Throughout this two-week weep-a-palooza at Casa De Cohen I have eaten lots of powdered doughnuts, consumed a WASPy yet acceptable amount of Hendrick’s gin, swallowed a reasonable collection of pain go away pills, made two vats of Bolognese sauce and chugged lots of snotty root beer while marveling with tears in my eyes at how oddly clean our house is now that a large, beautiful pooch is not leaving large fur balls in and around every corner.
What I have not done is written about Otto and his reaction to Brody’s illness and subsequent disappearance. I wrote only what I had to and then posted beautiful photos that made people sob and made me want to throw up and run screaming down Sunset Boulevard dressed like Carol Channing on her night off, a night filled with Beefeater martinis, no discernable make-up, her real, old lady hair and constantly being mistaken for Carl, the younger Channing sibling who never made it big.
The moment Brody got sick Otto began a campaign of making sure I was at least three inches within reach of him at all times. He has begged me to stay glued to his tiny, perfect hip as I escort him to the bathroom, the ottoman and the toy basket. He insists with shrieks and growls that mommy and only mommy put him to bed and he cries when I get up from the table to get him more water or to clear away the dishes or to wash away the dirt I have collecting on the bottom of my feet. It has not been easy or pleasant much like wearing high hells when hiking or watching Bristol Palin dance off her baby weight.
The moment we got the bad news both Dave and I were pretty open with Otto about Brody’s health. Otto was very gentle in the last days petting him and kissing him and telling him that he loved him. It was a far cry from a month earlier when Otto would chase Brody around the living room with a huge, plastic Ford GT as we yelped at him to be nice to Brody and give him his space. Brody was never thrilled that we brought home a little gremlin from the hospital, not so much because of Otto but because of all the loud, plastic junk that comes with a small, squeaky child.
For the last three and half years Brody often hid upstairs on his porch or sunned himself alone in the front yard just waiting and wanting a little piece and quiet until the moment that Otto noticed his main audience was missing. He would then find him and try his best to incorporate Brody in his train building or racecar races. Brody, ever the stuck up snooty dog, would always give him the stink eye and the furry finger and run away as fast as he could.
These odd and funny exchanges were very consistent in Otto’s life. Brody has been there from the beginning much like Daddy’s gourmet cooking and Mommy’s inane list-making and pathetic power-napping. When Otto started to walk he began his mornings by feeding Brody and then accompanying us on a neighborhood dog walk.
But now, his main job has suddenly disappeared like a Bear Stearns internship on a Monday morning. Otto is missing a huge piece of his daily routine and a large slice of his immediate family and the annoying task of making sure a large beast has an ample bowl full of over-priced, all-organic, kibble kernels that cost as much as heirloom tomatoes by the pound but taste like sweet potato-sprinkled gravel.
This must be a huge, confusing void for a boy so young and a kid so bright. No one can pull the wool over this guy’s eyes and we are not about to try. I am lopsided with grief and confusion and often find myself reaching for Brody’s leash or wanting to pour him fresh water in a bowl that is no longer there. Every morning I expect to hear his nails on the hardwood floor or a loud, dog yawn that started out our day, every day for the last thirteen, glorious years.
But I know what happened to Brody and I can process the terrible truth while Otto is left standing alone in the living room wondering where his fuzzy friend has gone. We are trying our best to navigate these murky, melodramatic waters. Even though Otto never asks about Brody directly, we talk about Brody in the past tense while celebrating his life and being upbeat and optimistic. We have told him that he is with a bunch of dog friends and is happy and this seems to make Otto happy, in return.
Each day gets a tiny crumb easier as Otto seems to be slowly prying himself away from his mommy addiction one inch at a time at the pace of an elderly snail that is devoid of his slime. But I’ll take an inch and never demand a mile and already, we see a huge difference. His grief comes in one form as ours comes in another and that is just fine by me.
In the end, I am so proud of Otto for loving Brody as we did and for sharing his toys and his stories with a dog that will never be replaced and will never miss the Matchbox car crashes and the tiny, train derailment. But shit, we miss him and that will never change.