By the time Christmas rolled around in the first year I was in NJ, it was apparent Abby was having a hard time adjusting to my absence. I distinctly remember seeing Abby in the living room and being flabbergasted at how overweight she was during my Christmas visit. My god, she must have put on at least 10 pounds since September but more likely closer to 15. No longer did she have a waist line and now had a sausage shaped body. My mom had done her best to shield me when I asked how Abby was whenever I called by saying “She’s OK” or “She’s happy.” However now it was apparent she was not happy and was most likely sad or even possibly depressed. She was always a nervous eater. In moments of anxiety, she ate food to pacify her for comfort. Since I left, she was much sadder than I could have imagined. Father wasn’t sad. Why couldn’t Abby have been more like him in that respect? Father always loved me, was always happy to see me when I returned but when I left, it was like I didn’t exist—out of site out of mind. I had to get the dog that was complicated, sentimental and sensitive. Why couldn’t she been a wee bit more hedonistic, shallow and self-centered like Father? My mom would tell me later that Abby was mopey all the time, would lie around and have a long, doleful look on her face. She wasn’t enthusiastic about playing and all she wanted to do was sleep and eat. It broke my damn heart.
In my quiet moments in NJ, I missed Abby a whole fucking bunch. There was a scene in the movie As Good As It Gets about ¾ of the way through that summed up my feelings at the time. Melvin Udall had just returned the dog, Verdell, to the neighbor next door after taking care of the dog for a while as the neighbor was convalescing after a savage beating from robbers. The camera pans in on Melvin sitting at the piano playing a plaintive tune, crying and saying “over stupid dog.” I never did anything as brutal as Melvin had such as throwing a dog down a trash chute, but I had my moments with dogs when I was younger. I wasn’t as mean and socially dysfunctional as Melvin, but I had my moments when I was younger. Now here I was lamenting over a dog in the way I would over a person. I kept telling myself “She’s just a dog” but that didn’t comfort me at all. My missing her was exacerbated by the fact that I knew she was missing me and taking our separation so hard.
Eventually Abby would snap out of her funk. When summer rolled around, I visited Raleigh more often and Abby was able to get outside more which kept her mind busy and off of me. She would, though, struggle with her weight for the rest of her baby-girl life. Abby didn’t die of a broken heart from my departure, but it’s easy to see how a dog could after what I experienced with Abby in the first few months after I moved to NJ.