Gwenevere

July 10, 2010 at 4:22 pm (Life, Uncategorized) (, , , , )

A little monster has been tearing through the house for the last three weeks. The hurricane is not expected to stop raging for years to come. She’s got a bit of Lena in her, stubborn and sweet and extremely clever. She sleeps a lot, is mostly housebroken and willful. She enjoys food, mischief, harassing the resident 13-year-old Jack Russell and is an avid fetcher.

Paul falling in love when first meeting her.

She’s grown quite a bit since this was taken.

She’s accompanied by the usual problems: Her defecating and urination habits are getting better, but not quite there yet. Bite inhibition is making slow progress because she’s a retriever and she’ll start teething soon. She knows sit, but is still confused by her own name, “Gwen.” She pulls on the leash and tries to lead you home when taken outdoors. Sleeping through the night is a recent development. She’s not quite grasped the concept of being a “floor dog,” i.e. a critter that doesn’t jump on people to greet them. She howls and whines and cries when I leave the room. She has a radar for trouble.

I wonder if I’m doing a good job raising her a lot. However, I’m convinced I lucked out and was paired up with an extremely sweet, forgiving animal. She’s a good girl.

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Dogless

September 11, 2009 at 8:43 pm (Life) (, , , , , )

This state just makes me feel intensely lonely. The cat is not really the best companion you could imagine. C. doesn’t know anyone who has a friendly dog I could take for walks. One family has a dog, but she’s just as ill-tempered and unfriendly with everyone as Odin. I am terrified of applying to the local chapter of the Humane Society to be a dog handler for their shelter for fear of being rejected on the basis of everyone wanting that position.

I hate this and clearly need a job that won’t take me traveling afar, to be done with college and to live somewhere else. And all this whinging of mine makes me fear the years to come in which I probably won’t be able to own a dog.

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A Job Well Done

September 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm (School) (, , , )

Or not, which is more accurately the case. I had my first voice lesson for this semester. I walked into Dr. D’s office at nine o’clock sharp. She’s a dog lover. She has pictures of her now deceased lab and her current dog all over the place. When she asked me how my summer was, I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “It sucked, to be honest.”

It’s not exactly common to be that blunt here in the US. Mostly, we are taught to say “It was fine” and leave it be. I don’t believe in lying. I was being honest. The summer, for most part, did suck.

“Why was your summer so bad?” she asked.

I’d intended to just mention my root canal. But out popped “I had to put my dog down.” I immediately started welling up when Dr. D said she was so sorry, that she knew how much it hurts to lose a pet. I felt like an idiot. I didn’t want to say it, I don’t want to make my voice teacher aware of how emotionally unstable I was. I also don’t think I have ever been this lucky with an instructor. She didn’t try and coddle me, but she told me how sorry she was while I grabbed a tissue and wiped furiously at my eyes. I think performance and the ability to perform are intrinsically linked to your emotional well-being. This whole summer, I’ve felt like the music in me died, because I was sick in the heart and body. I’m getting better again, but it’s still difficult to do it.

I came out the lesson with no less than three songs to work on until next week.

“Ombra Cara” by Handel

“Heavenly Grass” by Paul Bowles (Part 1 of the Blue Mountain Ballads; apparently I am to learn the other three at some point soon, too.)

And I cannot, for the life of me, find a good rendition of Bononcini’s “Non posso disperar.” This is going to be interesting.

During chorus, Dr. D moved some new girl next to me after she admitted that she was completely lost. Why Dr. D did this is beyond me. She must think I read music and follow along better than I actually do. What happened to the girl the music teachers used to roll their eyes at because she couldn’t do anything worth jack?

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Adjusting Period

July 27, 2009 at 7:13 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

On July 24th, we went in to have my sweet baby girl, Elena, put down. I hadn’t seen her since we’d brought her in on Wednesday morning. It was heart-breaking. The second she saw me, she started crying and whimpering. Her eyes had that slightly drugged-out glaze you get when you are constantly on pain killers so your existence becomes bearable. Her customary greeting dance made her even more frustrated because her body was not doing what she wanted it to.

The only reason she was sitting at all was because the vet staff had propped her up against a wall. She nearly fell over in her desperate attempt to reach me when I entered the room and settled down in her cage. All she knew was that she wanted to leave and go home, that her body was not working. Her hind legs and tail were limp, her stomach swollen from all the air she’d swallowed with her frenetic panting and the fact her bowels were not expelling anything without help from the vet technicians. It took a while for me to settle her down enough so I could prop her up onto my lap. She struggled. She thought we were going home.

She cried for the entire time I held her. Multiple times she attempted to get up and leave on her own. I managed to keep it together for most part with some brief lapses into crying. I’d tried avoiding that. I didn’t want to upset her any more than I had to. At some point, my mother joined us and took pictures because my brother had requested them. She only left for five minutes to take care of arrangements; a private cremation, paying the bill, checking to see if the vet had cleared out the waiting room yet.

The vet and the technician settled her out onto the floor. He held this absolutely gigantic syringe full of medication – my mother later told me he’d used a third more than he really needed to in order to ensure Lena’s end would be quick and absolutely pain-free. The consultation was brief. I was basically prepared. I did not, however, know how quick things went. I just watched in horror, Lena’s head in my lap, until my mom told me, “She’s going. Say good-bye now!” I ended up whispering, “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you” over and over even when I felt her just go . . . limp. My mother says the dog settled against me in her final seconds, contentment obvious, and just heaved a sigh of relief, which was to be her last breath.

I started sobbing pretty much immediately. The vet’s face looked a little drawn, he didn’t like putting animals down any more than any normal person would. “Why did you go out and do that, you stupid dog?” I stroked her face for a while the vet checked her pupils for signs of life. I then realized how downright obscene it felt to hold the mortal remains of my best friend, that it felt like holding a ragdoll, that it was just downright freaky how just every bit of tension had left her body. Even when dogs sleep, there’s a small amount of tension in their bodies that lets you know they’re still among the living. Lena was just completely still, her eyes open and staring lifelessly. I dropped her head like it was an intensely hot object and scrambled away, then ended up breaking down as my mother held and rocked my. The vet technician was clearly hurting, too – she asked if I wanted to spend a moment with her. I think I was so distraught I ended up half-shrieking that that was no longer my dog even as she handed me a few tissues. I was hysteric. A mess. Now I wish I had taken her up on the offer, but at the time, all I wanted was to get away from that thing, that disturbingly limp semblance of my best friend.

I wound up walking out of the back room in a half-catatonic state. The back room, where the vet technicians take turns answering phones, billing and whatnot, also houses their pets when they’re at work. Three very curious, friendly noses had already greeted me as I walked through to the kennels. I didn’t have the energy to fend them off on my way out. I sat on the floor and let Lotti, the tripod doxie mix, and Madison crawl all over me in their efforts to console me. I’m not sure I would have made it through the day had it not been for those two dogs.

The vet staff was incredible. They let me sit there for as long as I needed, talked to my mother and I and were generally supportive through that intensely traumatic experience. They cared. That was a blessing.

Now the house just seems too quiet. Wherever I look, there’s something to remind me of Lena. The food and water bowl are still in the kitchen, the latter filled sometime on Wednesday when I was still trying to convince myself Lena was going to come home. Her toys are strewn throughout the house. Her leash is on the floor of my bedroom. Her bed is tucked between the wall and my bed, there is dog hair all over the floors. Lena’s ashes will arrive in about two weeks, give or take. I am still unsure as what to do with them. Part of me wants me to stop being so obsessive about this dog and just bury it somewhere, but another part of me, the one that is still hurting and probably never will cease hurting, just wants to keep them in an urn and just take them wherever I go. I don’t even know how the hell I would take an urn full of ashes through an airport. With my luck, my suitcase would be selected for a random search and they would wind up tossing everything in the garbage.

It will take some time getting used to the silence and the hurt, and the void that is left in my heart. I do feel like a part of me was ripped out, trampled on and then left for dead. Every day is a struggle to go on. The days drag by and I somehow manage to keep my shit together during the day, but it all comes crashing down in the evenings, when dark creeps in on me and takes away any bit of rationality I may have left in me. Sleeping is an ordeal. I seem to hear Lena falling to the ground and screaming every time I close my eyes. Sometimes I just end up curled up in a fetal position, hands over my ears in a failed attempt to block out the memory. I can barely drag myself out of bed in the mornings.

My mother tells me I am at that point where I am processing, solely missing. But I don’t think it’s true. I just feel numb. I keep hoping I’ll wake up and it will all turn out to be an awful, elaborate nightmare. And I’ll look down, and there she’ll be, splayed out on her side, nose and paws twitching, snoring and snorfling in her sleep. It’s hard. I wish it had never come to this.

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RIP

July 24, 2009 at 7:05 pm (Life) (, , , , )

Elena

Nov. 21st, 2001 – July 24th, 2009

I love you. This was not what I wanted for you.

IMG_1645

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A Heavy Heart

July 23, 2009 at 7:31 am (Life) (, , , , , , )

There has been a lot of silence on my part lately; partly because my life is just not that exciting, and partly because a lot of emotionally draining events have taken place. The one I am most concerned with occurred yesterday.

My dog, while chasing a deer, jerked something around in her back, keeled over and started screaming like there was no tomorrow. Her hind legs and tail are completely paralyzed. After wailing and twisting in agony for a few seconds while I stared in horror, she managed to throw herself onto her stomach and somehow managed to drag herself through half the yard on two legs, towards me. It was like watching war footage in which a soldier has lost his legs to a mine. I ended up screaming my head off for my mom to come downstairs while I raced to the dog, made her lay down and tried to calm her down.

It turns out even my mother heard the dog scream in pain – while she was on the second floor of our house, in the shower. Our house is a solid brick building and pretty good at naturally dampening down noises. My mom managed to fly downstairs, onto the lawn. I called the vet. I managed to barely keep it together. I don’t even want to get it into Lena’s panicked struggling when she realized we were going to move her, she was definitely going into shock and so was I.

We left her at the vets. They took x-rays. One of her discs has been compressing her spinal cord because she has an arthritic vertebra. When she ran, she must have jostled something and thus cut off feeling. The dog is high as a kite on pain killers from what I know, they’re treating her with steroids in hopes of the swelling going down. She has a 50-60% chance of recovery. If she doesn’t, we’ll have to put her down.

This is the most traumatic, awful thing that has ever happened to me. I just can’t forget how she screamed and fell. I’d like to express my thanks to everyone who’s been so supportive and willing to listen to my obsessive ramblings about the state of my dog. I am not ready to lose her yet. I want for her to live and chase stuff until she is eleven, twelve, thirteen, then pass away in her sleep the way she deserves. Yes, she may have injured herself doing something she loves and because she leads a high quality life, but she is still in pain right now, in a cage in a strange place and not home.

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Countdown Starts Now

June 22, 2009 at 10:43 pm (Life, School) (, , , , , )

Three more days of school, then the summer session will be over. Another week after this and I’ll be on my way to England to spend some quality time with my mother, the dog, and presumably Orla and Helen. (Bitches, I WILL hit you up. Be very afraid.) Unless they plan on being dicks, in which case bad things will happen.

My parents are going to replace my MacBook; which means I have to make my way to Montgomery Mall tomorrow to return the MacBook I ordered (it should arrive tomorrow morning) as well as the keyboard cover. My father gets a not-so-small discount with Apple Germany. My parents also want me to have a German keyboard, for whatever reason. So. I don’t feel TOO horrid about the cat destroying my current one. (To make a long story short: I had a glass with Coke next to my laptop. Not Diet Coke. REAL Coke. The cat jumped onto the desk and when he landed, he knocked over the glass. Let it suffice that I was NOT a happy camper.)

I think I will spend a significant amount of time in July exercising, sewing and writing. And practicing. Yeah. My voice teacher would murder me if I did little to no work for two months because you can seriously regress in terms of muscle memory. I’ve got a skirt or two in mind that I would like to sew, and I bought some neat boots I had been eyeing for a while so I would have fun shoes to go with costumes and for just because.

151405BRN1ZThat is all!

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A Piece of My Heart

May 6, 2009 at 8:53 pm (Life) (, , , , )

I called my mother on Monday to – apparently – reassure her that I was still alive. For Mother’s Day, I sent her a package. It contained sock yarn, curry, books, an Arvel Bird CD I had purchased when he, along with other Native American heritage composers, performed at my college. I also included a couple of CDs from my voice lessons because my mother had been complaining about not getting to hear me. Personally, I think she was wondering if she was getting her money’s worth, but never mind that.

She told me that she put a CD in. My dog is usually very lethargic in the evening, but Lena perked up immediately and then went on to search the entire house for me. She’s always been fairly musically inclined for an animal. Right around the time we got her, when I was thirteen, I started singing a lot more frequently. She seemed to enjoy being sung to, especially in the evenings – I believe it may have assuaged the loneliness she felt at no longer sleeping with her litter mates and family.

Back when I still took piano lessons, she would attempt to wedge herself between my feet and the Yamaha electric piano in our living room. She quickly learned this was not particularly comfortable because I needed to tread pedals on occasion. She then settled for sitting next to me, her tail thumping in time with the metronome. When I took up singing on a slightly more professional basis, she would always make sure to be nearby when I practiced. She would become very excited and, sometimes, she would join in.

Ever since leaving her back with my mother in England, it feels like a part of me was ripped from my chest. When I am home, Lena and I are pretty much attached to each other at the hip. Where I go, she goes. I admit to somewhat obsessively planning my schedule around hers, making sure I am not away from home too long, planning walks and preferring my interactions with people to be capable of involving her somehow. That’s just how the two of us work. When errands need to be run, I try to make sure I can get there by foot or by bicycle or, if it’s not too long, by public transportation. I feel lonely without her.

img_5208This sort of brings me to today’s dilemma. When my sort-of-adopted-aunt came home, we went about making salad for dinner. As I was washing the portion of baby portabella mushrooms to get rid of the massive amount of dirt, she pretty much dropped a bomb on me.

“You know,” she said as she sliced some sweet pepper, “if your parents can’t afford to have you go back to Germany this summer, I’ll send you. You need to see your dog.”

I wanted to choke up for a moment, so I concentrated on wiping some particularly stubborn clump of dirt stuck on a mushroom. “It’s up to Mom and Dad, I guess.” Studiously avoiding facing someone else when talking about an uncomfortable subject is a specialty of mine.

“If it’s possible, you know she could come live here, right? We could somehow work it out.” I protested a little feebly, pointing out that Odin – her 11-year-old mean cat – would probably not take too kindly to a large dog invading his territory. “Well, he gets cranky, but he usually adjusts. We’ve had a Rottweiler over before. For a few days. But they sort of worked something out.”

There is nothing I would love more than to have her here. So my first, rather irrational, response was to wait until she’d left for the Neighborhood Association meeting so I could let the tears flow as I looked up airline regulations on pet travel. At the same time, I knew it was stupid. My mother had – off-handedly, jokingly – remarked that she would love to send the dog with me. I have no doubt she would love to finally be able to rightfully hand over the responsibility for my dog to the person she actually belongs to. But Lena’s not exactly young anymore at seven-and-a-half. Our old dog, Whisper, nearly died when she flew from the US to Germany back in the early 90s.

I realize that airlines must be much better about pets traveling these days, what with the involvement of animal rights agencies and so forth. I am still loathe to think of putting my poor, sweet dog in the cargo hold of a noisy airplane. If I could take her into the cabin with me, as people with small dogs or cats are allowed to, I would do it in a heartbeat. Alas, Lena weighs a great deal more than 17.5 lbs.

I feel a bit like a recently divorced parent with extremely limited visitation rights to their child. I don’t even know if I should attempt to broach the subject with my mother. I would love it, but on the other hand, it is my responsibility to ensure my companion animal’s well-being. I somehow don’t see an airplane fitting into the equation because I am a doting mother hen.

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A Royal Pain

April 14, 2009 at 6:51 pm (News) (, , , , , , , , )

bo obamaAs we welcome our newest member of the Obama family into the White House, there has been unprecedented nastiness pervading the nation. People are all up in arms about the fact that Bo, seen on the left, is a purebred Portuguese Water Dog. Many are complaining that the Obamas should have picked a shelter dog! Why did they not pick a mutt! Wah wah wah!

My dears, let me clarify: Malia Obama has severe allergies to dog dander. No matter how good your intentions, it is best to pick a purebred dog that will not set off her allergies. There is no such guarantee with mutts. When you buy a purebred, you know exactly what you are in for; there are no unexpected signs of aggression, no mysterious illness, nothing. Purebreds are predictable in temperament and this is precisely what anyone who has never owned a dog before needs.

Secondly, Bo IS a rescue dog of sorts. His previous owners returned him to the breeder. He was homeless. He needed a family. He seems like a sweet, even-tempered dog, which is ideal for first-time dog owners and especially owners in such high-level stress situations. They need a dog that will not piss itself with excitement every time a helicopter lands on the White House lawn or a foreign dignitary comes to pet him.

Bo’s breeders are respectable, registered, humane breeders who had the good sense to take a dog they had sold back when said dog could no longer live with his family. Humane breeders will always, always take a dog back, no matter what the circumstances. Contrary to popular belief, it is not the humane breeders who are contributing to the homeless pet population and influx of sickly purebred animals. It is backyard breeders, puppy mills and idiots who do not get their pets neutered. People also seem to forget that the First Family is not their personal Sims computer game; we have no right whatsoever to interfere with their choice of school for their children, their choice of designers – or not – to wear or which dog they adopt. There was no such outrage when Clinton adopted Buddy, a purebred chocolate lab; or when Bush brought his two Scottish Terriers to the White House. Why now?

I, too, am the owner of a purebred dog. Lena joined my family when she was thirteen weeks old, after she had been returned to her breeder by her previous owners. Lena earsMy parents had previously taken in dogs that had been abused by their owners, a cocker spaniel and a mutt, and had bad experiences with both of those dogs. When we purchased our first Golden Retriever – after much research into what breed would be compatible with a family with small children – we knew exactly what to expect. Whisper was the sweetest, dearest dog you could ever imagine.

Lena, my current dog, is a sweetheart. She’ll let you do anything to her (as evidenced by my younger sister torturing sad puppyface on the kitchen floor). If she’s had enough, she will get up and leave, preferably seeking shelter with me. She has not been around young children much, yet instinctively knows that she is not to play rough with them, has never snapped at one or made any threatening move. Much as I like mutts, I have had better experiences with purebreds simply because I knew what behavior to expect when. Besides – mutts wouldn’t be around were it not for the purebred dogs mingling, no? People pick what is right for them and their circumstances, and in the Obamas’ case, it was a purebred dog that would be of even temper, would not set off allergies and would be compliant to training.

To the whiners, I say: Shut the fuck up. It is not your decision to make which dog enters the White House, just as it was never your decision to yammer about which school Malia and Sasha Obama would attend.

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