What Is Left

Lucky is a Jackahuahau, a Jack Russell terrier and Chihuahua mix. She is eighteen years old and in failing health: kidney disease, dementia. She can’t see; she can’t hear. 

She is coming to die with me. 

My ex-husband pulls up in front of my newly purchased condo. He carries her inside a black wire crate, more suitable for an animal of forty pounds. She is seven pounds, maybe seven and a half after a good meal. He makes multiple trips back to his car to get Lucky’s personal space heater, her three fluffy dog beds, her special kidney-disease food imported from Iceland, her puppy pads for incontinence, and her various meds.

Lucky is the last unfinished business between us.

Bob and I were together fourteen years. We adopted her the first year we were married. It wasn’t an intentional adoption. We already had two dogs. And a cat. Some rabbits. The year was 2008, the so-called Great Recession. I’d just lost my job. We were out looking for laying hens at a nearby ranch so we would at least have eggs to eat. A little black-and-white chihuahua mix was running amongst the chickens, under the wheels of junk cars, the foundation of a prefab home. She had recently nursed a litter of puppies. When we packed our three new hens into a cardboard box and closed the overlapping flaps, the owner of the ranch asked if we’d like to take the dog, too. Her name was Lucky.

No, I said. I’m a big dog person. Yes, Bob said. He’s a cat person. He really, really wanted her, even though she snarled out of the side of her lip when he looked at her. We went home without the dog, but after six weeks of Bob languishing about the house, sleeping too much, smoking too much pot, missing work, claiming Lucky was psychically pleading with him — Come get me! — I relented. 

At that stage of our relationship, I was charmed by Bob’s quirky personality. He was wildly creative. A visual artist. He could decode complex computer programs and mash together visuals, sounds, text, to make short animations. He’d work forty-eight hours straight on a project, barely eating, not sleeping, if it burrowed into his imagination. And he had an academic flair. He liked to tell people he attended one year of medical school, and although that was true, it was only as an observer for his medical illustration training. 

There is a flip side to creativity. If one’s brain isn’t focused on a project, it becomes unruly. The gray matter fills with fantasy. The next-door neighbor was spying on him. (Really?) His boss was out to sack him. (Possibly.) When he was diagnosed with diabetes, he claimed he was dying and that his doctor wanted him to start on kidney dialysis immediately. (Total fabrication!)  

I don’t consider myself a pillar of mental health, but I knew something was off. His moods swung from wildly ecstatic, line dancing in the backyard to music playing on his headphones, to days lying in bed, flat on his back, practicing death meditation. I called my psychiatrist, handed the phone to Bob, and insisted he make an appointment. He went three times before Dr. Baxter was twenty-minutes late one day, and Bob interpreted his tardiness as blatant disrespect. Instead, Bob studied Buddhism and the teachings of Ram Dass. Bob claimed his only problem was an overactive vagus nerve, which originates in the brain and branches down through the body to regulate one’s reactions to danger. According to Bob, meditation was all he needed. He retired early to focus on his physical health and that pesky vagus nerve of his. He also stopped driving. He saw his family only if I drove him or they picked him up at the bus station. 

His physical health improved but not the vagus nerve. I, along with the neighbor who was spying on him, became the source of his rage. You are slovenly. You have too many big dogs. You don’t make enough money. You no longer desire intimacy (sex), you pour a glass of wine every night at exactly five o’clock. (All true.)

The first time he woke me from a sound sleep, without warning, screaming FUCK YOU! because I offended him in some way, I accepted his excuse. He’d dreamed I’d done something horrible (he wouldn’t say what), and he truly believed it was real, so I kind of forgot about it. 

But soon, there was a second time, then a third. My vagus nerve was now on overload, too. I chose to sleep in my own room with Lucky and the other dogs and the cat. Still, he’d come in and wake me. FUCK YOU! I HATE YOU! His face inches from my own. 

I placed random objects, a shoe, a towel, the vacuum cleaner, behind the door — stealth speed bumps, an incoming warning system. But after the fourth time, the fifth, and then on and on, never knowing when, I realized this way of life wasn’t sustainable. 

When people ask, Where’s Bob?, I say our marriage didn’t survive the pandemic. I smile, sadly, so they know no more explanation is forthcoming. In truth, I fled. I am not a talker nor a fan of conflict. If I can no longer nod and agree, I leave the room, my words unsaid. Unhealthy for a relationship, I know, but it is a tactic I learned early in life to survive a family where my mother was prone to unpredictable rages, too, rendering me mute.

Bob and I both said we’d stay friends. I wanted that, but within twenty-four hours of the conversation he came to believe I never loved him. I’d duped him for his money (What money?). My so-called betrayal cut too deep. We attempted to talk, but I still couldn’t express how I felt. I was too afraid of anger. More conflict. Our conversations devolved into a barrage of his emails, 2 a.m., 3 a.m. Fuck you. I hate you. You ruined my life. 

I accept that he feels that way about me. I can’t change his mind. I don’t try.


He is at my condo in less than five minutes. I was the main caregiver for Lucky while Bob and I were married, but I need to know her new feeding schedule, the correct dose for her medication. I ask questions. He answers but won’t look directly at me. I’m not sure he even looks back at Lucky. It is hard for him to let go of her; she was his lifeline over the past fourteen months we were separated, then divorced. But he is moving on. He met a woman. He is flying to Hawaii to live with her. 

I follow him out to his car. I want to say something, that I wish him well, that I still love him, that I wish we could’ve been friends, but I do not want to open unhealed wounds. I watch him drive away, through my condo parking lot, out into the street.


Lucky poops a lot, walks through it, then traipses around and around in circles, sensing her way into this new place we both now call home. Her pee never seems to hit the pads and instead, drains into the tile grout and travels from room to room. And that tin of Icelandic lamb pâté! When I used to buy it, it seemed benign, but they changed the formula to include lamb lung in natural juices, and I can’t stand the sight of it. 

She sleeps a lot, but when awake, she paces. I find her in a corner of a room, unable to figure out where she is or how to turn around. Once I found her after she stepped into a tipped-over plastic bin, which upended, leaving her chest caught on its rim, her four legs dangling. I knew I had to drain the small water feature tucked into the side of my condo’s tiny backyard, but before I did, she walked right into it, sunk like a rock, and if I hadn’t been there and pulled her out, sputtering, she would have stayed down there, bewildered as she drowned.

I have a big dog, a collie, who I call a nanny dog. Gio will come get me if Lucky is in trouble. When the evenings grow warm enough, we sit outside together. He wants to play with her, and does, charging Lucky, dancing around her, but never touching her, never throwing her off balance. I love him for this. 

When Gio tires, we both sit and watch Lucky pace the yard. There is grass, and I know it is grounding against her paws. I try to figure out the logic to her circling. Is it always to the left? No. When she walks into something, she changes direction like a bumper car. Is it the same circumference? No. The circle starts small, then grows, spiraling, expanding, covering more ground. I start to think of this evening ritual of ours as an unwinding. The sun travels farther to the West. The shadows deepen. The birds find refuge in the trees. My breath slows. 

When Lucky is weary, I put her in a bassinet by my patio chair and tuck blankets around her body to keep her warm. She quickly falls asleep with my hand on her tiny body as I listen to the almost silent squeaks and moans deep inside her chest. These nights, I find what I have always sought — absolute peace, inner quiet. I want for nothing. At the tip of my fingers, I feel the pulse of life.

Each night, she sleeps deeper and deeper, until she is almost silent, still. 

I, too, am bone tired. The endless spiraling backwards to what was.

When she is gone, I gather the things Bob dropped off with her. I put her collar and tags on a shelf in my bedroom. I box up her food to donate to a rescue. I toss the pee pads. I wash the three beds and food and water bowls and put them out in my garage, because I do not know when I will have a tiny dog again.




Image: Photo by Koa’link on Unsplash, licensed under CC 2.0.

Charlene Logan
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  1. I so admire this glimpse into Charlene Logan’s life–her appreciation of Gio, her patience with Lucky, the almost wistful goodbye to a husband she no longer connects with but still loves. Her writing is spare but powerful, an A+ all around. Looking forward to reading more of her good work.


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