Skip to content

Good night Mister Giz

December of 2004 is a month that I expect I will remember for a long time. Although there were a few bright spots, it was for me a miserable end to a year I am happy to see recede in the distance. Recent events have reminded me that the world becomes smaller and smaller as I get older, the more I travel, and the more I ponder the way of things.

With the catastrophic tragedy in Asia still unfolding day by day, it might seem trivial to some people, that I would be writing about this subject. All I can offer in response is that this is something I have wanted to accomplish in the year 2004, and I sit here in the last few hours of this year, making my own form of peace with recent events.

I suppose there are two kinds of people in the world: those who see Pets as family members, and those that don't. I'm not embarassed to admit that I'm a member of the former category, and not unlike many of my neighbors here in Laurel Canyon where I live, part of my daily routine has included caring for, and spending time with my dogs. There are numerous studies documenting the therapeutic value a pet often provides to its owners, like the one in Australia where people facing chronic life threatening conditions were followed for a year. In one group, 25% of the participants died, while in the other group only 6% died. The difference between the groups is that the 6% group owned dogs, while the 25% group did not. I suspect I am no different in having been the beneficiary of that phenomenon throughout the years.
Gizmo was born in April 1990, and we came to own him in July at the tender age of 3 months. He was a tiny 2 pound ball of fur and became sick almost as soon as we got him to our one bedroom apartment in Redondo Beach. I won't retread the symptoms, but the Vet on call at the 24 hour emergency clinic where we rushed him, informed us he probably had Parvo virus, administered what little medical help she could, and told us we should prepare ourselves for the worst. In what would prove to be a sign of his resilience and tenacity, Gizmo pulled through and regained his health, although for the first three months of his life he often travelled in Tracy's straw handbag, with his head sticking up through the straps as he surveyed the world around him. He seemed to enjoy this manner of travel very much, and in those first few weeks Tracy would come home from work every day at lunch and spoon feed him baby food from a jar. When it would get too cold for his liking he'd turn his nose up until she reheated it. She took him everywhere she went, which was possible because many people didn't realize that he wasn't the stuffed animal he often appeared to be. He never barked, or made a commotion, no matter what might be going on around him.

We had both seen the movie Gremlins, and it was clear from the start, that his resemblence to "Gizmo" was one of the reasons that he garnered attention everywhere he went, especially from any young girls he might come across. I recall vividly one day when we were letting him have a run on the grounds of a long closed elementary school in Redondo, when a little girl perhaps 6 or 7 years of age came upon us, and immediately fell in love with Giz. She ran around with him, sat on the ground while he scampered around her, carried him, petted him, and in general mooned over him for at least a half an hour while we stood and watched him soak up the attention. When it was time for us to leave, the little girl shouted to him:

"Goodbye Gizmo! I will never forget you!"

It was certainly not just that he was undeniably cuddly and furry and Gizmo-like, but also that I suppose he was never quite convinced that he wasn't human after all, and those who adored him and those he annoyed would both freely admit, that the one thing Gizmo would not tolerate was being ignored. He was happiest in someone's lap, or on your pillow nestled next to your head, and he had an annoying habit of nesting in Tracy's hair when she'd be sleeping and let him on the bed. When you talked to him he looked at you with rapt attention, as if he understood what you were saying to him. When he wanted something he'd yap, and paw at you until he got what he wanted, and he was the very definition of persistence as can be attested to by the various doors he gouged with his claws, whenever he might find himself seperated from where he wanted to go. He was full of suprises, like the time he ate through the side of a wicker table one night while we were asleep, or a five hour plane trip we took with him one christmas, him in a carrying case that fit beneath our seat, which he repeatedly unzipped from the inside using his teeth, even though he was tranquilized with a pill that we were told was strong enough to knock out a Doberman.

For Tracy and I, Gizmo was our first shared commitment. I suppose in a way, having to take care of Gizmo was a fundamental part of the process of understanding what it means to be an adult.

In December, 2004, Gizmo developed a tumor in one of his eyes. After various tests we began to understand that what we thought were just signs of old age, were in fact early indications that he was seriously ill. I agonized over details and facts, and diagnoses, and tests, and potential ways we might be able to treat him. Although it's a small thing, I suppose, in the end, there was very little to debate, as we discovered that his Kidney's were failing, and had probably been failing for many months. Gizmo was suffering, there was nothing that could be done for him, and as was his way, he simply soldiered along with very little complaint, sleeping much of the time beneath my feet as I worked at my desk. The saddest thing was learning that in the last few weeks of his life he was completely blind, and yet he struggled to adapt, and keep himself near us, and find his food and water when he needed them.

Gizmo passed away with my hand on his small head, on Saturday December 18th, 2004 in the office of Dr. Martin Schwartz, the vet who had cared for him much of his life. My memories of him will be with me I am convinced to my final days. I'm sure some will read this and think: "What's the big deal, it's just a dog". Those people will probably not be able to understand this, but as far as I'm concerned, Gizmo was my first child, and caring for him through the almost 15 years we shared has been one of the constancies of my life, and an experience that taught me a lot about myself. It's hard to fully explain how grief stricken I have felt throughout the inevitable conclusion of these events, but I think the very fact that he didn't have the capacity to understand what was happening to him or the decisions being made on his behalf made it that much more personal and excruciating.

I'm convinced that through the mistakes I made with Gizmo, I have become a better parent and person today than I ever would have been had I not gone through that process. No matter how many times I lost my temper, or allowed my priorities to get out of wack, or neglected to spend a few minutes with him playing, or to fill his water bowl, or take him on that walk he always wanted, he was always forgiving, as was his nature, and eager to have the order of things restored, with him as close as possible to the center of attention. He remains in my thoughts, and if it was not already obvious, this site bears his name.
Defined tags for this entry:


No Trackbacks


Display comments as Linear | Threaded

bob_the _builder on :

*Hi, Great read .. I fully understand how you feel .. Hope 2005 brings you a great new companion .. Bob

Eric 'phpfreak' Rosebrock on :


I am sorry to hear about your loss, Giz sounded like a great family member and it's always sad to see something like that happen. Be thankful that you had almost 15 years with him! That's quite astonishing to see a pet like Giz live that long.

My condolences goes out to you and your family.

Eric 'phpfreak' Rosebrock

shivabharat on :

*Hi dave,

It really sad when u loose some one close to you. I had the same feeling when I lost my cat. Sometimes these pet animals teach us a lot about what life is. My condolences to you. Hope you get bring in another "Gizmola" to your family.


Add Comment

Pavatar, Gravatar, Favatar, MyBlogLog, Pavatar author images supported.
BBCode format allowed
E-Mail addresses will not be displayed and will only be used for E-Mail notifications.
Form options