Is there a 12-step program for taking things personally?

What’s up, buttercups?  It’s been a while.  In fact, I just realized this weekend it’s been over a year.  Wow.  Time flies whether you’re having fun or not.

I spent a while licking my wounds after half the world wide web (give or take a few)  told me I was a judgmental asshole for writing that blog about Cocoa’s former owners.  *If you are looking for some admission of guilt or act of contrition, you won’t find it here*  

When the internet loves you it is awesome.

When the internet doesn’t love you it smarts just a bit.  I got over it ;-)

The last year has been pretty icky.  I spent a lot of time being sad, a lot of time being pissed off, and a lot- and I do mean a LOT- of time questioning my judgment.     This weekend I spent a lot of time walking in the park and thinking.  I am going to just let it flow all stream-of-consciousness style, since walking in the park doesn’t allow for paper and pen and taking notes.

In the past I’ve always been what I’ve called situationally depressed.  When my Dad died I got depressed.  When I was unhappy at the end of my marriage, I got depressed.  When my other Dad died, you guessed it- depressed again.  But I always felt my baseline was happy, with a little bit of situational depression thrown into the mix.

This weekend I realized that at some point my baseline had changed from happy with situational depression to depressed and only situationally happy.

I recently spent two weeks in England and had a fabulous time laughing with friends.  They came back to Florida with me and we had a metric shit ton of fun and adventure.  But as soon as they left, I felt myself dropping back down to my new  baseline.

So I had to do some self analyzing.  Those of you who know me well know this isn’t my normal behavior.  I tend to move through life like Mr. Magoo.  According to Wikipedia, “Quincy Magoo (or simply Mr. Magoo) is a cartoon character created at the UPA animation studio in 1949. Voiced byJim Backus, Quincy Magoo is a wealthy, short-statured retiree who gets into a series of comical situations as a result of his nearsightedness, compounded by his stubborn refusal to admit the problem. However, through uncanny streaks of luck, the situation always seems to work itself out for him, leaving him no worse than before.”

Now I’ll be the first to admit this strategy might not be the smartest one, but it’s gotten me this far.

Yesterday during my eight miles of walking (I had a LOT of thinking to do, obviously) I had a couple of those Oprah Winfrey “aha!” moments.

light-bulb-clip-art-BULB02

But first I need to back  up a bit.

I have had issues about being “chosen” for most of my adult life.  I don’t need a therapist to explain this to me.  I am the adult daughter of an alcoholic father, so I’ve got daddy issues for days.  In fact, I’ve talked about them on this blog before.  Now, I’m guessing my issues come from a father that always chose the bottle over me.  Well, if you want to get technical he chose the bottle over my Mom, my sister and me.  If you want to get even more technical, he chose the bottle over his health, his jobs, his own life.

Fast forward to my life as a grown up.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been emotionally wounded when someone chose something or someone over me.  I have never been able to look at things objectively.  In fact, I can be completely irrational when someone chooses this other *thing* (whatever that thing may be) over me.

 Hello, my name is Jamie and I take things personally.  

I’ve read Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements.  I know I’m not supposed to take things personally, but that is easier said than done for me.

Want to hear my earth shattering “aha!” lightbulb moment I had yesterday?  You might want to stand back so you won’t get burned by the brilliance of what I’m about to say (insert eye roll here).

When all of those people in my life made those choices, they weren’t choosing *that thing or person* over me.   
They were just *gasp!* making a choice.   

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

I can mouth platitudes all day long about The Four Agreements and all the other self help stuff I’ve ingested over the years but this was a huge realization for me.

I consider myself to be a narcissistic asshole some days and pretty normal most other days but you guys, I always made those people’s choices all about them rejecting me instead of them just assessing a situation and making a choice for themselves, whether that choice was good or bad.  Or whether or not I agreed with their choice.

I took that shit personally, yo.

Over the past year I have taken a whole lot of stuff personally.  A higher-minded being might have been able to rationally look at all those difficult and sometimes shitty situations and see them for what they were- someone making choices, many of which were what I considered to be bad ones.

The last year has been filled with drama (not mine) and anger (mine) and frustration.  I found myself in a very difficult situation that was oh-so-familiar to me.

Difficult situation-2; Jamie-0

I spent a lot of time thinking about the “difficult situation.”  Recently I saw this on the internet and it made me laugh:

everything-happens-for-a-reason

 Now let me make this clear- I am not stupid, nor are the people I know and love, nor are the people who sometimes make bad decisions.  I just liked the part about making bad decisions because let me tell you, my path is littered with ‘em.

I feel like the darkness of the past year has been a sort of mourning for something.  I’m not sure what that something is.  Perhaps I’m mourning the fact that my life hasn’t turned out how I would have hoped, if I’d given it any more thought than Mr. Magoo.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have a good life.  When I’m able to look at things objectively I realize that.  I have friends all over the world, I do cool stuff, I have family that I love and that love me unconditionally.  I’m super lucky to have so many people who love me.  But even so, some days I’m just sad.

Which brings me to my next topic.   I don’t know about you, but when I get The Sads I self medicate with ice cream… a lot of ice cream.  And then comes the weight gain, and then comes the self loathing and then I fall into a shame spiral and I start staying at home even more and avoiding social situations because I don’t want people to see me this way.

Here’s the thing.  I’m just going to lay it on the line right now.

To All The People I’ve Ever Slept With, Wanted to Sleep With, Dated, Liked, Loved, Lusted After, Stalked, Etc: 
I gained weight.

There.  I said it.  Now you know my big secret.  I am thick in the middle and just one of my boobs is the size of a small child’s head.  I’m out of shape and need to lose weight.  I carry a spare tire around my middle that would make the Michelin Man proud.  Some people may say I’m not fat, I’m just “big boned” *ahem*.

Regardless of how you define “fat,” I am not comfortable in my own skin right now and that is what is important.

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*I like to distract people from my weight gain by posing as a yeti* 

Before anyone accuses me of fat-shaming myself, know this- I have been sitting here fat shaming myself for the last year.  Saying this right now is the exact opposite of fat shaming myself.   I may still be embarrassed by my weight but I don’t have to hide away anymore because now y’all know my big secret.

“So now we’ve come upon the hardest thing I’ve ever done
Its telling you that I’m a mess
What sort of mess I mean
Is self-destructive gasoline
The kind that strips you of your best”
Blue October- Chameleon Boy

Now here’s the part where someone else might make grand proclamations:

“I’m going to quit eating sugar!”  
“I’m going to run a marathon!”
“I’m going to pursue my lifelong hobby of (fill-in-the-blank)!” 

You’ll hear none of that from me.  I’ve said all those things too many times before.  I don’t need to disappoint myself anymore than I’ve already been disappointed in the past.

What you’ll hear from me is more of a whisper.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of being sad.  I’m tired of taking things so personally.  It’s exhausting always being the victim of someone’s *choice that wasn’t me*.

I’m tired of having sadness as my baseline.

Nobody is going to come swooping in like a superhero and rescue me.  I have to be my own superhero.  I’m always rescuing other things and people and dogs but I can’t sit here waiting for someone to save me.  I am nobody’s business but my own.

I need to be the superhero of my own life. 

*Side note- to all my friends who have reached out repeatedly, thank you.  I know it got old constantly being rebuffed by me.  Know this- you are my constant (shout out to all the LOST fans).

So there you have it, the Readers Digest condensed version of the past year of my life.   I didn’t write this looking for approval, I didn’t write this looking for anyone to tell me I’m not fat, and I didn’t write this for anyone to tell me why I shouldn’t feel this way.  Feelings are feelings and we’ve all got them.  It’s just that some folks are better at not letting them take over their lives.

I needed to say all of this because I need to hold myself accountable for fixing this stuff.  I needed to say all of this because I listened to this song today:

“If you knew that you would die today
If you saw the face of God and Love
Would you change?
Would you change?
If you knew that love can break your heart
When you’re down so low you cannot fall
Would you change?”
Tracy Chapman – Change 

For those of you who have been concerned about me, know this -
you can’t keep a good yeti down.  

My friends don’t usually make me sad….

Today started the way most of my Saturdays do.  I slept until I was ready to get up.   I got up, let the dogs out, made some coffee and spent a little time on the computer.    I took a long shower, something I don’t always do because I’m a bit of a tree-hugger and I feel guilty taking long showers when Florida is in a perpetual state of drought.   I actually used two or three of the 497 hair care products in my bathroom and tried to do something with my mess of hair.

Eventually I had to leave the peaceful solitude of my house and go to Jacob’s first birthday party.

It was great to see so many friends and their kids.   I have a group of friends with some pretty awesome kids and it is almost always a joy to spend time with them.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather or maybe it’s the fact that some days I can barely hear anything over the sound of my biological clock ticking, but I came home and fell head first into a sea of melancholy.

I don’t have kids.  At this point, it doesn’t look like I’m ever going to have kids.  Most days this is ok with me.

I’ve never had any overwhelming urge to be a mother.  When I was in high school I almost fainted while watching the childbirth film.  I can remember it to this day- who has a baby on a butcher block table in a basement?!  I remember putting my head down on my desk and the teacher having to walk me outside.

It was my very own version of Scared Straight.

I spent all of my 20s having a good time.   Babies weren’t on my agenda.

I got married but that didn’t last long.  The time never seemed right to start having babies and besides, I didn’t feel any pressing need.

I never came down firmly on one side of the fence or the other.  Time and circumstance just got away from me.

I don’t think I yearn for a baby so much as I regret the absence of my child.

I’ve had the opportunity to be a parent.   I’ve made choices.  I’m not a mother.

And most days that is ok with me.

I wake up when I want to wake up.  I fly off to England for two weeks to road trip and spend time with close friends.  I go island hopping on my jet ski without having to tow a raft full of toys behind me.  I clean my  house and it stays that way for days.   I read books and watch tv and snuggle with my dogs.  Some days I don’t even turn on the tv or the stereo.  Sometimes it’s just me and the animals and none of us are talking.

I live in peaceful solitude unless I choose to make noise.   My life is mine, my time is mostly mine.  I do things I want to do and I do them on my terms, not the terms of a four-year-old terrorist.

And most days that’s how I like my life to be.  Neat, quiet, spontaneously fun.

But every now and then, on a day like today, my friends make me sad and I feel a twinge and my womb aches and I think about my future.  I worry that I will grow old and end up alone, with no children to watch over me and make me feel like what I did mattered.

And all the peace and quiet in the world can’t quite make that feeling go away.

Sunsets 025 Standard e-mail view

This may or may not be the mea culpa that you’re looking for….

It’s been eight days since I had to put Cocoa to sleep, my sweet, needy Cocoa.    It’s been an interesting week and quite a learning experience for me.

I published that open letter to Cocoa’s former owners just 20 minutes after I got home from taking her to be put to sleep.  I was sad, I was mad, I was frustrated.  Cocoa was the second oldie I’d had to euthanize in seven months.   I was a bit touchy.  I was writing a letter that would normally be seen only by my Facebook friends.  Ever heard of a blog called “A Day in the Life of Lunchy” before all this?  I didn’t think so.

The people who normally read my blog know me and they know the person behind the words.   I had no idea so many thousands of people would read that letter and not know the person behind it.

Since the letter was posted, I’ve been called names.  I’ve been told I have no right to voice an opinion on animal rescue if I eat meat.   I’ve been told that I’m a selfish idiot for spending my money on a dog instead of humans.  I’ve been told that I must be pro-abortion to have written the letter.  I’ve been told that I should shut up about dogs and go adopt a baby instead.

This week has certainly been an exercise in restraint (a day late and a dollar short, some of you may think).    I don’t owe anyone an explanation or itemized list of how I’m helping the world but suffice to say I help the humans, too.

I do have to give the prize for funniest comment to the person who asked if I rescued the high horse I was riding from that same shelter.

I’ve also been accused of  taking a sick dog from the pound and keeping her alive and suffering for my own selfish reasons.  Cocoa had pancreatitis two weeks after I got her.  It went away in a week or so and Cocoa was a happy little wooly mammoth running around my yard with the boys (which, by the way, are dogs to those of you who thought they were my sons).    When I brought her in that last time, the vet told me I was suffering watching her more than she was suffering, but it was best to put her to sleep before the suffering started.

I was also accused of only approving the favorable comments on the original blog post.   In fact, I approved every comment except one that wished physical harm on Cocoa’s former owners.  That was the only comment I censored.

You know what they say about opinions.  Everyone’s got one.

And that letter voiced mine.  I’ve had hundreds of people tell me that I have no right to judge Cocoa’s former owners because I don’t know their story.

I disagree.  I have every right to form an opinion of someone.

I, Jamie, could never take my 12-year-old family pet and leave them at a shelter.  I especially couldn’t take an old, highly incontinent dog to a shelter.    I couldn’t handle the stress of not knowing what happened to her.  If you take a cute puppy to the shelter, it stands a much better chance of being adopted.

But an old, white faced girl that stunk because she’d been lying in her own urine doesn’t stand nearly as good a chance.   And I couldn’t stand to move on, not knowing what would happen to her.

This is me.  This is my story.   The not knowing would make me crazy.

When I got Cocoa home and realized she was extremely incontinent, we had a few weeks of adjusting.  Every morning when I woke up I had to wash all the dog beds, because she only had accidents while she was sleeping.  I would have to bathe her before work.  I would come home and have to do all of that all over again.

I’m not telling you any of this for praise for taking care of Cocoa.  I am telling you because I want you to know how frustrated I was.  I got angry.  I would never hurt any of my animals but I know that Cocoa could sense my frustration.  I could see it on her face when I’d pick up the dog beds.

And it makes me really glad that she came home with me, and not with someone who might have gotten angry with her and punished her as a result.

See, that’s the part that sticks in my craw.

I know there are people who have to surrender dogs.  I hope to be lucky enough to never have to do that.  I figure I will be, because I have an extensive network of dog-loving friends and family who would gladly take my boys if anything happened to me.

I don’t agree with what Cocoa’s former owners did.  Had she been my dog I would have taken a different route.  And that is what I was trying to convey in my letter.

Here’s the thing.  Along with people calling me all sorts of names, like self-righteously indignant twat (what?!), I’ve also had people call me an angel and that’s problematic, too.  I’m far from being an angel.  Way, way far from being one.  In fact, if you were to weigh my angel to devil ratio, well…. let’s just say most of the time the devil’s got the wheel.  I am loud, I am ornery, I am chronically overweight, I have a hair trigger temper (as you’ve seen), and I have a big mouth.

But here’s what I am good at- I am a good daughter, I am a good sister, I am a good friend and I am a good pet owner.  I may suck at a lot of other stuff but at these few things I rock.

So would I ever turn my 12-year-old dog into a shelter?  No, I would not.    No amount of arguing and name-calling is going to get me to understand.    I’ve tried.  I’ve had people tell me I should extend the same empathy I showed Cocoa to her former owners.   I think that requires a level of Zen Master that I may never achieve.

Should I have lashed out at Cocoa’s former humans?  I  was within my right to talk about something that upset me.  Could I have handled it better?  You bet your sweet bottom dollar I could have handled it better.    My path is littered with good intentions gone awry.   This isn’t  the first time I’ve lost my message in the delivery.

I suffer from what I call the Sally Field Syndrome- I just want people to like me, really like me!!!     To be viewed as an internet bully stung.  Well played, universe.   I get it.

But here’s the part that I regret most- I regret saying anything in that letter that casts shelter workers or rescuers in an unfavorable light.  Sure, I know there are some people working in shelters that are burned out but I believe in my heart of hearts that people working in shelters do so because they love the animals and want to help them the best they can.  When I talked about Cocoa possibly dying on a cold shelter floor with someone who may or may not care how her life ended, I think I hurt a lot of people who have to deal with dogs dying on a daily basis.

And for that, I am truly sorry.  My heart aches to think that I might have hurt someone who works in rescue or in a shelter.  I have respect for people who do a job that I could never do.  I walk around with my heart on my sleeve like an exposed nerve, constantly being bumped and bruised by the world.  I couldn’t do what so many people selflessly do on a daily basis.

To all the people who were able to look past the delivery and understand my frustration, I thank you.  To all the people who shared their stories of adopting the old and broken ones, thank you.  I read them and my heart hurt with love for all of them.    I’m a sucker for the oldies but at this point I have to take a breather from adopting anymore of them.  My heart needs to heal a bit.  Boo Radley and Cocoa Loco took some chunks with them when they died.

Oh, and  I may be 45 but I’m not too old to get in trouble with my mama.  She didn’t raise me to talk like that, so I’m sorry if I embarrassed you, Mamacita.

 

Cocoa Loco

 

 

 

 

 

An open letter to Jean (last name withheld), the person who dumped Cocoa at the pound

Hello.  You don’t know me, and for your sake, you’d best hope and pray that you never have the misfortune to meet me.

How do I know your name?  Because the people at animal control gave me Cocoa’s intake sheet.  You know, the one you filled out.  The one that said Cocoa was 12 years old and you’d had her all those years.  The one that said you were moving to a pet-free apartment and couldn’t take your faithful companion of 12 years.  You know, the one that you said was a “sweet old girl- a wonderful companion.”   The one that said you had limited funds.

Here’s the thing, Jean.  Oh, I didn’t ask if I could call you Jean but I’m going to.  Or I could call you a number of other names, none of which you’d like very much.   When I saw Cocoa’s picture on the animal control website, when I saw that grey muzzle and read the description stating that her people of 12 years, her family, had surrendered her to the pound, it broke my heart.

Jean, I once had a dog that was so ornery she got in trouble for biting a kid on the butt because he’d been tugging her ears.  When the city quarantined my dog for 48 hours, I was fully prepared to leave my home, leave school, leave everything in the dead of night, everything except my dog.  I was going to Thelma and Louise our asses right out of town.  I wasn’t playing.   Because that’s how I roll.  No dog left behind, Jean.

So when I saw that picture of Cocoa, I just couldn’t understand why someone would dump a family member.   And my empathy for that dog consumed me, until I made yet another rash decision and I rushed to the pound to adopt her.

Act in haste, repent in leisure.  That’s my motto, Jean.

When I got Cocoa I had pink eye and a sinus infection.  I was so sick but I went and got her anyway, because I was worried that dog was terrified and was going to be euthanized, alone and scared, looking everywhere for her people.  I couldn’t stand the thought of it, and she wasn’t even my dog.

It took me two days of antibiotics before I finally realized why she might have been dumped at the pound.  Something tells me Cocoa didn’t become highly incontinent over the course of the week between  you dumping her at the pound and me bringing her home.

It took us a few weeks, Jean, but we finally got the right dosage of meds to keep the incontinence mostly in check.   I was happy, Cocoa was happy, and the house was clean again.

But that didn’t last long, Jean.  Just a few weeks after I got her, she came down with acute pancreatitis.  That meant she needed antibiotics and special food, food that cost me $2.25 per can, and she could easily eat two cans in a day.  But that wasn’t even the worst part of that office visit, Jean.  You probably know what I’m going to say next, right?   About the tumors?

They couldn’t be sure whether the tumors were causing the pancreatitis, so we decided the “wait and see” plan was the best course of action.

And I became more and more convinced that you had abandoned your family member because you knew she was sick.  You knew she had cancer, and you couldn’t afford to treat her or to help her.  What upset me so much, Jean, is that you couldn’t be bothered to drive the extra 20 minutes to take her to the Humane Society, a no-kill shelter.   Or to even take her to your own vet and have her humanely euthanized with you there to comfort her.

So every few weeks I had to go buy expensive food for Cocoa, the family member you dumped at the pound.  The dog that you abandoned.  And every few weeks I would buy her “old lady pee pills.”   I found that XL toddler pull-ups worked the best, once I cut a hole in the back for her tail.

And we waited.

In the meantime, Cocoa went to the mountains.  She fell over the side of a small mountain, she saw deer.  She had so much fun.   She would get frisky and try to play with my other dogs right after they ate.  It happened every night.  She was so cute.  My boys loved her and accepted her, like they accept every sad story that comes home with me.   They would even let her have the hammock bed every night if she wanted it.

On Sunday mornings I would sometimes let all the dogs come climb into bed with me for a while.  Cocoa really liked those mornings, Jean.   She liked to be included.  Sometimes I’d have all three dogs and two cats up there.  She loved it.

But all the while, those tumors were still there.  And surgery wasn’t an option.

This week Cocoa’s belly started swelling.  I kept waiting for it to subside but it didn’t, Jean.   Yesterday we went in for x-rays and found that the masses were too big, her belly too full of fluid to even see her organs.   We could try diuretics to remove the fluid, but that was just a Bandaid.  This wasn’t going away.  And I didn’t want Cocoa’s last days to be filled with consternation over having accidents in the house again.  You see, that’s the difference between us, Jean.  I worried about how Cocoa felt.  I could look in her eyes and see the stress when she had accidents.

So we didn’t do the meds.  I brought her home and figured I’d give her a few last good weeks.  I would spoil her and make her feel like the Grand Dame she was.

But it didn’t turn out that way, Jean.   Turns out today was Cocoa’s last day.

Here’s the thing, though.  Instead of dying on a cold floor in a cold building with people who may or may not give a damn how her end happened, she died in my arms.  I held your dog’s head in my arms and I whispered in her ear while she slipped away.  I told her what a pretty girl she was.  I told her how much I loved her as I stroked that spot just above her eye.

I made sure she knew she was loved.  I made sure that my face was the last face she saw, that my voice was the last voice she heard.

You might wonder why I’m telling you all this, Jean.   You might wonder if I just wanted you to know that Cocoa was ok.

I’d like to disabuse you of that notion.  I’m writing this letter to let you know just what a piece of shit I think you are.   If you ever do read this letter, know that I, along with my many animal-loving friends all over this world, think you are the lowest of the low.  You don’t take a 12-year-old dog, a “sweet old girl- a wonderful companion”, and dump  her at a high-kill shelter.  You didn’t even give her a good chance.

She got lucky the day that I saw her picture because let me tell you, Jean, my animals want for nothing.

And to all the people reading this who “knew” Cocoa Loco, all of her friends around the world,  here’s where the story ends.

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Statute of limitations on Daddy issues

Daddy issues. I gots ‘em.

Hi, my name is Jamie and I’m the adult daughter of an alcoholic.

That’s my label, my cross to bear.

It’s also become a convenient excuse for a lot of things.

Yes, it was hard growing up with a drunk for a Dad. Sure I experienced some stuff that other kids didn’t. My childhood is littered with drunks and druggies. Our family tree was fertilized with booze and pills.

When I was old enough to leave home, I spent way too much time drinking and carousing, throwing myself at guys who couldn’t have cared much less for me.

Meanwhile, I was the stoic daughter, the one who always picked up the pieces. I was the cleaner-upper, fixer of problems, the one who had to clean up all the messes.

And I did it without a cruel word because make no mistake about it- my Dad loved me. I always knew my Dad loved me. And I knew the booze made him an asshole. But I did love my Dad.

Later, that silence in the face of his alcoholism would manifest itself in ugly ways. Too much drinking, too much partying, too much shopping, too much eating, eating disorder, swallowing and stuffing down my feelings.

Here’s what happens when you stuff and swallow your feelings- they will rear their ugly heads at the most opportune and inopportune moments. You might think you’ve got your stuff under control but that ugly beast will wait….

So you live your life doing things that aren’t good for you, aren’t healthy.

And when you look at yourself objectively, you justify and rationalize all that stuff because “I’m the adult daughter of an alcoholic father”. I spent decades of my life thinking I wasn’t good enough because we weren’t enough to make our Dad stop drinking.

I get that. I understand. That was bound to happen to anyone with dad who drank himself to death at age 53.

Some people develop excellent coping skills. Some people don’t. I fall in the don’t category through nobody’s fault but mine.

But here’s the thing. I turned 45 last Sunday.

My Dad died when I was 32. It’s been almost thirteen years since my Dad died.

Hasn’t the statute of limitations run out on my Daddy issues? At what point do they stop being my “Daddy issues” and then become simply my own issues?

At some point you have to stop looking so far into your past to explain your current behaviors. I think I’m at that point. My Dad and his alcoholism have become a convenient excuse and a crutch for my learned behaviors. Sure, some of these behaviors started way back when as a coping mechanism for dealing with him but he’s dead and gone 13 years.

I feel like at this point I need to man up and take responsibility for my own stuff.

I need to stop blaming him.

It is no longer his fault.

I’m a grown woman. I need to take responsibility for all of me, not just the good parts.

The love lessons Boo taught me

new dog

I knew the moment I laid eyes on Boo Radley that our relationship was destined to be a short one.

I’d been bored one Sunday morning, tooling around on Facebook.  A woman I’d met at the vet’s office when I rescued Biscuit, the run-over kitty,  posted a desperate, last minute plea for a permanent home or even just a foster home for an old dog that was scheduled to be euthanized the next morning.   She posted a sad pic of an old, scared  dog laying in a kennel at the pound.

Because I am unable to control my impetuous and impulsive nature, I offered to foster the old dog until a home could be found.   Then the whole foster application process started to get too complicated, so I said I’d give the dog a home.  I’ve got two dogs that look at every new dog as  friend they haven’t met yet, and I’ve got a big fenced-in yard.   Once you have more than one, a third one doesn’t really make that much of a difference.  Just a little more food, a little more chaos.

She used her rescue contacts to “pull” the dog so that nothing would happen to him before we could pick him up the next day.

I got a call from her as soon as they picked him up.    Turns out he was in much worse shape than the photograph had shown.  He was emaciated almost to the point of starvation.   You could see every bone in his poor body.  He was covered in fatty cysts and had a tumor hanging from  his chin.  She suspected there might be more problems than those that met the eye.   Was I still ok with fostering him, knowing he might be sick?

At that moment a sudden calm and clarity came over me.  Yes, I would still take him.  If he was that old, rickety and sickly, his chances of finding a  home were just about nil.

Imagine my horror when I picked him up later that day.

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I decided to name him Boo Radley.   My two dogs are named Atticus and Scout, so having Boo Radley would complete my “To Kill a Mockingbird” set, since I never did like the name Jem.

As I got acquainted with Boo Radley, I started to notice that he had a weird way of walking, almost as if he was walking on his tippy-toes.   Slowly I began to realize that he had the same problem my Sasha had years ago.  Her vertebra had narrowed until they started closing in on her spine and pinching nerves, causing her to lose sensation in the back half of her body.

So I’d just adopted a dog that suffered from the same problems that led me to humanely euthanize Sasha, my soul dog, just a few years before.

Sadness.

I watched as Boo’s back end would slowly start to fall to the side as he tried to eat.  I would pick him back up and brace his  hips between my knees sometimes, just so he could finish his food.  He had a 50/50 chance of remaining on his feet when he would jump from the deck.  My boys would wander around the  yard with him, almost as if they were checking on him.

My nice, clean little house was no longer as clean.  Because Boo had lost a lot of sensation in his back half, he sometimes had accidents before he could get to the back door.  Sometimes my house would smell a little gamey because of  his ear problems.  I bought baby wipes and used them to gently clean his face and ears.    You know it’s love when you put aside your distaste and use wipes to clean your dog’s tumor because sometimes it drags through his food while he eats.

Boo settled into his life with us and I got used to waking up earlier so that I could clean up his messes before anyone else woke up.   His needs weren’t much.  He’s an old fellow, so he didn’t want to play or fetch things.  I fed him as much as he’d eat, trying to fatten  him up, and I gave him a soft bed upon which to lay.  No matter how much he ate, he was still just a bag of bones.  That had to hurt, laying on a hard floor, so I filled my living room with dog beds so that no matter where he fell, he had a soft spot to land.

He ate when he was hungry and he napped in the sunshine the rest of the day.   He stumbled and wobbled around the joint like he owned it.   I nicknamed him Rickety Bones, to go with Big Bones (Atticus),  Medium Bones (Scout), Little Bones (Daisy the cat) and Baby Broken Bones (Biscuit the run-over kitty I rescued).    My boys accepted him and let him be bossy, even when he snapped at them for trying to give him kisses.

The stumbling got worse.  He’d have good days and bad, but nothing we couldn’t live with.  I knew he wasn’t going to get any better.  We just dealt with it.

No matter how much I fed Boo, his bones still stuck out.  There is a hollow, just above his jawbone that still juts out from the side of his head.  That hollow is the perfect spot for kissing.

The last two days I’ve spent a lot of time on the floor with my lips pressed against that  hollow, whispering sweet nothings in Boo’s ears.

I have known for two days now that my time with Boo is coming quickly to an end.   I’ve been remarkably calm about it for a girl who has spent a large part of her life wearing her emotions on the outside of her, like one big exposed nerve that is constantly touched, bumped and bruised by all the sadness in the world.   And  this is the week of the month that my hormones reach Def Con 1 levels.  This is normally the time of month that I’m not allowed to go anywhere near a Petsmart.  I could leave the house to run an errand and come home with two dogs.  True story.   How do you think I got the Bones Brothers?

It’s weird, knowing that I am holding a life in my hands right now.   I know it’s time.  I have no doubt that I am doing the right thing.   Still, I don’t take this lightly.  I want to make sure that Boo knows the love and respect that he deserves, that we all deserve.   I want to make sure that he knows that he important to me, that his life matters.  Sure, I’m anthropomorphizing.  It’s my house, my rules.

I wanted to share Boo’s story because all too often, the older dogs get overlooked in favor of the cute little puppies.  Often, people see the graying muzzle or the tumors and they don’t want to deal with those problems.  They want a puppy that they can have around for many years.

I get that. I really do.  But I think having Boo for such a short time at the end of his life has made it much easier knowing what I’ll have to do sooner than later.

I don’t know what the majority of Boo’s life was like.  I know at some point he was somebody’s pet, because his teeth are still clean and strong, he’s been neutered and he is no stranger to jumping up on a couch.

I do know how Boo’s story will end.  Today, more than any other day, I am showering Boo with all the love and respect he deserves, sprinkled with lots of tears.   I am sad but no amount of tears will take away the knowledge that I did the right thing.  I took Boo when he ran out of options.

So if you ever run across another Boo, please consider giving him a home, even if it’s only for a short while.   Sure it hurts but it’s worth every last minute.

And now I’m going to go press my lips into that hollow and I’m going to whisper sweet nothings in Boo’s ear unti our time runs out.

 

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Boo 2

 

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Lightning in a bottle

Last weekend I went to a three day music festival in Pensacola and that was the first time I’d been back to Pensacola since I left in ’96.

Way, way back in 1994, my best friend, Pilar, and another friend, Mike, were sitting at a picnic table at Shadrack’s, partaking in a few frosty beverages.  Midway through the night, we came up with the brilliant idea (as one does while drinking cold beer on the beach) to move to Pensacola.  Pilar’s then boyfriend lived there, so she had motivation.  Mike and I decided we would go to UWF because it was the only school in Florida that didn’t require a Master’s degree in marine biology.  We could do the four year program and run off and work on Jacques Cousteau’s boat.   The plan sounded like a win/win.

Things didn’t quite turn out the way we planned.  Our little group splintered.  Feelings were hurt and we all went our separate ways.

Pensacola wasn’t a good place for me.  Not that there’s anything wrong with the city.  It’s just that Pensacola is home to a naval base and an officers’ flight training school.

Mix in lots of fly boys and lots of bars and you can understand why Pensacola wasn’t the best place for someone like me, someone easily distracted by bright, shiny objects.  And boys.  I was very distracted by boys.

So I moved to Pensacola with my best friend in the world and another good friend but I moved home alone.

Needless to say, Pensacola doesn’t hold the fondest memories for me.  Sure, there were good times, but that was the one and only time in my life that I’ve ever been homeless.    I was lucky enough to sleep on the floor at Stephanie’s, a tiny little girl with naturally white blond hair to her ass, big blue eyes, perfect complexion and the ability to make a man blush with her foul mouth.  Oh, and she could also rattle the rafters with her belches.  I loved that girl.

So last Friday, as we drove into Pensacola, I was excited because I started remembering things and places like the big red clay hills called The Bluffs.  I used to go down to The Bluffs and climb all over those things.  Good times.

After we got to the hotel and checked into our rooms, we all headed down to the beach to see Pearl Jam.  I had seen them way back in ’92 or ’93.  They played here a few years back but I was broke and didn’t get to see them.

I was not missing them this time.

We got down to the beach venue and stopped in at a little bar.  Pilar and I decided to kick it old school, so I ordered a round of Mind Erasers and we did our shots like we used to- through a straw, glass on the bar, hands clasped behind our backs.

Good times.

After a few drinks, we ran down to the beach to catch Pearl Jam.

And it was magical.

We sank out feet into the sand and drank cold beers and watched one of my favorite bands of all time tear it up for two hours.

We sang every word to almost every song and we danced our asses off.  We hugged and sang and swayed with the music.

It was magical.  They say you can’t catch lightning in a bottle but last Friday night I did just that.   It was magical, it was powerful, it was fun, but most of all it was love.

Those nights don’t happen often.

I will cherish the memory and hold onto it until I catch lightning in a bottle again.