Thursday, January 10, 2013

Go-To-Gay: The "Wonder" Years

Introduction by Tracey Meyers

Last summer, something amazing happened to me.  Out of the blue, my cat, Elsie, came into my life.

Though I had been considering adopting a pet, I wasn't expecting to do so when I did.  What started out as a "trial situation" quickly turned into a permanent one and has caused me to purchase a one-way ticket to cat mom-ville.  Each and everyday I reside in this world, I not only get to bask in the joy my four-legged friend brings me, but I also learn something new about myself, and life. (Something I never would have anticipated.)

Today, Chick Lit Central's Go-To-Gay, Wade Rouse, shares with us an expert from this memoir, It’s All Relative..

Though Wade and Gary's dog, Wonder, was only in their life for a blink of an eye, the lessons they learned will last them a lifetime!

The writings of bestselling humorist Wade Rouse – called “wise, witty and wicked” by USA Today and the lovechild of Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris – have been featured multiple times on NBC’s Today Show as well as on Chelsea Lately on E! and His latest memoir, It’s All Relative: Two Families, Three Dogs, 34 Holidays and 50 Boxes of Wine (reviewed here) launched in paperback February 1st from Broadway, and he is creator and editor of the humorous dog anthology, I’m Not the Biggest Bitch in This Relationship: Hilarious, Heartwarming Tales about Man’s Best from America’s Favorite Humorists (NAL). The book features a Foreword by Chelsea Handler’s dog, Chunk, essays by such beloved chick lit authors as Jane Green, and 50 percent of the book’s net royalties go to the Humane Society of the United States. His first memoir, America's Boy, has been re-published by Magnus Books for paperback and Kindle. For more, visit his website, or friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

The "Wonder" Years

Three days into spring, just as the mounds of dirty snow had melted into tiny rivers that forked through the hollows of our Michigan woods like country interstates, our neighbors found a dying dog in their compost pile .

My partner, Gary, trudged over with a leash and a towel, green waders up to his knees, and a load of optimism.

Gary is an optimist.

One of those dirty, stinking, the sun will come up tomorrow optimists.
And, despite my tone, I love him for that.

He is the anti-me.

Ten minutes later he was back, leading the wobbly dog, which still had part of a rotting cabbage head in its mouth. The dog was a dingy yellow; it was bloody, its fur full of burrs. The dog’s nails were so long, they had curled and bent and grown into his pads. His eyes were matted shut. I could encircle its midsection with both my hands.

I wanted to strangle those who had done this, but instead I said to Gary, “You’d kill for a waistline like that,” because that’s what he needed to hear at that moment, since he looked like a kid who, for the first time, was seeing the grim reality of the world.

As the dog lay on its side, we held some water to its face. Its jaw released the cabbage head, and its teeth began to chatter even more violently.
With every ounce of strength it seemed to possess, the dog willed its matted eyes open and looked up at me.

He was blind.

And then the dog licked my hand, rested its head on Gary’s lap, and seemed to stare directly into my eyes.

It could see nothing, it seemed, but straight into my heart.



I named the dog Wonder, for many reasons.

Most obviously, it was a wonder it had survived, managed to make its way through the woods, in the dark, dying, for God knows how long.

And he was blind, like Stevie Wonder, who I had, ironically, been listening to on my I-Pod when our neighbors called.

Never name a pet you don’t intend to keep. That’s the first mistake. It bonds you to it emotionally, in a way that seems forever.

But I couldn’t help it.


It fit.


This wasn’t the dog I wanted.

In fact, I didn’t even want a second dog, much less one that was malnourished, mangy and blind.

Gary had wanted a second dog for a long time, but I had nixed it, saying the timing wasn’t right.

In my former life I was a PR person. I can change the outlook on anything, make something awful sound good, make something good sound awful. What I’ve never been good at, however, is facing my own truth, dealing with my own emotions. I am a good burier, like – to pardon the obvious analogy – a dog with a bone.

Gary rushed Wonder to the vet after we found him, and when he returned he was crestfallen but hopeful. The dog had many problems, but the vet wanted to see Wonder for a complete physical Monday to see just how deep those health issues were.
“This dog is a survivor,” Gary said. “He will be saved.”

Always the optimist.

I told Gary all the reasons why we shouldn’t keep the dog. They were obvious.
And then Gary spent the weekend ignoring those reasons. He took the dog to a groomer. I watched Wonder stand under the dryer, his eyes shut, sighing as his matted yellow fur turned fluffy gold.

By Saturday, the dog was eating well.

By Sunday, Gary had taught Wonder to make its way around the house, to come to the sound of his voice.

Even I was optimistic.


When I woke Monday morning, I had made up my mind. We would keep Wonder.
That’s the thing about living with an optimist: You realize you are one, too, somewhere deep down. You realize life and love is all about risk and doing the illogical sometimes.

This was a dog that had lived a nightmare of a life, and still never whined, or howled, or cried, out of pain or discomfort. You don’t make a sound, I learned from Wonder, when no one ever comes to see how you’re doing.

On Monday, we dropped Wonder off at the vet, me, for once, the optimist.
And then the vet called Gary a few hours later and gave us his report after viewing the dog’s lab work: Wonder had a few weeks, tops.

We still considered taking him home, until we were told he was in pain. He may have been silent, but he was screaming inside.

So we did something we never thought we would: We took responsibility for someone’s else’s irresponsibility. But we also gave Wonder a few days of peace, of home, of love. He did not die alone, abandoned.

When we arrived at the vet’s office, we walked Wonder around outside. He smelled the grass that was just coming to life, the crocus that signaled spring.
We reluctantly went back in, crying, and into a private room with a nurse who asked if we were ready.

We said no.

“I’m so sorry, but you didn’t make Wonder this way. Over 100,000 dogs are abused every year in the U.S. It’s just so sad that it comes to this.”
And then the nurse brought out the needle, and eased it into Wonder’s fluffy arm.
At first, Wonder fought the anesthesia, bobbing his head back and forth, “chasing the tennis balls,” the nurse said. And then he closed his eyes. He fell asleep. He stopped breathing.

It was so quick.

But much too slow.

Gary and I kissed Wonder on the snout, crying, convulsing really, and I told him to go find my late brother, and that he would take him fishing, run with him through heaven.

Before we left Wonder, Gary leaned down and whispered into his ear, “It’s spring, buddy. You’ve been reborn now. You’re finally free. You can finally see again.”
But really it was me who could.