Saturday, April 29, 2017

May there be snow...

... and warm food, long walks and lots of slow squirrels to chase. Love forever, I will miss you.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tito Bird - yet another In Memoriam...

Tito arrived at home on occasion of Nico's 11th birthday. He was a few weeks old - not even a month, and you were only just a two and a half years old pup.

He immediately attached himself to Nico, and for the rest of his life he loved him more than anything and anyone, with a single-minded love that only a stubborn, little chunk of love like him could muster.

He stayed with us for some 20 years, long after his beloved had left home to make his own way in life. But of course Nico visited often, and he also took care of all of you when we were away. Every time he came by he opened the cage and took Tito out, often before he even said 'hello" to us. Unfailingly,  Tito melted in his hands. Nico would put him in his shoulders, or in top of his head, and walk in his usual hyper-active, hurried way around the house, while Tito hanged for dear life, enthralled with the adventure of being once again one with his master.

Tito had a big personality that looked out of place in such small body. He had a different way of relating to each of us, and it was very clear to us that he saw himself pretty high in the pecking order.
You, bigger, bulkier and usually gruffer, were nevertheless haunted by the fear that he may land on you whenever he fly freely about the house; he of course knew this and tested you every time. He even took possession of your toys and kept you away from your water bowl on more than one occasion. But it was clear to see that it all was a bit of a game to you as well, and that you liked that crazy little green person just as much as you loved all the other pets we had over the years. For a dog, my sweet Troilo, you were always a stupendous pet owner.
It seems to me my relationship with him ended up built around rituals - that is why it is still so hard to get accustomed to his absence: the essence of rituals lays in the sense of permanence their daily performance begets.
First thing off the bed was uncovering his cage, refreshing his water bowl and changing his seeds - shaking the container a little while he rushed to have his first taste of them, perching in his feeder and puffing up in satisfaction. Last thing at night was covering him up while I talked to him, bidding him good night and telling him how much we loved him, while he climbed up and up in the huge cage, as the covers enclosed the cage, responding to my calls and kisses, all excited by the mere performance of the night-time ritual and the perspective of another good safe night.
His cage was always in the same nook. Unlike you, who moved around the house, Tito could be counted on appearing within your field of vision when you passed through certain areas of the house. That translates now in a definite geographical marker for his absence. The lamp we lit for him at dusk, illuminated a discrete portion of our home with not just mere light, but also a clear indication of his presence. Hence the pangs of pain I feel at suddenly finding this beacon, which Gabriela still insists on lighting, now devoid of meaning but still on my path when I traverse the living room, or when I suddenly glimpse it, at the far left of my line of sight, as I enter the kitchen.
There was also the passive ritual of watching the interactions of others... Gabriela talking to him, bringing some food to him, putting her hand in his cage only to be attacked by him. Tito always had a strange relationship with Gabi. He loved her - there is plenty of evidence of that - but a big part of their exchanges was based in the fact that he could make her scream, and he seemed to enjoy it. As he also enjoyed exploring the new landscapes she constantly imagined for him on his cage, and the little morsels of food she always brought him from her dinner.

Bobo, on the other hand, was one that succeeded in surprising him. By the time Bobo came around Tito was used to being unchallenged. It was apparent from his demeanor that he considered his small bulk mighty, and his huge personality overwhelming, for he would strut about the house as the lord and master of his domain. But Bobo was not scared of him; on the contrary, he was curious about the tiny mobile bunch of green feathers that caused such raucous, and intended to smell it and lick it as soon and as much as possible. A couple of sharp bites in the tongue did not seem to deter him and most impressive of all, he showed no fear when Tito flew at him and sat on his rump.
Even after Tito lost his ability to fly and became mostly cage bound,  their relationship was a cordially adversarial one: Tito tried to call Bobo's attention by using his wings to raise a small tornado that filled the area surrounding the cage with debris (much to Gabi's delight,) while Bobo barked at him in response. Nevertheless, the truth is that they shared a lot of time being each other's company when we were away at work, and now it feels that Bobo is much too alone whenever we leave the house, however briefly.
Now that Tito Bird is gone, only resilient Old Fritz remains from the old gang. This business of living seems to bring us more and more often  to the neighbourhood of death.
He left us on September 10. I believe he died cradled in my hand, but I couldn't be sure - the moment of death is so elusive... I do know his eyes were open when I found him lying in his cage, and they closed as I held him. I stayed with him nested in my half-open hand for a long time, unsure and still hopeful, but at the same time aware that he was gone.
The day before he had been on the verge of death already. I phoned Nico and he rushed over. By the time he arrived Tito had improved a bit, and seeing his beloved Nico, being on his shoulders and arms, kissing him and getting kissed, seemed to bring him all the way back.  He stayed for a long while on Nico's shoulder, cradling against him, preening and fluffing up his feathers as he used to do to show his love and his comfort. I feel grateful for that moment.

(Here is another little thing I feel gratitude for: Tito got to know Nico's own child. There is something sweetly comforting in these chains one builds with the illusion of continuity.)

The following afternoon, while I was holding his dead little body, what struck me was that I couldn't accept the simple fact that all that love was gone. To anyone that had ever seen Tito with Nico, it was immediately apparent that there was much, much more love inside that creature than what it seemed possible it could hold.
Afterwards I left his body wrapped in a warm cloth and I took a shower to come down,  but I kept crying and yelling, frightening poor old Bobo with my screams: "Were is that love now, where is all that love gone?"
That we die and dissolve into nothing, and disappear forever is something that however horrifying, it seems to bear a measure of sense - the brutal sense of entropy if anything, for we are matter after all. But that so much love can just disappear is something I cannot wrap my head around. After all, love has no body that can decompose,  no energy that can be exhausted. Love is the closest thing to an immortal soul I can believe in. So, where did it go?

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

... and introducing: Oliver Alejandro Wainer

My love, my missed one, my dog forever. It will soon be a full ten years without you, and I still miss you every day. It is a cruel thing, this life we live - and yet a very sweet and beautiful one as well. It is about its sweetness I have to talk to you today...

Let me tell you about our Nico, the very same Nicolás you got to know and play with as a barely 8 years old kid, and whom you grew up with, and also about our beautiful Tabi, with whom you used to hang out, napping in the old sofa they had in their bedroom.

By know I am sure you guessed it: yes, they had a puppy of their own. Which makes us grandparents, and I guess it makes you an uncle of sorts. His name is Oliver Alejandro Wainer.

Nico and OliverI was working when I received a picture with the name overlaid. I wasn't prepared to see my name on my grandchild, with all its letters and so recognizably mine. The emotion I felt was thoroughly overwhelming.

 So once again we have all the dreams and all the illusions about life children bring under their arms.

We'll have Christmases and birthdays and a whole slew of "firsts" to celebrate and remember for times to come.

We'll have the pleasures, the chores and the heartaches from sharing as much as possible of his incipient life, and when this too solid flesh or ours melts and resolves into a dew, we'll have a small residence in his heart and memory where we can live a little longer together.

Bobo has not met him yet, but the cats seem to like him and I am sure they'll put a good word on his behalf.

That is it for now. As for the rest of us, Mom makes a very beautiful and very happy Granny, Tito is grown very old but still has the same old fiery temper and Fritzy has aged as well, but with her you cannot really tell, you know... turtles...

Monday, August 13, 2012


I look for my heart
It's perdido

Music:Juan Tizol
Lyrics: Ervin Drake & Hans Jan Lengsfelder

Perdido was your not-quite-immediate predecessor. (Ginger was in between, but that is another heartbreaking story).

I composed one of my very first poems in English for him... you can read it here.

He was a rather small white cat that adopted us one day, to Nico's delight, and become so beloved that to this day I feel he took my "joie de vivre" away when he died. But enough of this...

The reason I wanted to tell you about Perdido is because I loved him as probably only loved you. In a way he was an older brother you never got to meet. He prepared me to love you the way I did, even if the way I loved you had these sad overtones, these echoes of the future, that tainted it a tiny bit and made me sad for what was coming even as I was being happy for what was living.

One week, I remember, Gabriela and Nico went with her parents and some of her sisters to visit the beaches in the coast of Oregon. I was left all alone with Perdido. We were living already in the house at Roseberry Road ( The one were we met, remember?... probably not: you were just a baby and maybe you even thought you were born there...).

I had a bout of fever for a couple of days that made me unable to leave the bed. My chest felt cold and congested. And finally here we've got to the thing I wanted to tell you about: Perdido spent the whole time I was bedridden with me. As if he knew what was going on with me and just what to do about it, he would lie on my chest and give me his warmth. And this was a cat that would wake up in the morning and beg to go out - and never come back until the evening.

He was a very rare mixture of very friendly and very free. I used to bike to work back then, and when I worked the early shifts he'd wait for me at the top of the hill sometimes, about two blocks from home, and he'd run by my side all the way back, but traversing the front yard of all the houses on the way, instead of on the road.

I still missed him very much by the time you came to live with us. Among the very many things I have to thank you for is that you were my friend just as much as he was. And knowing how you loved other pets, you'd been such good friends if you could only have met!

PS: It's been 8 years. I still miss you dearly. I still put flowers for you.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The thing with the bunnies...

Hey Troilo, remember this one:?

We used to have a female rabbit by the very original name of Cottontail. One day another "female" rabbit came to stay with us for a while.

Nicolás often carried cottontail in his backpack when he went to visit his friends and the bunny used to play with the dogs like crazy and have oodles of fun. She was very sociable and not shy in the very least.

Back from one of these outings, Nico left the bunny home and went immediately out to play again. Nobody check on the rabbit until a while after, when my wife enter his bedroom and found...

... the bottom drawer of a dresser that Cottontail used as quarters, was full of loose rabbit hair, somewhere below the fuzz there was six things that could be reasonably confused with used condoms, save for the fact that they were dragging themselves around the pen.

As time passed the unpalatable things turned into beautiful bunnies, and brought much happiness to our home. Everyone was in love with them: Troilo, the you were always guarding the room with the utmost protective airs, and Tito would fly there to check on them and spent hours perched atop the bars of the pen.

But with all the rejoicing also came the usual tug-of-war exercise that parents, more often than not, go trough in these circumstances. In the beginning we told Nico we wee going to give them away as soon as they were old enough and he understood and agreed (yeah, right)

By the time Gabriela and Nico left to visit our family in Argentina, there was only one very white bunny left with us - baptized Pinky in another display of unmatched originality - and I was to take him to a pet store to be sold; which I did...

... two days after I was back at the door of the store, waiting for it to open, and with the charge to bring the rabbit back unto the fold of the family.

The problem was that the owner was not in town, she was away for the whole week, and the employee was not willing to give me back the rabbit without express authorization of the owner; nor she was amenable to keep the rabbit aside for us until she came back.

I ended up having to buy back my own home-born, home-raised, hand-fed bunny. But it was worth it; those rabbits were my son's best friends for a good many years. He even took Pinky away with him many years after, when he moved out with his girlfriend. Cottontail by then had already left us and Pinky has also died since.

They are buried together in an enormous planter that houses a Bay tree. They are not the only pets buried in pots and planters: after 30 years we still have the transient feeling of the exile, and we do not plant our beloved ones were we feel cannot take them with us.

Our garden is some kind of pet cemetery; but it is not a sad place: it is a place they used to love, so the memories are always good.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Paisano Oso

Hello my beautiful Troilo; let me tell you about and acquaintance I made today:

As you know, I left Argentina more than thirty years ago. In this time I met all kinds of fellow countrymen: tall and short, fat and slim, interesting and not so much – very many of this last kind. But I had never crossed my path with a paisano such as Oso.

I met him today at our neighbor’s, when I cross the street to return his garbage-can lid that happened to pernoctate at home on account of yesterday night’s awful wind storm.

Peter is English, and his home is in a state of perennial construction. Today a worker there had a dog with him that came over to receive me all friendly wagging tail and curiosity.

Peter thanked me, and after a bit of chit-chat he remarked that the dog was from Argentina.

Apparently, someone took him on a backpacking trip to Mexico and there they met this worker, who brought him to Victoria. 11300 kilometers in straight line - who even knows how many in our non-Euclidian reality.

It was a true honor and pleasure to meet Oso. You would have liked him.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bobo and Tito

Bobo seems to love Tito. And Tito likes Bobo's attention as long as he is protected inside his cage; but as soon as he is outside he makes sure to keep the dog at bay. Bobo also keeps his eye on Fritz - but you know her: she doesn't pay much attention to the warm-blooded members of the family. Still, he makes sure to keeps abreast of the latest going-ons in the aquarium.

I am telling you all this so you see how, slowly but surely, the pup has made himself at home here. He plays or sleeps all day long and he loves us with a passion. And we reciprocate now, without qualms.

We even gave him a couple of your old toys - do not fear: none of your old favorites; only the ones you hardly ever used - and only because the ones he brought with him are starting to show the abuse. We told him they were presents from you.

He seems to know about you and about the pain we still feel for your absence. I talk to him about the legendary Troilo when we go for walks; "Here I used to sit for a rest with Troilo", "Troilo used to love it here." A month or so ago I took him to the park behind the old house. We walked all around it and we stopped for a while by the fence, besides what used to be our backyard. The place has changed so much...!

He sleeps with us - I know I already told you this... He is a good sleeping companion, unlike you he doesn't hog the bed. As you know, in the beginning I was upset that Gabi would allow him to do what she never allowed you, and after a few times I told her so.

Her answer was as wise and sweet as herself; she said that your death had made her aware of the need of allowing herself all these little demonstrations of affection while it was time, rather than regret it afterwards.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Was that you...

... at the groomer's?

I took Bobo for a haircut to the same store we took you for the first time. The store has moved twice and the staff has changed, but still I felt that I had to take him there.

While I was talking to the groomer I felt a pair of eyes fixed on me. I turned to look and behind a wall-sized glass partition that separates the storefront from the daycare area, I saw a black cocker spaniel looking at me. He had the same brown markings as you, but not the white ones. He also looked rougher and older than you - you always managed to look very young; even at eleven years of age the people that stopped us in the street took you for a puppy.

I froze midway through a sentence and it took me quite a while to recover my stride. Of all the people in the store, he'd chosen to fix his big sad begging eyes on me - and they were your eyes.

Was that you, my sweet beautiful Troilo? I do not even know what I'd prefer to think about this.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Allow me to introduce you...

I spent more than a year moping and struggling without you. A tough year indeed- as if losing you wasn't hard enough divorces and other calamities rain around us and death took two more of my loved people an one more of our pets ( remember Pinky?).

In the midst of this, your memory still hurt. I would find in me no trace of the pleasure of being with you, only the glaring hollow of your absence.

The past 30 of May we celebrated our 25th anniversary by returning for the first time to the beach we still call Troilo's beach; your old favourite.

By then we had already started the process of attempting to adopt another dog. It was the very next day that "Bobo" came home to meet us for the first time... and in the end to stay.

He is a loving, gentle and very happy dog. Although more than a human year and a half in age, he mostly behaves like a puppy. You'd like him, in that almost human way you had of liking other pets - I know you always saw yourself as a pet-owner, blessedly unaware of your own pet condition.

I had a bit of a hard time accepting him entirely. On the one hand my whole body was telling me I needed a dog in my life; but then again my body itself constantly rebelled at the thought of replacing you.

"What is that dog doing in Troilo's house, with Troilo-like noises and attitudes, cuddled by Troilo's owners, sleeping in Troilo's place...?"

You are going to hate this one: He doesn't sleep in your place anymore; after forbidding you access to our bed for your entire life, it only took a month for Gabi to allow Bobo in there.

I did protested in the beginning, I promise. I would grab the invader and toss him gently back to his pillow once and again. But in the end he won; Gabi says that because he is so much smaller than you and he doesn't shed, but I know that for me the reason is that it was actually easier to see Bobo in our bed than taking your place by my bedside.

One of the things I liked from the beginning is that he is so very different from you: light where you were dark, always happy where you were grumpy, noisy and sometimes hyperactive, nothing like the slumbering beauty you had become in later years.

In the beginning he almost looked like a generic happy dog; not a trace of character, of real identity. Nothing compared with your strong sense of identity. But do not forget the little guy has had a rough time in life, with a dead owner and a series of foster homes, so his over-eagerness to please faded his own identity.
Later on he stated to come out of it, he is not so blindly docile, not so fearful of rejection; I think he is starting to accept that he has found a home and a clan.
Slowly it dawned on me as well that I have nothing to fear, that in reality there is no possible way to betray you, that I will not replace you because your place in my heart and my memory is occupied by you forever.

All a newcomer can do is to create his own space in me, just like you did a few years after I lost Perdido - You do know how I feel about him, we have talked about it...

A few weeks ago I sat at my computer and watched the video of us playing together, remember the one we took upstairs? I had sat through it before, but all I had gotten out of it was a sense of loss. This time it was different Troilo: this time I got you back for a while; this time when the video ended I had a smile in my face, however short lived.

All in all what I learnt is that I still have you. I lost the ability to touch you, to share a space with you, but I haven't lost you.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Farewell Que-te-jedi

The night of the eighteen of March of 2005 I went to bed with my heart full of worry, sadness and the always present regrets. I hardly did sleep at all and when the new day came, it brought along the feared news that my best friend had died.

My best friend - this I repeat because the sound of this phrase is soothing to me, like a rocking motion or a pat in the back and a grip of a shoulder.

My very best friend was an 11 years old Cocker Spaniel named Troilo. He died a few years too soon, before I had the oportunity to help him grow old -I feel cheated out of those years.

My friend Troilo that never left my side - day of night - has left a huge hollow in my life. Throughout 11 years we learned to live in complete communion and without him, a large part of me has gone missing as well.

His absence is so prominent because his presence touched every part of mi life; and each part of my life collapsed a bit when he was removed from it.

Its has been almost a year now...

Half sleep, I still slide my body downwards on the bed before I turn on my side to sit up, in order to step down further away from the head of the bed - least I step on him, that slept always by mi side.

I still turn around carefully when I am at home, because he used to lie down besides me wherever I stood.

I open the door slowly when I come back home, because he was sure to be sleeping against it, wait to receive us.

I panic if I see the garden gate open.

I expect him to follow me when I go from room to room. I turn to disuade him at the top of the stairs, when I am just going to pick up this or that thing downstairs - no need to get tired lazy old boy...

I still expect to see him waiting at the top when I mount the staircase back from my brief errand. Or pushing a door open with his paws - any door, he hated closed doors - just to see where I was, when was I coming.

All of these now pointless habits hurt, because they bring him back with an overpowering sorrow.

I do not eat pears anymore, because I cannot share them with him. He loved pears peeled and sliced with my pocket knife.

I do not go to the store where everyone used to know him, where we went together every day as an excuse for our walks.

I haven't returned to the park, or to the beach. (His park; his beach)

Some things I do also hurt because they tell me of his absence: I put things on the floor - drinks, food - because I finally learn again that no-one is going to try and eat them. I leave the Toilet-bowl lid up. I do not rush to pick up things that fall...

I miss finding all his toys strewn accross the house, five minutes after collecting them all in his basquet. The toys seem to have died as well; they stayed in the basket ever since that night without running away.

I miss his hairy paws. Troilo pawing the door of the cupboard to tell us he wanted food, the door of the garden to tell us he needed to go out, or our knees to ask for undivided attention. Those paws that talked.

Those eyes that talked. Troilo's eyes fixated on the cookie can, on our plates, on the meat over the counter, on a toy below the bed or on the sofa where he couldn't reach. He always knew how to tell us what he needed. He never doubted that we were able to understand.

I miss him in the car, taking possesion of the driver's seat when he was waiting. Sitting as a co-pilot when we were driving. Looking at everything with curiosity, and turning to me as if to talk; a one line monologue that said "I love you" perfectly conveyed by his eyes.

The way Troilo used to look at me - I knew he loved me like no-one else did or ever will. Like only a dog could.

We try, we really do. We try to love them back, and we try to love wife and children and parents and friends... and some of us do a very darn good job of it too. But we are not dogs.