A touching and hilarious ode to man's best friend by a man in mourning.
My dog died in my arms on Wednesday morning.
Dirt McGirt’s flatulence was rancid. Sometimes even she would be surprised and repulsed by them. But they were her farts – only her farts – and I loved them.
I came to know the provenance of her farts as a sommelier knows the story of the grapes that make a wine. They changed flavours day to day and year to year, and they never let up. It suggested at a minimum something rotting in her intestines, yet they were predictable, and, I might even say, comforting.
Here is an incomplete list of notable things Dirt McGirt ate:
- 100 IKEA tea light candles
- 100-count bottle of vitamins
- Most of a painting, stolen off a wall
- One shoe
- The first half of a signed copy of Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s book
- 1/2 a pineapple (skin on, of course)
- 3 dead baby birds
- One 8" dead fish (perch, I think)
- Used condoms
- Fake dinosaur poop
- Fake owl poop
- Boxes of crayons and coloured pencils (the poop was what you would think)
- A metal takeout container (her one hospitalization for eating something, which of course was during Hurricane Irene)
- 1/2 tray of brownies
- 1/4 bottle of hydrogen peroxide immediately, and unsuccessfully, following the brownies
- 12 cans of Mountain Dew
- 18 cans of cat food, crushing the cans to open them
- Her own poop (countless times)
- Her own puke after throwing up after eating her own poop (countless times)
One day Dirt McGirt stole a banana off the kitchen table and tried to walk away with it in her mouth like she didn’t just steal a whole fucking banana.
On one particular trip to an apple orchard, she revelled in finding the most rotten, run over, worm-ridden fruit to gobble up. While we humans plucked the freshest fruit we could find from the trees, Dirt McGirt ate from the ground to her heart’s content.
It was on the 90-minute drive back that we realised the consequences of the dog’s afternoon of freedom.
What came out of her ass during that ride home was nothing short of the most impressively god-awful smells that didn’t come from actual corpses. Dozens of apples fermented in her belly in a matter of hours, and those gases came rushing out and would not stop. Lucifer himself couldn’t have opened a sulphur mine to match the product of Dirt’s intestines.
“WINDOWS!” I shouted from the back of the rented van the moment I smelled a stench billowing from the rear.
Dirt McGirt was a birthday present from Lisa, my girlfriend at the time. I had just turned 23, was less than three weeks into living by myself for the first time, and by God I was going to exercise the fact I had a lease that said I could have a dog.
Godiva was an absolute fucking maniac.
The first time I approached the room where she stayed, she got up on her hind legs and stood against the half-door and just exploded with happiness and energy and love. So we took her to the play area out back. There was a dog run with a small fountain at one end.
Godiva went into the play area, picked up a tennis ball, ran straight into the fountain, dropped the ball in the water, and proceeded splash up all the water that she could. It was absolutely the wrong impression to make on a prospective owner.
I was in love.
She was in my apartment one week later, and her new name was Dirt McGirt. I listened to a lot of Wu-Tang then. That dog was never very much a Godiva anyway.
The only thing on planet Earth that could match the special place food held for Dirt McGirt was a tennis ball.
It was actually hard to get her to care about tennis balls at the dog park at first. She kept chasing other dogs or inviting them to chase her. I doggedly trained her to pay attention to me at the dog park, because this was obviously all about me, and the way to do that was to reward her with love and excitement as she played fetch. I wanted to recapture that first moment in the dog run.
I love how something as simple as a tennis ball could bring such unbounded joy to our lives.
I knew it was bad when my parents called me and said Dirt McGirt wasn’t eating her food. Since mid-February she was staying with my parents while my partner Nicole and I live in Australia for six months.
Dirt McGirt had developed a kidney infection, and giardia, and, and, and. She’d been on prednisone, a steroid, for most of her life, in order to control unbearable itchiness. The steroids weakened her immune system finally, and this kidney infection and other ailments took hold.
It took days of hospital visits and IVs and nine medications, but she rebounded from the kidney infection, mostly. She, at least, started eating again.
The problem was, she had to go off the prednisone so she wouldn’t be prone to that kind of infection again. As she did, the 11-year-old dog she was, became unmasked from behind the steroids.
I knew she was getting old. I knew she wasn’t the same dog who jumped into the fountain or who could run for hours playing fetch. But the arthritis raged without its steroidal mask.
She couldn’t climb a single stair on her own. My parents took turns sleeping on the couch downstairs. She started licking her paws incessantly as a way of trying to ease the pain, and could barely sit down on her own. The pain medications didn’t help.
My parents called me at 5:30am, Melbourne time. They said it was probably time for me to come home. I was on a plane by 11:30am.
Normally when you enter a house in which Dirt McGirt resides, you yell “DIRT MCGIRT!!!” and she comes running or spinning or strolling over to you.
I got to my parents’ house at midnight. I yelled her name, and nothing happened.
She was on her bed, and my mum had to help her stand up. I rubbed her ears and sat on the ground and petted her and imagined it wasn’t so bad. She was just tired, I told myself.
The next day I took her to a creek. She always loved water, and I thought it would be good on her arthritis to swim.
Whenever Dirt McGirt got near water she just knew it. She’d run straight for it. It was no different that day. I just had to lead her down the ramp from the car before she could lumber to the water.
We played fetch in the creek. At first she stayed in the shallow part. A kayaker pulled up. Dirt McGirt dropped a tennis ball in the boat for her to throw.
I started throwing the ball into deeper water, and she swam her fat, achy body after the ball again and again. She was slow, but she was still Dirt McGirt.
I told myself that we would go back a couple times that week.
The next morning it became clear that the pain medicines were not working. You could see the pain in her eyes. She was hurting. For all I knew, it was excruciating.
I said that it was time. I took my last photos of her.
My parents called the vet. We took Dirt McGirt on her last car ride.
I signed a form and checked a box for a private cremation with a cedar box for her ashes. Then we went into the room. The office had put on candles, dimmed the lights, and made what was about to happen as pleasant as they could.
I got down on the ground with her and told her she was a good girl and that I loved her very much and then the doctor put the needle into the catheter in her arm.
I cried and told Dirt I loved her and petted her head and her neck where she liked it the most.
Dirt McGirt let out a little breath, like a sigh.
“I think she’s still alive,” I said. “She just breathed.”
The doctor took out her stethoscope and listened for Dirt McGirt’s heart or lungs.
“It might’ve been gas,” the doctor said.
Despite all of the garbage that she ate, all of the raw chicken I fed her and the sweet potatoes I cooked for her and the 40-pound bags of dog food I carried home on the subway, I knew I could count on Dirt McGirt to eat something gross. I could count on a steady stream of farts.
I’m talking about her food again. Such is Dirt McGirt.
I've talked a lot about the things that Dirt ate and her farts and her tennis balls. But she was more than that. She was my daemon, a part of my soul. She was my anchor, my heart, my constant, and I feel lost without her.
We spent 10 years together, nearly a third of my entire life. She was with me through deep depression, through breakups, through times when I had money to buy her organic ground chickens from farmers in the basement of a Ukrainian church, to when I had to settle for the cheapest food the bodega had.
It didn’t hit me that she was dead, really dead, until the next night when I dropped some fried rice on the floor and had to pick it up myself. There wouldn’t be any farts from scraps of Chinese food that night or the next night or ever again. She was gone.
I love you, Dirt McGirt.
This story has been adapted from the original version published on Medium. It has been republished here with the author's permission.