Thursday, December 5, 2019

Inscrutable Rosie

Inscrutable Rosie.

Rosie was not the most lovable of dogs.  She came to the Zimmer family by way of a breeding farm (sort of a puppy mill) who basically abandoned her when she turned out to be a "bad breeder".  Having lived much of her early life in a small cage with metal mesh for a floor, she was not well taken care of.  The bulldog breed is prone to all sorts of genetic faults through inbreeding, and Rosie seemed to have inherited them all.  Snaggle toothed with an underbite, one of her lower incisors perpetually peeked out of her lips.  She was prone to fungal infections in her many skin folds, couldn’t go for walks in temperatures in excess of or below 68 degrees due to respiratory problems, and preferred to spend most of her time in her kennel.  She was territorial of her kennel and food bowl, and home in general.  Whenever we used to watch her for an extended period of time the first thing she would do is go into our own dogs kennel and pee on his bed, right in the middle.  “Rosie is in the house, bitches!” she seemed to proclaim.

I can't tell from her face if she is waiting for a treat or thinking about biting my pants.

Rosie was also among the most lovable of dogs.  Having come from a very bad situation, she was incredibly grateful for and loving towards David, her newly adopted father.  Her preference for an indoor and nearly sedentary lifestyle was ideal for a bachelor in veterinary school, and later for a young married couple when Laura joined the family.  When Laura later got sick, Rosie never complained at being shuttled around to different houses (aside from the occasional protest pee).  She adored David, and the feeling was mutual.  And Laura loved her too, and loved even more making fun of her and her various imperfections in relation to the adorable corgi puppy, Wrigley, that joined their family.

Rosie out on a walk in optimal not too hot, not too humid conditions
(with Lucy and baby Riley totally passed out)

But her greatest defining feature of all, to me at least, was her complete inscrutability.  Whether a trick of her specific breed, or an eye surgery she had earlier, she had a total lack of facial expression, a canine equivalent of a poker face.  After meeting her the first time I dubbed her “Inscrutable Rosie” and thought of her in only those terms for the remainder of her happy life.  She could display emotion through her body, certainly.  Her hackles would rise when a child or her new baby brother Wrigley would come too near a treat she was given or a toy she was playing with.  Her body would wriggle and quiver when people would get down on the floor and play tug of war with her.  And when David came home from school or work she would absolutely race to the door and spin in circles, belying the false tale she had woven earlier that she was too tired and old to go outside for a walk.

Her face and her eyes, however, betrayed no expression at all.  Whenever I would stop by her house to feed her or let her out it was honestly impossible for me to tell what she was thinking if her body was still. Was she happy to see me?  Was she just patiently waiting for her dinner?  Was she about to tear my face off and eat my eyes out of their sockets?  As long as she was standing or sitting still (which, let’s be honest, was the lions share of her time) I would feel slightly unsettled.  What was going on under that wrinkled, furry mask?

Merry Christmas! I'm coming at you to snuggle, or steal your snack, or eat your face!

Stinky snaggle kisses!

Whenever I would play with Rosie I would always think of the old cliche “still waters run deep.”  For those of you who have pets, you know they often betray a wealth of emotion in their faces, especially their eyes.  Our Labrador, Boss, is able to express entire Roman Catholic confessions to us just through a glance when we return home and find that he has eaten a loaf of bread or dug through the trash.  But Rosie’s eyes always appeared utterly still to me.  Perhaps it was because I never knew her well enough, but that mystery always made it fun and a little exciting to play with her. 


What was she thinking?  Was she thinking anything at all?  Was she making advanced calculations in her head about the best way to expedite dinner or a treat?  Was she plotting a takeover of Wrigley’s food bowl?  What was she feeling?  Was she happy?  Sad?  Hungry?  Annoyed?  Completely dead inside until a Beggin’ Strip or her beloved David showed themselves? It was impossible to know, but also didn’t really matter.  No matter her thoughts or feelings Rosie would be certain to find the most comfortable spot in the house (whether or not she had just peed on it) and enthrone herself for the duration (the night, the visit, the week…she had stamina when it came to hunkering down on a pillow chair).

Rosie passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly last Friday in Angola, at the vet clinic where she was first rescued and where she spent so many happy vacations and family holidays with her canine and human brethren.  The whole Zimmer side of the family was gathered in Indianapolis for the Thanksgiving holiday, so David was unable to be with her as she passed, and that was really hard.  She was the second member of his family to die, his wife Laura having passed away over three years ago now.  That is beyond hard.

Rosie, Laura and David at Riley's memorial bench in Pokagon State Park.
To me, losing Rosie is losing a fixture in the family, and a personal mascot almost.  She was weird and often visually unappealing and damaged and incredibly loving and completely loyal and inscrutable.  My God, who among us isn’t?  OK, seriously though, was I describing Rosie just then or myself 99% of the time?  I even peed on the floor of David’s bedroom once after a particularly raucous Christmas party in the mid-2000’s, the legend of which has remained unacknowledged by me until this very moment.  I only thought about her occasionally while she was alive, but I have been thinking about her nonstop since last Friday.

I am 99.9% sure there is a treat involved in this exchange.

To David, losing Rosie is something different altogether, and something with which he has altogether too much experience.  It is losing a beloved family member, and friend.  His companion since the summer he adopted her in 2012, she was with him through veterinary school and then medical school and into residency.  Through bachelor years and married years, through devastation into widowerhood.  She may have been inscrutable to me, but she was family.

Rosie, you are missed.

Rosie and her brother-from-another-bitch, Wrigley.

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