Saturday, April 26, 2008

goodbye, dear friend

dogs get you lost. lost on a trail. lost in the park. lost in your head with all the things they do. sometimes it's not you who is lost, but them. i know too well about the agony over a dog who wanders off. but i was lost in love for over 10 years with one of my best friends. fragile, dear and sweet miss figi (sometimes called babydog, little bear or mrs. applesauce). today, i believe that i'm even more lost.

yesterday in the early evening as the sun began to kiss the sky goodnight, figi's sweet soul was released to that wonderful place we in our home now call "dog heaven". she was 13 and had been battling terrible arthritis for years. she'd recently lost most of her ability to control her bodily functions. she'd been suffering falls on hardwood floors for quite some time, and now she was falling in places that weren't safe for her. i decided that i wouldn't crate her, for that was a sentence of boredom for any animal. we'd tried medications that only seemed to serve as a buffer to an inevitable and undignified decline, though they helped so much in the last 3 years.

for the last year i tossed and turned daily (with lots of guilt) about euthanizing my beloved friend. last tuesday i was finally able to understand why letting it happen was more about love than letting go. so yesterday, i did just that. she's free now to run as fast as she can in the green fields that will always stay green. and as my son says, "she can walk again...and she's going to be better...and she won't have any more accidents or struggle." and he's right.

over the past week i've come to realize quite a few things about this great friend of mine. she'd battled a lot of odds. when i met at age 2 or 3, she had been saved by a no-kill rescue group in richmond, virginia. her skinny, tick covered self was originally found in a dirty backyard dog pen in god-knows-where. i loved her instantly--especially her pointy little ears with their wispy hairs. she also beat the odds many times over the last 10+ years by avoiding the wheels of trucks and cars, often after wandering off through an unclosed gate--by a forgetful parent. and then there were the animal attacks and terrible falls. in '99 she fell down a flight of stairs and dislocated her leg. in 2001 she was viciously attacked by a german shepherd, which left both of us (particularly myself) with a bit of PTSD. i was really never able to go to the park or walk her again without fear of her being attacked. but she weathered all of those trials--including the arthritis and mild dementia. yesterday, i realized that this dog had gotten through so much on her own. to deny her dignity in the end would be dismissive of all that she had survived.

yesterday we took one last good walk together without fear and with lots of gratitude. i think that she had decided that it was going to be a good day for her--or perhaps her body did. she didn't have any falls and was able to walk with me in the park for a good hour and a half, curling her feet through the lovely trees and trails. the weather was perfect with a touch of wind that kept us cool. we ate turkey and cheese sandwiches (she had 3) under a beautiful tree and sat by the river (her choice) to watch one last time. then we went home. the spring flowers that surrounded her time at the park made it all the better.

i tried to make her last moments meaningful. the walk made her tired and the tranquilizer that the vet gave her brought her to the afternoon nap she had probably been waiting for. i lit candles and brought in flowers. the room was beautiful. our good-bye so peaceful. everyone allowed me to cry, a lot. but most importantly, though i got to say everything i needed to her beforehand. i apologized for the times i had been angry at her, especially in her most recent condition. and i got to tell her that i was so grateful for all that she'd given me in this life, which included her total unconditional love.

the last thing that i got to say though, which i don't know i had really realized until that point, was that i was thankful to her that she had made a space in her life for me. it's always obvious that dog owners are making space in their life for dogs, especially those that they rescue or get from a shelter. but it's a foreign idea that somehow dogs give themselves to you...make space in their little lives for you. those last words i spoke to her marked probably the one moment in my life when i have felt the most gratitude. and there she goes me more.

i will miss her so.

photos are from our time together yesterday

Sunday, April 13, 2008


"what has the world come to?"

when we bought our house in 2003, the place was decked out and ready to move right in. all the walls were painted in a generous color scheme, lending itself to the feeling of being in a greenhouse/christopher lowell wet dream. no, it was lovely. and most of the color is still there, downstairs anyway. we've done a pretty good job covering up the other poo/natural colors that wrapped the walls upstairs. we showered them with lovely pinks, greens and blues. and i feel fine about those choices. painting is easy peasy. however, when you take on a house that really don't need taking on, there's really only one way, other than paint to do it...

destroy it.

and that we did. not anything inside, really. paint is all we really know how to do as of now. and moving furniture. and pooping on the floor. the prime place of our damage to date is in the back yard. the back half, the selling point, the oasis of our home, the hot spot for boozin' and firing up the fire pit has taken the hardest hit. not really because we wanted to, but because we just couldn't. this 5-10K of well-spent urban opulence (potential, with high maintenance) is what we inherited from the two men who owned the home before us. and we killed it. we had a pond, a well landscaped yard, a nice brick patio, a boozin' spot. almost all gone before our eyes.

this winter we realized that we'd neglected it to starvation and ugliness due to the fact that we weren't really using it at all. didn't want it. it didn't fit anymore, especially for a couple with a 3- year-old and an old dog who pooped everywhere. some recommended that we level it and start over. others said not to touch it. i was one of those, fearing that another potential buying couple might take a look at a boring grassy lump and turn right away. the yard was the main selling point. and it is, if you're into that stuff. i reasoned that anyone into a sexy back yard (or a sexyback yard) just isn't going to buy in our neighborhood during these po' times. with that, we decided to revamp the lump and keep it sexy but for the kids and sod it on up. so here we go. first milestone is to clean it all up. then we'll turn to sod king to give it a wig. then the face lift.

"...And what have my people done?"

i hope that something beautiful and useful will come of the mess we have made. i send to the universe my apologies to walter and ruben for ruining what they spent so much time cultivating. thankfully, they probably don't care and are busy flipping another house somewhere else...or not.