Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Patch was the first dog my family ever had, and I didn't get to spend all too much time with her; she came shortly before I left for college. My dad brought her home from work one day and gave her to my little brother. My mom cried because she now had another thing that she was going to have to take care of and clean up after.

*Click through only if you want to read a depresso story about a dog. After I'm done with this, I don't think I will ever want to read it again. 
We all ended up loving her. Even notoriously squeamish teenage me let that dog jump up into my bed and snuggle. That was the thing about her. She just wanted love. Patch was a timid thing, named for the brown spot of fur that covered one eye. It wasn't long before she was trained in the ways of the house, just like the rest of us. She jumped when we jumped. She cowered when we cowered.

Patch was nervous in the way I get nervous. Fun fact: sometimes I have to put a piece of tape over my left eyebrow when I'm feeling particularly unsettled, because otherwise I will rub and pull the hair out in a certain spot. Patch gnawed and rubbed the fur off her tail until it was a bloody stump.

After a while, she just couldn't be herself anymore. She didn't want to move, didn't want to eat, didn't want to play. She spent the last year of her life being carried around, my mom desperately trying to get her to lick food off of her fingers.

I was twenty-four when I got the call that my mom had to put her down. I hadn't lived at home since I was seventeen, and went back as rarely as possible. I never got to see her one last time to say goodbye.

I knew she'd been sick. And on some level, I knew she was like me. I didn't quite put all that together until I started typing this, but I think I felt it then.

She was the catalyst behind one of the few times I stood up and said something to my father.

When I was still living at home, she and I were sitting in the sun in the backyard together. It was nearing 4 o'clock, which was the witching hour when he came home from work and everyone would scramble to their respective hideouts. Finally his car pulled in up the driveway and he walked up to us. He squatted down to greet the dog and she playfully jumped on him in return. It knocked him over.

For whatever reason that day, that was met with rage. He started yelling and swearing and hitting her. And I stood up and screamed, "Stop!"

I was a stupid bitch for telling him what to do. He had never done anything bad to me or my brother and I was ungrateful  and going to hell, just like my mother. On that one day, I couldn't keep quiet anymore. I couldn't stand silently and pray for it to be over while I took in incredible amounts of filth and hate.

"You've never done anything bad to us?" I asked. There was a list longer than the Mississippi of transgressions I could have pulled from just then. "What about when you threw us out of the house for three weeks and threw away my belongings? In the middle of my junior year of high school?"

That was not the right thing for me to say in that moment. But that was also the only thing for me to say in that moment.

I'm pretty sure I bought myself an extra hour or three with that audacity, but it just needed to happen.

Stop. Stop doing this. Stop picking on things and people that are smaller than you just because you can.

No one in that house ever stood up for themselves, but one of the only times I had the guts to was because of my dog. Because he hit my dog and I was angry.

At five years old, Patch died of something called Addison's disease. I never really understood what that was, and, living away from the house I didn't care to know. Once I was out, I couldn't handle hearing much about anything that still went on there.

Our bodies know our stress. Our bodies know our fear. They try to protect us. One thing my integrative MD mentioned when I first saw him two years ago was the possibility of adrenal fatigue: your adrenal glands have been so busy pumping out adrenaline during times of stress or anxiety that they are no longer working properly.

This morning, I was reading the blog of someone who is also having medical issues and mentioned something about adrenal insufficiency. I remembered what my doctor said and I (what else?) googled it.

From the Mayo Clinic:

Your adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones that are essential to life. The medical term adrenal insufficiency, or Addison's disease, refers to inadequate production of one or more of these hormones as a result of an underlying disease... Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim this is a mild form of adrenal insufficiency caused by chronic stress. The unproven theory behind adrenal fatigue is that your adrenal glands are unable to keep pace with the demands of perpetual fight-or-flight arousal. As a result, they can't produce quite enough of the hormones you need to feel good. Existing blood tests, according to this theory, aren't sensitive enough to detect such a small decline in adrenal function — but your body is. 

I know it's not a widely accepted thing in the medical community--yet--but I know how familiar the words in that paragraph sound when I think about my own body's coping with stress.

Patch died of Addison's disease, according to the vet. She died from being too scared, too often.

And right now, looking back on and re-experiencing all of the wreckage left behind in that place, that's about the most heart-breaking damn thing in the world.