Pets Playlist

I had to put down my golden retriever Remy on Wednesday because lung cancer had sprung up out of nowhere and taken over his body. I’m incredibly broken up about it and it’s taken all of me to just keep going to school and practicing music. It was our Dad’s dog that I inherited when he passed. Like this post says, he had a rough time following his death and I should consider myself lucky to have had the three plus years that I did. I’ll write a smaller post about this soon, but now the wounds are too fresh.  One thing I am sure of is that Remy has found my Dad and I’m sure the reunion was a happy one.

(Note: This post was composed after my brother told me about his cat)

My brother had to put down his cat today and I feel terrible for him. He never gets real emotional about things which is why I feel so bad because I know this kills him. Personally, no one liked or was liked by the cat except him which is why I feel so bad for him. It would routinely scratch me when I tried to pet it back when I was a freshmen in high school and would visit my brother at his undergraduate college. The fucking cat survived more than a lot of people I know can, including two big moves, a house fire, and multiple trips to the vet in.  She was tough, just like my big brother, and we should all mourn her.

My relationship to pets is different from my brother’s but also very similar. I was not old enough to remember him burying all of those cats but I do remember them being around and looking sickly in the basement. Reading his post, I teared up thinking about an 11 year-old dealing with all of that death.

I do remember one dog we had named Alfie who bit all of us and one of our neighbors. My father told us he was taking it for a walk and about five minutes later I heard the loud retort of a .30/30. This was not the first or only time I can remember him putting down a pet for whatever reason, but certainly the most vivid. Many years later, I had a very serious girlfriend with whom I lived in college whose Aunt and Uncle had a pair of psychotic Dalmatians who would bite you if you got down to pet them or many other many movements in their direction. They never thought of me the same when I told them, “Where I’m from, when dogs continually bite people, we shoot them”

As the Elder said, please don’t think us backwards for doing this. I always explain to people like it’s the relationship between a cowboy and his horse. If the horse is in pain or out of it’s mind and it can’t be fixed, it should probably be put down for its’ own good and the it’s thought where I live that the way to do it is yourself instead of some vet who had no relationship with the dog.

I have a good friend named Larry, aka the “Angel of Death” ,who puts down at least a dog a week with his .357 because many people in our rural homeland cannot afford the skyrocketing cost of lethal injection. His wife works at a vet’s office and he also is very close with the county animal control officer. He says that he feeds the dog some meat, pets him, and digs the hole beforehand. He leads it to the hole and whilst petting it, calmly puts one right behind the ear so the last thing it remembers is being full and being loved.

If its any consolation for anyone who may be shocked by this practice, both Larry and my father have made past requests that if they get to what they call “vegetable mode”, it is our job to suffocate them or otherwise dispatch them as they didn’t want to live like that. My dad dodged that bullet but we will see if anyone has the salt if it comes to that with the “Angel of Death”.  I wonder if Larry likes Hank Williams Sr.?

I have only had two of my own pets in my lifetime and I will quickly elaborate on both of them. In high school, I had a cat named Kirby who was my best friend. He would go out every night and then climb the porch roof and scratch on my window to be let in. He also had an affinity for the mary-jane and whenever friends of my father who got high came around, he’d be all over them. I think all cats do because it must share some quality with catnip but I don’t care to take the time to research it. I do know from an animal lover that smoke is terrible for animals so tell your doper friends to keep their pets away from the ganja smoke.

I never had Kirby fixed because I thought it was wrong and this may have been his downfall. When I went off to college, he left three weeks later. My parents didn’t tell me until a month after that so I was pissed for a while and haven’t had my own pet since. In hindsight, he should have been fixed, but there have been rumors of a feral cat fitting his description in the local area so maybe he just went renegade.

I now have an inherited golden retriever named Remy. It was my father’s best friend and I sometimes think the old man liked the dog more than he liked his family. The dog went everywhere with him, from business trips to church. From the moment the two of them woke up in the morning until they went to sleep, they were together. I  remember waking up on multiple occasions whilst being home from college  and hearing him talk to the dog in the morning, telling him he was good boy and how handsome he was. He would often say Remy was the best dog he ever had and that he should be in the Retriever Hall of Fame for being “world’s most friendliest dog”.

I did not like the dog initially because I thought my parents wouldn’t take care of him, but eventually got very close with him when I moved home after graduate school. I eventually learned to love him and my father and I would routinely pile in my Subaru with the dog and drive up the dirt road we hail from to see the neighbors with cocktails in hand.

When my dad died, the dog was distraught. He wouldn’t lie down and just paced around looking for his best friend. My explanation is that animals cannot conceptualize death so someone is either there or not and Remy missed his owner.  In the subsequent months, he would sit at the window for hours waiting for Dad to come home with the saddest look on his face that you can imagine. I would be feeling somewhat better about the loss of my father and then see him in this state and just burst into tears. This would spurn Remy to try to lick my face which would force me to stop him and laugh.

The point of me writing this is not to be maudlin but instead to show the connections we have with animals and how important it is. I didn’t want a dog but I will care for this dog as long as it lives. It often forces me to end things I want to do early to go home and walk him and I will never get all the dog hair off of my carpet, but I don’t give a fuck. My dad loved this dog and now I do too.

All people can benefit from having a pet of some kind and I truly think it makes you a better person to connect with animals. To end my wordy explanation of my relationship to animals I will share a famous quote from the German philosopher Kant that my father always mangled. Kant said “ We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals”. I couldn’t agree more. Feel better brother.

1. “Cat Food”-King Crimson

This song has little to do with anything except I like it and it has a cat in the title. The lyrics are nonsensical and have nothing to do with pets. It was just the first song I thought of when writing this piece.  It was in some weird time signature like 17/8 and sounds very strange which is why I like it. I saw my hippie neighbor Fred attempt to play this once and he was really close. Fred’s dog is a Rottweiler mixed with a German Shepherd, complete with two different colored eyes. It’s notorious locally for trying to hump things as it has never been neutered. I actually had to hit it with a stick once to get it to stop fucking my dog, much to it’s chagrin. So, it does relate to animals!

2. “Trooper Holler” by Hank3

Hank 3 is my current favorite artist, albeit my few disagreements with some of his alienating lyric choices. Regardless, he is the best thing in country music today, and this song is off of his newest album A Ghost to a Ghost. Before I saw him this fall on his tour to promote the album, I’d never heard the song. It is basically drums and a little guitar with a simple banjo keeping time. When he played it love, Hank 3 took his banjo player’s banjo and played the part himself. The pedal steel player does this weird noise that sounds exactly the same on record as it does live which I think is cool.

The album track actually double tracks Hank’s dog in the chorus to great effect. He often posts pictures of dogs that need to be rescued on his band page so he must be an animal lover as well. I play this song through the PA my band uses almost every day and dance around the practice room. The song is all about his hound tracking a raccoon and my favorite line is “He got his coon and now he wants to see his bitch Forlei”. Like he got the hunting done and now he wants to fuck. When I got my first deer this year, the “Angel of Death”’s wife told me he was always better in bed the night he got a deer. Must be something in all animals genes to want to create life around death.  Also, for the feminists, dog breeders I know always refer to the female as the bitch. It’s not a misogynistic thing, it’s just what it’s always been in the world of dog breeding.

3. “Seamus” Pink Floyd

This is another example of a dog being used in the track, although in this case it wasn’t a band member, but rather Humble Pie’s and The Small Face’s Steve Marriott’s dog. It is on the last album before the gigantic Dark Side of the Moon, called Meddle. It is a simple blues song with the dog barking in the background and is very short by Floyd standards. In fact, after reading about the song a little, I have discovered it is often polled as the worst Pink Floyd song ever which is stupid because I think most songs after The Wall suck. I mean this is no “Fearless”, but it has a dog and is simple in it’s performance and goals. Some people can never be pleased.

4. “Comes a time” Grateful Dead

Probably my favorite Dead song and one of Jerry’s finest written accomplishment’s, in my opinion. It is a slow jam with an extended slow guitar jam which turns off  a lot of people but I think it’s very pretty and I love the lyrics. The opening line “There comes a time when a blind man takes your hand, says why don’t you see” always comes to mind when I realize I’m doing something stupid in life. The allegory of a blind person asking why you don’t see is about realizing that we often get mired in stupid things that detract us from what really matters. The song continues with “Gotta make it somehow on the dreams you still believe, don’t give it up, you’ve got an empty cup that only love can fill”. They seem hokey when typing them out like this but really think about it. If you have love in your life, whether it be for your family, your friends, your significant other and definitely your pet, you are doing alright.

That’s one thing I’ve learned in the various fucked up events of the last few years of my life. You can’t control much but you can keep those you love and keep your cup full. I am sorry for your loss brother and nothing I can say will bring back your cat. However, you got mad love and don’t forget it.

8 comments on “Pets Playlist

  1. the sister says:

    You guys have got to stop with the tear-jerkers!!!! I think I have cried more over your recent blog entries than anything else in a long time. Hmmm what does that say about me? Luckily I can still blame post-pregnancy hormones. (I know what you’re thinking–GROSS)

    A couple thoughts. First of all, I had NO idea that our dear father (may he RIP) was responsible for the death of Alfie. The way I remember the story is that the parents told us she was going to live on a farm. I actually believed this. Not for years later was I told she was “put down” and I just assumed that she was put down at the vet. Wow. Second, your dear friend Larry’s way of dealing with the pets of others just broke my heart. That’s all I can say because I’ll cry more if I think about it more!!! And third, my hyperactive extremely food motivated beagle means more to me than anyone but your niece. We consider her our first baby and love her in an unhealthy way I’d say. Your brother in law assured me however, that the second she snaps at or even bites the baby, she’s gone by his own weapon. As awful as it sounds, I’d try to convince him otherwise. I believe that shows I’m very fucked up and way too attached the dog. My father in law tells me, “she’s a dog. She’s an animal, that’s it.” Yet I associate her with so much love and fun and view her as so much more than that. I care way too much for animals–perhaps that’s why I burst into tears and then change the channel immediately every time I see an ASPCA commercial on TV.

    Thanks for taking care of our boy Remy. He’s incredibly lucky to have you.

    • theyoungerj says:

      I agree, maybe putting a dog down is a terrible thing but I still think at home is better than on a cold table in a strange place. I’d rather die at home anyway.

  2. theelderj says:

    The ASPCA advertisement does kill me. I change the channel every time.

    Do we feel as much for people?

    Thanks for the piece, brother. Of all the things our father left us, our complicated history with animals best reflects his complicated character…

  3. […] roaming the earth. I have the Made in Japan vinyl and I often play it so loud that it spooks my golden retriever Remy into running upstairs to retreat the aural […]

  4. […] of my very good friends growing up and to this day, the daughter of the Angel of Death actually, has been dating  the same girl for some time. She has been trying to get our band to let […]

  5. […] have written on this blog before about the love we have for our pets and how much of this love comes from our father who seemed to have gotten along better with […]

  6. […] I’ve been on a bluegrass kick of epic proportions. I’ve alienated co-workers, scared my dog, and thoroughly driven my roommate crazy and it feels great. At one point in my life, probably […]

  7. […] Last week, my brother had to say goodbye to his dog. My sister has already finely eulogized him.  The pain was especially sharp since the dog was our […]

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