Looking back on the lives and deaths of childhood pets
Hopefully this isn’t as morbid as that sounds.
Animals have made their way into my heart in a way that most people haven’t. I’m not a huge animal rights activist, even though I’m a vegetarian, but there’s something about a certain few dogs and cats that have become more like family than pets throughout my life. Here’s a timeline of what I’ve learned, if anything, from them.
Jossette (cat): Pre-me - 1992?, calico colored. She peed too much when I was born; parents got rid of her. Lesson learned: don’t pee on the television if you want to stick around.
Dylan (cat): Pre-me - 1996?, mostly grey, some white. I have so few memories of Dylan, other than the fact that his namesake makes a lot of sense if you know my dad. Lesson learned: cats can be nice too.
Roger (dog): Pre-me - 1999, schnauzer. My parents got him before they had kids, perhaps as a “test kid.” Roger was a great dog, though. He didn’t need a fence to stay in the back yard and he understood that when I was born, I now got most of the attention. It seemed only fitting that he died because his heart grew too big for his small body (physically and metaphorically). Lesson learned: don’t put Christmas tree ornaments too low on the tree if you don’t want them carried away and chewed up.
Sunny (bird): 1998-1998? Birds are weird. Owning birds is weirder. The concept of keeping a living creature in a cage has too much of a power dynamic to it. You’re in a cage and I’m not. Ha ha ha. I don’t like it. Lesson learned: Don’t own animals that normally live in cages. No one deserves that. Also, don’t keep birds too close to the door or the draft with get em…
KC (cat): 1998 - Present, black. We’ve still got this old cat (16 years and counting) and even though she drives my parents nuts with her constant howl of a meow, I still love her. We took to each other when my mom brought her home. She was the first pet I had that taught me what it meant to own a pet. Clean her cat box (even though I rarely did that), feed her (which she didn’t allow me to forget to do), brush her hair (that’s still covered in mats for a short-haired cat). Needless to say, she’s definitely the product of a beginner pet owner. I’m looking forward to the day when I have my own apartment and can take her with me—I know mom can’t wait. Lesson learned (and still learning): you can definitely love a creature/human/whatever even when s/he’s not popular among others *ahem mom and dad*.
George (dog): 1996 - Present, miniature schnauzer. He’s also definitely getting up there, but you better believe that George still has spunk in him. I’m not sure if it’s because his joints ache or if it’s something else, but he’s developed a gallop when he walks that makes him seem no older than 3. We got George in 2000 for my dad’s 40th birthday (oops sorry to give away your age, dad), and when you think of “rescue dog,” he should come to mind. George is a little guy, maybe 10 lbs., and other dogs fought with him before we got him. He’s always had some trust issues (don’t we all), but he loves my dad like no other. He now probably sleeps 22 hours out of the day, but during his short waking hours, he’s still hunting the backyard for burglars, rabbits and ever-hated UPS men. Lesson learned (and still learning): you can still be a fighter when you’re older than dirt. Don’t let old age be the reason you become soft.
Dobi (dog): 2000?-2013, black pomeranian. When I was in 6th grade, my mom had this plan to adopt an old, sad dog from the pound-the dog that no one else wanted and who would probably die in the shelter. Then she saw Dobi, the happiest, fluffiest 4-year-old pom you’d ever meet. All previous plans dashed out of the window when she entered our lives. She was also small and delicate, and she and my grandmother would keep each other warm during winter temperatures. She was the best thing to happen to my mom since my brother and I were born, except she remained the “baby” while we grew up. Dobi was spoiled, well-fed and adored by my mom and brother. By high school, I would roll my eyes when she got food scraps and took over my parents queen-sized bed. But eventually I realized just how happy she made my mom, and the whole family for that matter. Yes, she was spoiled and got more attention than the other dogs, but also showed the same amount of affection back (except when she peed on the rug). I cried like a baby when I found out she’d died. It was unexpected and I was 3000 miles from home. I’d read the Facebook message from my brother in a cafe in Amsterdam that morning. Julia lovingly didn’t oblige while I was hopelessly miserable for a day, randomly starting the waterworks at a moment’s notice. I still don’t think I’ve thanked her enough for not hating me. I didn’t even realize how much I loved Dobi. I cried for her; I cried for my mom; I cried for me. Lesson learned: embrace love, even when you knowing distribute it unevenly.
Rena (dog): 2010 - Present, golden pom. We’ve only had Rena since October and I’m still trying to figure her out. Don’t get me wrong, she’s adorably happy and another nice pom (where do we keep getting them??), but her personality is all over the place. At times she’s all athletics—she does laps around the front yard in the morning, likes walks around the block, and plays with her squeaky toy for as long as you will. But then the prissy, I-dont-want-to-get-my-feet-wet aspect of her comes out. Maybe that’s a pom thing, because Dobi was the same way. But that (Dobi) was the major hesitation for getting her, or any dog. It had been a little over a month after Dobi’s passing when my mom started looking at new dogs. I kept telling myself it was surely too soon. At this moment, whatever dog we found wouldn’t ever live up to the standard that Dobi made. A month after that, we found this beautiful, unconditionally loving pup, and it no longer felt too soon. It felt right. Lessons learned (and continuing to learn): new companionship can help mend the broken heartedness of lost companionship. Don’t close your heart just because it’s still picking up the pieces from the past.
and the inspiration for this post…
Sammy (dog): 1999-2014, she was supposed to be a beagle and then she was 60 lbs. Sammy is the reason I love pets, dogs especially. I never knew dogs could have so much intentional love before we got her. As a puppy, Sam had a pink stripe down her nose, and we watched her grow and the stripe shrink. When she and George got out of the fence, and we could run through the neighborhood screaming their names (tears generally streaking my face), they always stuck together, her watching out for him. And one day I got curious as to why she always slept on the landing of our stairs with her head jammed up against the wall. It couldn’t be comfortable, I thought, so being the 10-year-old me, I put my head in the same place she did to see what she could see. She could see all of my family’s bedroom doors and the front door. She was the protector. Her tail wagged so hard it knocked drinks off the coffee table or smacked a smaller dog in the face. She slept in my bed when me moved. She never forgot me when I would be absent from home for over a month. I’ve known Sammy longer than most people and losing her this morning was like losing a family member. I skipped all my classes (sorry parents) and stayed in my room remembering her. She had gotten really sick in the last year. Last March, the vet said she only had a few more months, so it’s a miracle she made it this long. But that’s when my mourning officially begun. I started crying at the thought of her passing. I was so scared she wouldn’t be there when I came back from a summer abroad. And I watched her pain in the last month like it was my own pain. It almost scares me how much I loved her. Are we supposed to love dogs this much? What does it say about my other relationships? Am I that messed up? Who knows. I’m still in the period where I’m certain I’ll never find a better dog, and I’m okay with that. This has gotten to be a really long post, and I don’t really care. I grieve through writing. When family and friends have died, I write about it. Someone as important in my life as Sammy deserves a long-ass post. Here’s to you, sweetie. You taught me way more than a dog probably can. Lessons learned: show love like a dog does—unending, always forgiving, and effortlessly strong. Also, no dog is too big to be a lap dog.
So i got a kindle for christmas and I’m halfway through my second book
Excuse me, second John Green novel, and I’ve just now realized why I love this thing. Not just that I can have instant access to my long overdue must-read list (for which my bank account will surely feel the brunt end), but the little feature that tells you when 10,734 people have highlighted this sentence. Because without sharing it on Facebook or retweeting it, I have a connection to those 10,734 people who found a phrase so beautiful that I know it pierced their hearts with sadness and happiness at the same time. It’s like a nod to the rest of the fiction world saying, yeah, I teared up here too.
black friday & how cancer sucks
Black Friday has a different meaning this year. Today we lost a very strong woman who lived through struggles I’ll never understand. Rest peacefully, Lori Phillips Buckland.
I lost an “aunt” today. See, I wasn’t just raised by my parents. I was also raised by a group of close friends, mostly women, that have been an integral part of my upbringing. These women have shaped the kind of person I want to be. They are out spoken, courageous and excellent cooks. They reminisce about everyone working together at the Frederick News Post oh those many years ago. They complain only a little. They have been with me and my brother at every turn of our lives. They are role models of kindness, honesty and passion.
Lori quilted my baby blanket and made me jewelry for which that I still get compliments. Even in her roughest times she bore a smile. Lori loved her husband Arnold more than anything in the world, and you saw it every time they were together. If only the nasty cancer that took them both would leave this world forever. It crept up, so suddenly, taking a beautiful life before we would ever be ready.
This group of people, including my family, usually spent Easter together, sitting outside among the flowers, eating only the best dishes. This upcoming spring will be incomplete without Lori’s laughter and infectious smile, but if we’ve learned anything from her, it’s that we take what life gives us and we make the best. Thanks for being in my life, Aunt Lori. I’ll do my best to emulate your radiance at every additional turn.
I haven’t written much for myself in a while
I remember so clearly the day my freshman year when the then-dean of the journalism school talked to my Intro to Journalism class about the importance of writing. I think I maybe even quoted him here afterwards. He said we need to be writing about everything. We need to have a blog and we need to put our thoughts into words and our words available for others to read. I haven’t been doing that too much lately. Maybe that’s the empty space I’ve been feeling recently. I’ve had this feeling like there’s something I need to be doing.
Someone of religious authority told me recently that I have a gift for written words. Whether that is true or not is highly debatable. But every time I see him, he asks if I’ve been writing, and more and more often I reply no, nothing more than school papers and articles. It’s only just today that I realized those questions are not for him to scold me or judge me for not being a diligent writer, but for me to be honest with myself.
Writing is a very spiritual practice for me. My spoken prayers, aloud or (usually) silent, are often jumbled phrases and rambling sentences that make half the amount of sense that I’m trying to communicate. But when writing, the prayers flow so naturally. Like everything I’ve been trying to say just goes past the traffic jam in my mouth and straight to my fingertips. Straight to the pen and paper. No road bumps in between. It’s odd—I’m not sure why it happens, but maybe that’s why this man of God said I had a gift.
It’s time to reintroduce myself to the art and practice of writing for me—not just for an assignment.
When dogs get old, they feel just as much physical discomfort as humans, yet instead of complain, they continue to show unconditional love.
Every time I leave the house, I’m worried she’ll go when I’m not there. Hang in there, kid. We already lost one member of the pack, and I’m sure as hell not ready to lose another.
So what I’ve learned most from this trip is that I’m a bad blogger. I’ll start posting highlights of the trip with actual explanations soon instead of just instagram pictures.