My mother has more in common with my 14-year-old chihuahua, Panic, than she would care to admit. Both have trouble with stairs these days. Both had surgery for cataracts, though the dog's cost more -- much more. And both are irrationally happy whenever they see me. And now I am confronted with my Sophie's choice -- an aging mother in Calcutta, and and elderly dog in San Francisco.
When Panic showed up in my life I was wary. I didn't want responsibility for 6 and a half pounds of snaggle-toothed anxiety. But she burrowed her way into my life, sleeping in the crook of my arm. Every time I came back from India, homesick and jetlagged, the clatter of her feet on my hardwood floors was the only thing between me and a dark empty house.
Now as I sit in the basement and pack to spend a year in India with my mother, I hear Panic upstairs. Round and round she goes, in tight little anxious circles, like a restless ghostunnerved by all the furniture that's moved, the open suitcases. She follows me up and down the stairs, hides in the suitcase, wants to clamber on my lap.
Bring her, says my mother. I call the pet relocators, hoping they charge by the pound. But it's still exorbitant though it comes with a pet hotel layover in Frankfurt. And I wonder if she survived the trip, would she survive Calcutta? The mosquitoes are almost as big as her.
And so she stays. The ex agrees to keep her.