A colleague and I headed out into the woods for a brief weekend retreat, our shelter a cross between a tiny house and a cabin, loaned to us by a friend of a friend. But when I woke early yesterday morning, I learned that my dog — my companion of nearly 15 years — had fallen ill. Receiving a text from my wife about Daphne’s condition, I packed my things and rushed home, the world on the horizon reduced to a pure gray ambiguity as I stared intently at the road ahead. Eberhard Schoener’s Trance-Formation soundtracked my grief.
When the fog cleared, I witnessed a wake of turkey vultures picking at the remains of a young deer, the latter’s removal from the world of the living no doubt a consequence of some passing motorist. The destruction of alternative lifeways and nonhuman modes of being is an ineradicable component of capitalist reality. Look around: this system is cancerous. Unable to tolerate and coexist with radical difference. As I approached home, some algorithmic power operating through Spotify tried to console me by churning out 801’s cover of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”
“It is not dying,” Eno assures us, “it is not dying.” By mid-afternoon, Daphne’s condition had stabilized — but even now, as I write this, she lacks her usual appetite and seems confused and lethargic. It breaks my heart to see her this way, lying on her side, her face white, her tube-shaped dachshund body covered in lipomas and skin tags. She has a meeting with her vet scheduled for later today. My fear, though, is that he’ll say she’s in pain — in which case, we’ll have to put her down. All I can do in the meantime, I suppose, is kiss her neck, rub her belly, calm her, comfort her as best I can. I try to comfort myself by imagining episodes of We Bare Bears as conversations between the dog equivalent of Superego, Ego, and Id taking place within Daphne’s psyche. She and other wildlife dream the animal equivalent of proletarian revolution. Humor is the only way we can save ourselves from Seasonal Affective Disorder’s black pit of despair. So sayeth Broad City. It, too, spits up phrases suited to the tinfoil light of my condition. “Seratonin rising, dopamine flowing.” Ilana turns to Abbi and, making light of her proneness to depression, snarls, “So I get sick sometimes and need medicine — who cares?” The trouble is, I think of Daphne as being somehow a part of me — a link between me and my past — and I don’t want that part of me to die. Death is for me the destruction of all sense and meaning. How will I bear this loss?