and it never made it to the vet.)
Every morning TV personality Bob Barker persuades Americans to have their pets spayed or neutered. Now, I am taking it upon myself to as Mr. Barker says, “Help control the pet population.” I am doing my part to manage the pet populace, and now I am asking you a favor. Honorable Veterinarian, you take my puppy’s manhood in your hands while doing this delicate procedure. His testicles are being removed, along with a representation of his pride as a male dog. The only way I feel I can harness his pride, and preserve this representation, is by keeping his testicles in a jar so I can have something to remember them by. By containing his testicles, I will always have a reminder of his puppy hood and how he acted with them intact. Even after he passes from this world, I will not only keep a part of him in my heart, but I will keep a part of his most joyous years in a jar where I live. Please take my request into consideration and remember that you will only be bringing a boy and his dog closer.
(Recorded among a compilation of words I kept on my computer in high school. This was apparently written after romping around with the now-adolescent Parker.)
Me and Parker just wrestled hardcore. I love my dog. He’s my brother and my son and my best friend and my listener and my everything and he will love me no matter how bad I mess up and he won’t make me feel bad or anything. He’s just the shit and he’s such a rad dog. Yeah mega rad and mega mine. That makes me really damn happy. Even right now, being covered in dog hair and smelling like a flea collar, I love him. I think I’d be really messed up without him to talk to and to hang out with. He’s so peaceful yet so ramy. Dude, he saved me and helped me get responsible and whatnot. I love him so much. Dogs are crazy cool and I’m so glad that I got him when I did. I will never regret that. He has brightened up my life a couple of shades.
Early November 2014:
(Random notes and memories written in my notebook while riding the T on my way to work in the days after Parker was put down.)
Born – May 16, 2002
Brought him home – July 7, 2002
[I was 15]
Jumping on me and biting my shorts and shredding them at the cargo pockets.
My sisters had their boyfriends to hang out with. Parker was my other half in those days. He still is.
Girlfriends getting jealous of him getting jealous of them.
Taking him to the woods and letting him run – throwing sticks out from the campsite and getting the exact stick I’d thrown even though he was looking for it in a forest filled with duplicates.
Letting him out at night off his leash so he could explore knowing that he would come back.
While we negotiate how to live two lives – both physical and digital – I wonder how to handle this reality. How to handle it both privately and publically. I want him [Parker] to be more than an updated “cover photo” on Facebook. More than 140 characters and a pound sign. More than a psuedo paragraph of choicelly-typed heartstring tuggers and a photo from us from our youths. We have been learning to live this way, unemotionally, or perhaps pouring emotion and “sharing” these joys and defeats with an extremely closed-circuit. Misplacing emotions here instead of with words falling upon ears where a hug or a handhold goes further than faceless interaction. A like click cannot nurture. An emoji cannot comfort. I want to like things on my own terms and for it to mean something, both to myself and the recipient.
Back to Parker. I am going to write him something. Something lasting.
November 5, 2015:
(A few words of reflection on the anniversary of his passing.)
Today marks one year since Parker went to that big backyard in the sky, which knows no property lines, the one he’d run through in his sleep, his legs pumping paws on the carpet or clinking on the kitchen linoleum, showing the us in the waking how much he loved to run and swim and use his nose to play sleuth to whatever rabbit or cat was trespassing on his turf—even in his dreams.
He was my buddy, my protector, my confidant, and the hardest part of that concept of home that I had to say goodbye to when I went up to Boston and couldn’t bring him along for that adventure. In many ways, my not being there during his final years haunts me, but in many more ways I know he was good with me moving on for a while. He’d wanted me to grow up. In the months since I have moved closer to where Parker and I grew up, I have found myself beginning to call his name when it’s time to go up to bed or when I’m walking inside from the yard. Memories keep him alive, but his not being around makes home more a concept than a reality.
I hope he understood how difficult it was for me to be without him in those years and how the rapidity of his departure made it so that I couldn’t make the trip to him in time to be there when he closed his eyes on my parents and family who cared for and comforted him after I left and he opened them to that infinite expanse I’d like to believe his consciousness exists in now, the realm reserved for those who burrow their way into our lives in hearts in the way that only an animal can, who bust the mold of the definition of companion, who, no matter how much they’d love to run untethered, come when they’re called, who sleep by your side, and find a way to stay with you after exhaling their final breath.
You were the ET to my Eliot. That final scene wouldn’t be so hard to watch if the rest of the movie wasn’t so memorable.
Your human counterpart is here remembering it all. I’ve never had anything for you other than love and thanks, buddy. I’m still thanking and loving you. I always will be.
Parker Dudley: May, 16 2002 – November 5, 2014