29 June 2009

Remembering Nessa

This Thursday past, we sent our Great Dane Nessa to walk with our Master. We were facing at heat wave and fireworks, either of which could have precipitated a terrifying and agonizing death for her, and she was on her last legs as far as getting into the car was concerned. Her death was peaceful, as was her life, considering that she was, after all, a dog.

And she was our dog, or rather we were her people. From the moment we brought her home she liked the place. She explored it quickly, even going up and down stairs (a thing she had not encountered before), and settled in. She didn't whine her first night. So intent on claiming the territory was she, that she ate the rosebush under which we had buried the ashes of Maya, her predecessor. We didn't punish her for it, and it was the only one of our plants she ever destroyed. She chewed it to bits, thorns and all. It seemed like a kind of doggie exorcism.

Her greatest enthusiasm was food. She is shown above as a puppy relishing her first taste of sour cream! The greatest tragedy of her life was that she became lactose intolerant, and had to do without it in her last years. This was more than compensated by our discovery of liverwurst as a medium for administering her medications.

Her second greatest enthusiasm was fur-to-skin deep conditioning aromatherapy spa treatments which she would self-administer by rolling in carnivore scats, or preferably cow manure. (Horse manure was a problematic decision - should one wear it or eat it?) Once during a walk through what turned out to be a pasture, she encrusted herself from head to tail in a cow manure rind over an inch thick. We had to shout to other hikers not to pet her lest their hands get stuck. Cleaning her (and our car, and ourselves) took hours, causing us to miss an opportunity to reconnect with former neighbors.

She took no trophies during her life (she didn't even like raw meat) other than title of Miss Congeniality. She was the easiest to train, most obedient, most compliant dog we have ever owned. When we put her on the lunge line we used to train Maya, our first Great Dane, she didn't lunge anywhere. She just looked at us as if to say, "OK. Where do you want to go?"

She was also a champion sleeper, having spent less than 2 of her almost 10 years on this planet in a state of wakefulness. Nevertheless, she was a quick learner of obedience commands and a student of human behavior who developed the ability to tell when we were going to take her for a walk before we knew ourselves. Or perhaps she had learned to shape human behavior rather than to predict it. She never revealed her secret.

She was the girlfriend/dominatrix of Pongo, our German Shorthaired Pointer, who preceded her in death. Although they rarely cuddled, they played until they were played out.

She struggled with early onset arthritis which eventually spread from her neck to her tail, laryngeal paralysis which gave her breathing difficulty, and female spay incontinence. This last could be spectacular: she awoke to greet us, wagging her tail which had been soaked in the puddle that appeared while she was sleeping. We were up until the wee hours cleaning the wee off the ceiling! We got this under control with PROIN (phenylpropanolamine), but in her last months she anointed the chair she inherited from Pongo so deeply that we had to let it go after she no longer needed it.

She was also great protection. When she held her head up, her nose was about chest height for an average sized person. This gave a new meaning to the phrase, "Eat your heart out," and served to help door-to-door salespeople take us seriously when we said we weren't interested. Her bark was loud enough to make the reflections in the windows waver.

As a puppy, she was afraid of children, and would bark at them. After some socialization, however, Halloween became her favorite day of the year, because she could greet the trick-or-treaters. Their parents even got used to her looming over their costumed kids. Although she was not cuddly, she was sweet and friendly, and loved to be stroked and petted. If she particularly liked the way she was being petted, she would lean on the person petting her, and sigh.

She never lost her enthusiasm for a good walk, provided it wasn't too hot or too long. This picture is from her last one.

23 June 2009

Note to Congress

For those of you in Congress who are dismayed that the Iranian election appears to have been stolen, consider whether you were elected in a gerrymandered district. Then, either fix the gerrymandering, or hold your peace.

Next, please note that if you support health care reform that exempts you and your staffers from its provisions, then you must implicitly consider yourself better or more important than the rest of us. But we are supposed to have government of the people, by the people - not by an elite. If you aren't willing to be one of the people, to have health care rationed to you the way it is rationed to the people, then you hold your office falsely, because you have deceived the people into thinking you actually cared about us so we would vote for you.

Of course there is a difference between you and Brother Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But for many of you it is a difference in degree.

18 June 2009

Is Iran Burning?

The Anchoress has some news and opinions, as well as some links. The present Iranian government was established by a revolution. It is acutely aware that it can be replaced by another one, and is taking active steps to suppress the possibility.

12 June 2009

Coming Around Again

I walked early under the Shadow of Death. It approached with the loss of my mother's parents, and again with the death of my father's dog. Just when I began to put it out of my mind the father of the girl next door was killed when a tractor-trailer jack-knifed into his car on a wet road. Then my own father died of a heart attack. I was twelve. Shortly after I turned thirteen, I was struck by a car and would not walk again for over six months. Then began a series of losses of relatives and friends such that by the time I graduated from college I felt weighed down by a burden of grief. I had a girlfriend, but she had doubts about spending her life with me. I just wasn't fun. I had become a serious young man.

So, I walked in the woods behind my childhood home. I stopped at the edge of a large pond (long since drained) and said goodbye to all the people I had lost. One by one, I let them go. I promised to visit them now and then, but I could no longer carry them with me. I had to take time to just enjoy being alive.

It worked. I later learned that my meditation was similar to one psychotherapists recommend for grief/depression that consists of putting all your losses or sad thoughts in a little boat on a river, and then letting it drift away with the flow.

The problem is that the river flows in a circle. Sooner or later, the boat comes around again to pick up another passenger. Until it's your turn to get in.

Now we're getting ready to euthanize our remaining dog, a Great Dane. She is old, arthritic, and suffering from laryngeal paralysis, which means her vocal folds snap shut when she gets hot, excited, or fearful, or whenever she walks more than a few steps. Which means she strains and wheezes and whistles to suck in air. Our vet said that if we don't euthanize her first, then a day will come when she will simply go into cyanosis (her tongue and mucuous membranes will turn blue from lack of oxygen), collapse, and die. For the first time in 31 years, the house will be empty when we come home.

The boat has picked up about a dozen people in the past few months, including my mother and many family friends of her generation. Now it's time for the dog. And next month, my childhood home. We will put it up for sale, because we don't want to be absentee landlords, and the neighbors were good to Mom. They deserve a new neighbor who will be good to them. And the house deserves an owner that will bring it out of the 1970s.

For the first time in 53 years I will be unable to visit the home I grew up in, except as a stranger who can only stand on the street and look at the outside, nostalgic for an interior that no longer exists. Indeed, I will help disassemble that interior by putting the contents into an estate sale.

Its OK, really. You get used to your griefs like you get used to your aches and pains. They recede into the background, and you can do what you want to do, and experience what you want to experience. Including joy, including elation. But every once in a while, something just yanks that background to the front.

We rented "My Dog Skip" from NetFlix and watched it the other day. At the end, well, oh s--t. We just cried.