When I first met my Maria she asked me to remove my mask. It was Halloween and I was partially costumed as a medieval knight (if they wore sneakers and jeans) but I did have a helmet, a mask and a plastic stick that looked like a sword or a plastic sword that looked like a stick. Whichever. I’d love to say that the second I removed my mask Brady Bunch first kiss fireworks (minus the kiss of course, didn’t know her name yet) went off and my world was shaken to its very core but instead I thought “Holy crap! She’s hot! Why the hell is she talking to me?” The fireworks and the whole shaken thing? That would come. For right now an incredibly hot girl was talking to me. Me. I took it at its face.
We talked. For a long time. In front of the stage at CB Driscolls while her wingwoman Jeanine and her hubby (at the time) looked on and I’m sure thought of better things they could do.
The rest is the wonderful and the difficult and the enduring. And part of this rest was discovering that Maria was not alone. There was a son, an ex and a dog, “Shana.” We weren’t kids any more when the talking in front of the stage at some bar was just that. A night of youth with the possible promise of getting lucky. No, we brought with us, us. Years of such.
The son was with her at home, the ex was an ex, and Shana? She was to come…and then, just the week before last, to go. I’ve only now worked up the courage for some words.
Growing up my family had two dogs. The first “Lady” came with the purchase of my parent’s first house when I was five. A somewhat unique housewarming gift you could say as often gravy boats and “God bless this home” plaques don’t require food, nor do they chase trucks. “Lady” was with us for a good bit of time but her Don Quixote truck windmills would catch up with her. Badly. I was her Sancho Panza on that day. I’d like to remember others.
The other dog was “So-So.” A little, skitzy, Cairn Terrier who my mom saved from a shelter after he was taken in from a bad place. “So-So” wasn’t a big fan of men. Probably a memory he held from that bad. He was a big fan of me though and of the succession of cats that would become part of our family for long or short periods. Other than “So-So” I tended towards the cats, like he, and that would be an affinity that would stay with me to this day.
So dogs didn’t seem to be as much for me plus, with college and after, I never really stayed in one place long enough to be “settled” and have a dog, something that just seems to exemplify a real home. For my Maria it was different though. Shana was her dog after a childhood that wasn’t kind to a little girl who just wanted her own pet, more importantly, her own dog. Unkind doesn’t do justice to what she couldn’t have in this regard. So being able to finally have her own without the hammer of this “unkind” was a liberation for her and a dream as well. No one, any longer, had the power to tell her “No” or lie to her about the whereabouts of the animals she so desperately wanted to keep as a child that, cruelly, were with her for only mere moments it seems now in her memory.
So being away from Shana after the split with the ex was a constant unwelcome reminder, though at least she knew where she was. And it was in the real world. Living circumstance forced this distance until the whole “wonderful, difficult and enduring “ thing I was talking about happened with me, us. Yes, we got there…and here. That first long talk in front of the stage at CB Driscolls, after a couple of bumps, continued into a house, a home, and a together. The FrankenGreco Ranch. Hers and mine. Ours…and the banks. Romantic huh? Kidding. It was romantic…and real.
The only blip was that Shana and Maria were reunited just a touch early from the move to the “Ours.” My affinity for cats had me with my two, Benny and Shoes. Our plan was to ease in what would be the new addition to our clan while in our new home where there was space and time and, if need be, heavy gloves. Benny and Shoes knew nothing of dogs. Knew nothing of the big, slobbery, funny sound making, loving lump of a Shana that was to come.
Then the ex dropped her off. 2 weeks before our plan. In an apartment complex that had a no dog stipulation. This was a problem. Especially after the first meet had poor Shana wearing my Benny as a hat. A hat not attached with bobby pins by the way.
This, though, was where I first really got to know a dog and my soon to be Shana girl. As my sister took Shana in at her place for the 2 weeks I found myself there every day to be with her and check on her and walk her. Including down the street to the little watering hole that I worked at part time. The patrons there, friends all, doted on her as did my sister and my nephew. Maria was there with her son Jagger. My mom was there. Shana was in her happy, snorty glory, especially after being practically invisible with the ex, where she was nothing more than a burden. She was now being loved, as she should have been all along, and was back with her Maria. She loved in kind, and more.
We finally moved into the house. She was in her spot now, a new comfort, in the same way my Benny had found his comfort in this place after the nomadic life he and I had led for 13 years up to that point. Jagger fell back in love with her the way he was when he was just a couple of years old. Shana and Shoes got along while with Benny there was an eventual coexistance. She became my “girlfriend”. And Maria finally had…well just she finally “had.” I’ll always be proud of that.
After adding the puppies, Jackson and Brady, to the mix about 2 years later we truly had our “Ranch” and Shana was even more in her glory, feeling young again at 12. She was our old girl now, too quickly for me, but my, our old girl nonetheless.
I, we, had 4 years together with Shana as a family. A big beautiful, warts an’ all brood of us 3 fragile human beings and 5 better beings who were strength in fur, a blanket we could all sleep under at night when the world wasn’t and isn’t kind.
Life and time dictate that that changes. There are pink and blue balloons and maybe an old school cigar and there are funeral processions through red lights with a slight 2 finger cross wave or a removed cap from those who wait with respect. It just is.
And there are memories. Shana breathing on her Stephen while he napped on the couch on his Scooby Doo pillowcase, curling inside Maria’s knees in front of the tube, sleeping on her blanky later next to Jagger’s bed…or just laying in the grass in hersunlight outside the back stoop of the FrankenGreco Ranch while the pups tried to nudge and lick her to play.
Memories held dear. Clutched.
All of us, Jackson, Brady, Shoes, my newbie Bella, Jagger and especially your Maria will always miss you desperately Shana.
For me? My Ben has you now girlfriend (I told him he has to) and he will happily coexist and regale you with the tales he has learned.
Rest in sunlight my Shana Girl.