Yesterday, I got a text from my friend Melissa, who has my two favorite dogs in the world (other than my dog), Rufus and Macey, who are Italian Greyhounds. Rufus is a timid, skinny little man who is so light that when he jumps onto a couch, he floats as if he’s in an old timey cartoon. Macey is a butch, barrel-chested lesbian who eats garbage such as used tampons and diapers for pleasure and seems to have no soul except when she smiles or nuzzles her head into you. Both of them are pretty old and have tons of health problems.
I got a text from Melissa saying that after battling cancer for months, Rufus had finally collapsed and died on her kitchen floor after cuddling on her chest one last time. Rufus was the single cutest, most lovable dog in the world. His face could have made Kim Jong Un embrace democracy and a representative government of the people. I used to say that when Rufus died, I would die, because I loved him so fucking much that I didn’t want to live in a world where he was dead. Of course I was exaggerating, but I still hated that he was sick and going to die. So when I got this text, I called Melissa right away.
Me: Hey man, I’m so sorry about Rufus.
Melissa: I know, I know, it’s so sad. But I can’t really talk right now because I’m trying to get rid of the body.
Me: Hey! Just because he was an ITALIAN greyhound doesn’t mean you can talk like a mobster! Stop saying you’re trying to get rid of the body! And what do you mean? What are you doing with him?
Melissa: Well, the law is that you have to put him in a plastic bag marked “dead animal” and throw him in the garbage.
Me: Jesus Christ, you’re throwing him in the fucking garbage?! What kind of a monster are you?! And you can’t throw him away before your daughter and husband get to say goodbye to him!
Melissa: You know, you’re right, I probably should wait and give them a chance to say goodbye. But I’m not going to cremate him because I can’t justify spending hundreds of dollars on getting him cremated when that money could go toward Syrian refugees.
Me: …You are one of a kind. Hang on to him. I have to come say goodbye myself.
An hour and a half later, I was at her apartment. Rufus’ body was in a shoe box by the door. I was fine at first, but when I saw Macey, I started to cry, because I hated the thought of her being sad about losing her life partner. Then I opened the box and looked at Rufus and cried some more.
Melissa: Is he definitely dead?
Me: I know he’s dead because he’s not running away from me like usual. The only way he’ll let me pet him is if he’s fucking dead.
We started to laugh. I stroked his pronounced cheekbone and his neck that was softer than angel breath and his crinkly little ear, and looked into his sad, sunken, dead eye. My tears dripped onto my pants.
Melissa: Does he smell?
Me: Yeah, a little. He smells like cookies and death.
We laughed again. Melissa put on sad, appropriate songs, like “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday” by Boyz II Men. Her 6 year old daughter, Bea, said, “Stop playing sad songs. Let’s play some happy songs, like Shake It Off by Taylor Swift.”
Me: We can’t play Shake It Off right now, that’s crazy! What are we supposed to do, shake off our favorite dog’s death?! That’s not what that song is about. But I guess if we changed the lyrics, like…
Cuz the doggie’s gonna die die die die die
And the family’s gonna cry cry cry cry cry
Now it’s time to say good bye bye bye bye bye
Shake it off! Shake it off!
We all laughed. Greg, Melissa’s husband, came home, and soon it was time to take Rufus’ body away.
Melissa: We should sing a song to say goodbye to him.
Me: I can play “Seasons of Love” on the piano!
Melissa: Let’s do it!
Then the four of us, me, Melissa, Greg and Bea, sang Seasons of Love as a farewell to Rufus. “525,600 minutes! 525,000 moments so dear…let’s celebrate, remember a year in the life of friends. Remember the love..” And it was beautiful and sounded great and we harmonized. And when we were done, we laughed. We laughed at being the kind of people who sing a song from RENT for a dead dog to say goodbye. We laughed at how much this dog meant to all of us. We laughed because there was a lot of great humor on this sad occasion. And because we laughed, because we played, because we saw the humor in the horror, we made it through. Goodbye, Rufus. We loved you so much.