29 November 2011

Lucha, Catholic crutches and messages from beyond the pet cemetery

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lucha

I'm apprehensive about sharing what happened immediately after losing Lucha the Tijuana Basset Hound to distemper, but it's essential to the story coming to anything remotely close to what I could consider a happy ending.

The day she was put down, I had to wobble out of the house on my Catholic crutch, asking St. Francis of Assisi to take care of her through all of this. Per Mom's advice. He's the patron saint of animals. And I usually have luck with saints. St. Anthony, the saint of finding lost things or something like that, always helps me track down my keys. Even when I ask half jokingly. Despite eight years of Sunday school, I'm not a religious person. Spiritualism, I think that's embedded in all of us. Some just are better at ignoring it than others. And Mom's usually right when it comes to these sort of things anyway.

After the fourth injection sent Lucha on her way, I held her for a minute, wiped the last goop out of her eyes before shutting them and then I spread her Dumbo ears over the yellow vinyl table where only months earlier I had held Cumbia, my first Tijuana dog that I had adopted off the street, through the same. Six months old and already gone.

Right after it was over, I managed to keep the emotion geyser from erupting all over the vet's waiting room. But I knew I needed to walk. A church was a block away, but I wouldn't be able to go in because I was wearing an A-shirt and Mexican Catholicism has a strict sleeve mandate. No bare biceps allowed. I stood by the open doors watching mass for a minute until I realized a man having his photo taken in front of the church, so I ran back down the stairs to get out of his shot. Waiting for him to finish, I happened to look over at the wall and right in front of me was a huge sign with a prayer, the Prayer of Peace. I started reading it to myself: Make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. It was only when I finally reached the end that I found the author's name. St. Francis.

That's when the manic bawling began. But I think it was out of happiness, and relief. Either way, it was enough to have the gangly security guard appear out of nowhere and linger a little closer than he probably would have otherwise, staring at the weeping gringo in the shadows.

Like I said, I'm not religious. But I know signs exist for a reason. And this was just that. Literally and transcendentally.

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