The unbearable loudness of Benny

KissBennyBenny was my dog brother, and now our mom was gone. So, of course, there was no question that he would come and live with me. No question.

I’d heard that dogs grieve their people when they die, so I thought I’d have a sort of grace period when Benny and I would be sad together and comfort each other. Also, I’d had him neutered (finally), so I expected at least a few days of calm recuperation, giving me time to rest, plan a memorial, stare into space and be numb.

But Benny arrived in Austin full-throated and full of energy. He didn’t miss Mom at all! Mom, who?

And, thanks to the beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows in every room of the house that were the main selling point for me buying it, Benny had immediate and fairly constant occasion to impress me with his complete repertoire – extensive vocabulary, broad tonal range and pitch, and cadence. The barking was incessant and shrill, exploding abruptly and at full volume with no warning, and then proceeding in a rhythmic staccato punctuated by quarter notes of throaty growling.

Benny takes his job as protector very seriously, so the loud warnings he shouts at every skateboarder, jogger, walker, cyclist and baby stroller that crosses our lawn is accompanied by frantic scrambling, leaping, springing and spinning around. He flies off the couch suddenly, skids to the window where he might spring up and down a half dozen times before he races to another window in another room where he lunges and tap dances some more.

He doesn’t just bark at potential intruders. He barks at reflections on the ceiling.  He barks at the cats. He barks at me when I’m on the phone. He barks at me if too much time goes by without me paying attention to him.

And… he pees. He just pees wherever he wants, whenever he wants.

After a few weeks, I felt like I just could not handle it any more. Every nerve was on edge. I desperately needed a respite. My once tranquil home was relentlessly noisy. And Benny demanded INTERACTION. Interaction was the only thing that would shut him up. Interaction was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to be alone again with the kitties, in my quiet, pretty, clean-smelling home. I WANTED MY MAMA! I wanted everything to be normal again.


I considered asking my aunt to take him; but, I was wracked with guilt at the thought of giving him away. I hated him, but I was responsible for him. I think I really hated him. But I could not let Mom down.


Clearly Benny’s bad behavior was the direct result of mom’s “parenting.” Mom used to say, “I raised Benny just like I raised you.” And I would say, “But I’m a PERSON!” Why had she done this to me?!?!

The bottom line was I was overwhelmed. The death of a parent is overwhelming. It is inconceivable, ungraspable, incomprehensible. This is the new reality that undergirds life after the death of a parent — an inescapable awareness that there are things you simply are NOT going to understand. The illusory nature of “reality” becomes … not clearer — because nothing is “clear” — but more plausible. I think maybe your right brain takes over as you lose the ability to make linear sense of things. You just see everything all at once, with nothing feeling more important than anything else, making more likely those moments when ridiculous trivialities assume monstrous proportions in your mind.

And so, Benny barked…

4 responses to “The unbearable loudness of Benny

  1. The final sentence perfectly describes my grief with the passing of my father — not so much the immediate reaction, I was more numb and working on auto-pilot at first. However, on the 1 year anniversary of his death, I became Benny…barking at everything and everyone because of the monstrous proportions in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I think that happens! The first year anniversary was so hard. All the firsts: your first birthday without him, his first birthday missed, every first holiday without him. Then comes the second… And somehow you’re supposed to be “all better.” This idea of being “all better” is something I want to explore here. Nothing is ever better. Everything is always forever different, and somehow you get used to it or something. I’m not mad at people who expect it to be all better … I guess in reality I only think they expect me to be all better! If you ask, they’ll say they don’t! Which is very kind. But even I got sick of hearing me compulsively tell people about it!

      It’s so interesting…

      We need more words to describe the whole fucking ordeal! I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey!


  2. We need to talk out our pain until we get sick and tired of hearing ourselves talk about the pain. Even then, we can hold it tightlu because it is familiar.

    Liked by 1 person

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