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project hot air balloon


By 11:58 PM

She named me after Bibi Anderson, the Swedish actress.

Like a Bergman film, I'm serious and often black and white.

She made a decent dinner last night.

And repeated it for breakfast. Hurrah.

The steak has made me gassy, but She's getting things right.

The morning greeted me with dense fog and zero levity. It was a fitting day for us to say good bye. Of all days, I expected nothing less of San Francisco.

I awoke to Bibi's steady breathing, she to my stirring.
She was my watchful warden and I, her bitch - never the other way around.

Bibi was a good Shepherd mix, dutiful and focused, very German indeed. She's also attentive, sharp, speculative and intense, all under a doorman sized umbrella of serious. Whether or not Germans are truly known for these traits, it didn't really matter. When she came home from the shelter as a 4 lbs pup, they guessed her heritage as Australian. Shepherd she was, Australian she most definitely was not. And we'll leave it at that.

She wasn't always a righteous gal. Like the time she ate the library's video of Raging Bull. I actually had to go up to the counter and tell a librarian that "my dog ate the tape". He looked up at me incredulously, but saw the gnawed destruction in my hands and became a believer. I replaced it with a brand new copy and he reluctantly took me off the city's blacklist.

There was also the kim-chee ramen incident. If you think kim-chee is spicy, try eating 10 concentrated flavor packets, with 10 dried bundles of noodle. By the time I discovered her, her stomach was distended like an Ethiopian orphan, her water bowl bone dry and there lay ahead a greater hell for us to pay. All Bibi could do for the next 24 hours was guzzle water and fart.

One of the final episodes before she put her teenage years to rest was New Year's Eve 1999. I planned a cocktail party with a blue theme. Bibi somehow consumed one pound of chocolate without my knowledge. When she dramatically displayed the contents of her stomach in the middle of the kitchen, I had to rush her to the ER as the first round of guests in blue arrived. I think I sat in the waiting room with my blue wig still on while Bibi was getting a charcoal enema. No matter the details, we made it home in time for the midnight toast.

This was the last morning I'd have to wake up wondering if Bibi had soiled her bed. The last morning I would have to carry the weaker half of her 76 lbs around the garden. It was the last morning I would hear the clink of her name tag as she craned her strong neck to watch me get out of bed. This dog was the most devoted companion I could have ever dreamed of, even with her physical incapacity to do so for the last year and a half.

As for the last 36 hours, since I sealed Bibi's fate, I had been operating with the efficiency of a traffic cop. I kept action flowing in one direction while sentiment was halted in the other, all the while trying not to end up as a casualty in the intersection of Be Strong & Help Me.

Speaking of Bergman, here She goes with the camera.

She's awkwardly contorting Herself on the ground beside me.

She employs Her camera as a witness.

She's in her nightgown, no make up and every strand of hair out of place.

I am Her muse, like Bibi and Liv were to Ingmar.

Can't blame Her. She'll capture in frame now, what her mind will take longer to grasp.

I had a lump in my throat the size of a fist for three days. This lump was no metaphor, but a physical obstruction. It was squarely lodged somewhere between my head and chest, where no amount of lubricant or coaxing could remove it. It made breathing and swallowing difficult and eating or drinking impossible. However, alcohol and caffeine seemed to have found a secret passageway.

Another thing that got past this lump was music. If a picture paints a thousand words, then Bach should chant a million. Bibi can no longer hear, but I was certain she'd feel something, and maybe everything unspeakable about today, from one excellent German to another.

She might practice more.

She got Her piano tuned for the first time in 7 years and is playing again.

I'm glad She played Bach and not Beethoven.

They're both good, but I prefer Bach today.

She is getting things right.

Friends generously offered their time and rolled through the house. Her groomer was the first to arrive. VIP grooming was the first and last place that Bibi would let clip her nails. Many a brave soul have attempted to do alike and failed. When animals get upset they show their distaste unambiguously. Bibi was no different when it came to her nails. She once took the biggest load of crap on the grooming table at By George. She was under-trimmed and I overtipped and we both ran out, never to return.

Then there was the time SPCA crew tried. Sure, no problem, we get difficult dogs all the time. They came at her with treats and whispering sweet nothings, but all I got when I returned to pick her up was,

"We tried...in shifts. All of us. But she wouldn't let us near her. We're really sorry". Longer nails still.

Not to mention her biting the hand that fed her. I suffered a black and blue thumb for a month the last time I tried at home. Even longer nails, while mine was about to fall off.

But at VIP, the animals enter the Xanax zone. The Nervous, stop shaking. The Wimpering, become silent. And the Aggressive, easily relent, all under the command of the gentle alpha proprietor. Bibi at last knew her paws were in good hands.

The skinny one just got off of a flight. She smelled Transpacific.

Her husband with the deep voice picked her up and they came straight from the airport.

The tall one with the green jacket took the afternoon off to hang out with us.

Marcus' mom showed up at the parking lot as they carried me off on a stretcher like the Queen of Sheba.

To my amazement, she got up to greet each guest before they even reached the door, something she stopped doing a while back when she lost her hearing. Somehow she was tuned in to a frequency that had no relation to sound. If I called her name from two feet away she wouldn't turn her head, but if I shifted to go to the next room she would wake up from the deepest slumber. Today she knew that friends were coming to see her. And this was very motivating.

Fräulein is not known to show affection, much less freely give what you've yet to earn. But today everybody's faces may as well have been covered with bacon strips and gravy, because she was going to town on them and coming back for seconds.

I like seeing everybody like this. This seemed to comfort Her also.

By the time I was done with my Baroque soliloquy, the sun had burned through the clouds. The rest of the afternoon she chose to spend in the garden. The sky was blue with the sun beaming down on us. She was in her element. Almost lyrically so.

Until then, I chose not to get back her remains. To some it may sound detached, even cold, but I'd been through it all before and I didn't need to hold onto that which no longer held life. I imagined I was committed to releasing her completely. It was a clean break. Why carry her around in death, if I had expired carrying her around in life. I didn't want to anthropomorphize the bag of ashes.

But watching her smell the garden and taking in the breeze, I felt at peace. More importantly, she was too. We have been saying a long good bye since she first started to limp 18 months ago. And today was the day we were waiting for whether we liked it or not. But even her vigorous panting no longer indicated a sense of strain. She wasn't out of breath or strength, nor was she anxious or in pain. She was hot. And she liked it.

She chose to sit next to the blood orange tree. It was a shift to watch her soak in the garden with such delight. The same garden that lately had been giving us grief with every twist and turn was now her Eden. Her joy was infectious and I found myself wrapped in warmth. A Monarch butterfly fluttered by her head. I looked around the garden and saw it brimming with life - bumble bees, hummingbirds, honey bees, dragon flies and ladybugs. Today's main feature had switched from The Seventh Seal to a damn Technicolor Disney musical.

Or maybe, I finally saw things as they were, as they have become, and as I often find, that I'm that last one to tune into the proper frequency. She and I both knew our time together was coming to a close, but it took me a lot, way lot longer, to admit it or do anything about it.

I knew with certainty, that this was not about her departure, but about our final journey together. And we were ready to begin it. It was then that I was struck by the urge and clarity to properly cremate her body and bring her back where she belonged, not just in this garden, but with me.

Finally, She got things right.

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