My Grandmother the Dog Killer
My maternal grandmother had a knack for killing dogs. Before she left this earth, my grandmother took the lives of six dogs in five years. My family looks for absurd ways to make a mark on this earth, and my grandmother chose canocide.
My grandmother owned a condominium in Tucson, Arizona, home of the crazy & beautiful people. She lived on the second floor and always had a dog for as long as I could remember. As my grandmother’s health deteriorated, it was harder and harder for her to climb the stairs and perform simple tasks like grocery shopping or allow a dog to live.
My grandmother was also a woman who loved to pinch a penny until Abe Lincoln shit out all the copper. While other families shop the produce aisles of grocery stores with ease, my grandmother always shopped the racks of food that were on their last day of life before rotting. I had the fortunate luck of visiting her when I was all of 12, and she wanted to me to accompany her to the store. We walk straight to the clearance rack, and she finds a cantaloupe the size of an adult head. She thumps the cantaloupe, smells the ripeness, and looks all over the outer rind for the price: 35¢. She grabs the cantaloupe in one hand and my arm in the other, marching us to the manager’s counter. She lifts the cantaloupe above her head, proclaims “35¢ for a goddamn cantaloupe? That’s ridiculous!”, and throws it onto the counter. The cantaloupe explodes and pieces of the flesh fly all around us. Everyone is stunned by my grandmother’s behavior as she marches us out of the grocery store without having purchased an item. And she shopped there regularly.
I remember my grandmother’s first dog Tippy, a German Shepherd mix that lived with her in Northern California and Tucson. Tippy suffered the fate of eating chicken bones that my grandmother fed her after eating, and the bones splintered in Tippy’s throat and slowly made her sick. Then it was good-bye Tippy. Another dog came into the Tucson condominium, and I never got a chance to know it because my grandmother killed it within months. How my grandmother wasn’t banned from the local animal shelters is anyone’s guess.
It isn’t that my grandmother wasn’t a compassionate woman, she just showed her love in ways never before seen by humankind. My grandmother used to tell my mom that I would be gay when I grew up—she knew it just by watching me. My mom would tell her that she was wrong, but my grandmother had that gift. I was 14 and visiting my grandmother, sitting on the couch with her and watching her favorite program Jeopardy. She knew the answer to almost every category, and I was surprised that she never tried out to be a contestant. The commercials came on, and she looked at me. “Jamie, I would rather live next to a homosexual than a rapist.” And with that, it was back to Jeopardy. How could Alex not want someone as compassionate as my grandmother?
The dogs I do remember in my grandmother’s condo were pitiful with their whimpers of pain, and watching them die was just as painful. We would tell our grandmother that she needed to stop feeding the dogs chicken bones, and she would bark her usual response, “It’s just a hairball”. The dogs would heave instead of breathe, and it wouldn’t take long before their legs would give out and they couldn’t move at all. We would visit our grandmother whenever possible, stepping around the immobile dog waiting for death on the living room floor, and kiss her hello.
We went to visit our grandmother once for Christmas, my mom driving us children through Southern Colorado in a 1974 Ford Maverick that didn’t have heat. We had to wrap our feet & legs in layers of quilts to keep warm, and even then we almost suffered frostbite. We didn’t have any money for Christmas, and our grandmother was feeling particularly cheap that holiday season. She wouldn’t buy us a Christmas tree – obviously presents were out of the question – and we resorted to stalking the grocery store on Christmas Day for a tree that was as alive as Dog #4 in her living room. We stood the tree against a corner and my brother carved an angel out of a potato. Merry Christmas! Oh who are we kidding? This is pitiful. Grandma, the dog. Please, end its misery.
I was visiting (yet again) in the summer of 1989, and my mom & I had to help my grandmother’s dog use the bathroom. This process involved the two of us lifting the dog by its legs, carrying it down the flight of stairs, dropping it anywhere on the grass, hoping that it finished its business, carrying it back up the stairs, and dropping it in the exact place as before. My grandmother wouldn’t flinch or make any attempt to recognize the pain that she was causing her dogs by feeding them bones, if only because she was in just as much pain from her radiation therapy. My grandmother was given too much radiation during a treatment, and her body was deteriorating as quickly, if not faster, as the dogs she kept prisoners in her home. Death was not a curse in my grandmother’s house, it was the most divine of blessings.
My grandmother passed away in 1992, and not a day goes by that I do not keep her memory alive with one of her favorite sayings, and now mine: “Jesus H. Christ on The Fucking Cross of Calgary”. Another favorite colloquialism: “Shit is shit is shit is shit is shit”. I’m proud, yes proud, of a woman who loved her family but wasn’t afraid to tell the world to fuck off. She wasn’t just a dog killer, she was my grandmother, a Saint to all gay men who eschew mercy.
I still uttered prayers whenver I walked Vinnie and he ate something off the sidewalk.
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