There is a pregnant pitbull wandering around our neighborhood, has been since Thanksgiving. She doesn’t bother my dogs and they don’t bother her. She is looking for food scraps, and it always seems like we see her in peak daylight. I’ve never seen her out past dark. She has a collar. Our neighbor, Michael, says an elderly woman with some unknown physical disability owns her. A few houses back. The other day she got in a fight with another pregnant pitbull that had gotten loose, the one backed her into a corner on Michael’s front porch and they fought until blood was drawn. I didn’t see or hear anything, but Michael told us about it the next day. Said it was around dinner time. I guess she was looking for food and the one got aggressive and ran after her.
“They were streaked with red and Isobel was freaking out,” he said. Isobel is his cat. An indoor cat in a neighborhood full of strays. He called animal control and they came — parked a nondescript car out front and asked him questions — but the elderly woman’s pitbull is still around, nosing through the back, just on the other side of our fence. I saw her last Sunday, so I’m not sure what they did.
Michael came by and explained it to us, resigned. “I hate to call animal control because you know what will happen to the dog.”
“They’ll put it to sleep,” I said, saying the thing that could be left unsaid. “But what do you do?” I added, too late, and we just kind of stared off of the porch.
I once performed a swallowing evaluation on a woman with late stage dementia. Her room was dark, lit only by daylight coming through the windows, and I didn’t bother to turn on her overhead lights. She was awake, anyway. During evaluation we ask patients to smile, to test their facial musculature and their cranial nerves. Everyone always tries when asked, but she smiled at me as soon as I came into the room, like she was seeing a familiar face.
Her swallow was absent so we had to suction the tiny bits of trial out of her mouth. The machine turns on and you have to say, “I know it, let’s get all of that out and clean!” and she grimaced at me, so confused, like a kid. Afraid, losing trust quickly. I talked to her but she didn’t say much back. She sometimes called a name that was hard to understand, “Daddy,” or “Maddy” maybe. She looked at me with big blue eyes and bright white hair like I understood, confused when I didn’t answer right back.
When I said goodbye to her and turned around to walk out of the room, she said, “Wait! Does God exist?” clear as a bell, staring at me, her face locked in anticipation. Like a kid.
I said, without thinking, “You know, I don’t know, but I’m sure we’re all gonna find out,” and her frozen mouth stayed open. She just shifted her eyes to nothing, beyond me, then tilted her head back and looked up at the ceiling.
You remember those Christmas trees, the ceramic ones with the plastic lights sticking up out of them? They lit up, sat on a base with a lightbulb attached? My mom’s brothers owned a ceramics shop and sold a lot of them around this time of year, people would buy them unfired and paint them themselves to give as gifts. We had one, of course, one my grandmother must have given my parents as a present. As a kid I would shake the little lightbulb pegs, testing to see which were loose, which I could move to let the light out. My mom had it last, but when we went through her things after she died it was no where to be found. Now I don’t know where it is. You can find them at Goodwills, I am sure, or mass manufactured from Wal-Mart; but I haven’t seen ours, the one with my grandmother’s initials dug into the base, the light bulbs re-fastened with crusty hot glue, in years. Every December I wonder where it is, and now it looks like it’s never coming back.
Elizabeth Taddonio is a speech therapist living in Athens, GA with her husband, two dogs, and (pretty soon) their baby (untitled, forthcoming April 2017). Her chapbook, Stone Boats, is available from Spooky Girlfriend Press and you can read some of her thoughts at tinyletter.com/yrfriendliz.