Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Farewell to Indy

Our first family dog, the big beast, Indy, made his way to the Rainbow Bridge last Wednesday, June 24. We don't know how old he was, but I am certain he lived an excellent life with us.

When Jon and I moved to Berne, we started watching The Dog Whisperer on Saturday mornings (ah, the days, when we could lay around and watch TV all day . . . . ). A decade before, when Jon and I were hanging out in San Francisco, I had remarked that he was a dog person, and I was a cat person. We had cats our entire relationship, but we'd not had a dog. Moving to the country, as we had when we bought our house with its 27 acres, it seemed natural to consider getting a dog. Both of us like big dogs, and after watching Cesar Milan, we decided we wanted to rescue a dog. Jon began scanning the various rescue organization websites. We especially monitored a site called Peppertree, which was a rescue dedicated to Golden Retrievers and dogs with Golden personalities. Indy was one of the dogs we began to watch.

Jon really wanted a German Shepherd, but the one he really had his eye on got adopted. And then another. And then another. But, Indy, some sort of yellow lab/hound mix, remained on the adoptee list. A few days before I was to travel to Dresden, Germany, we agreed that Jon would go to an adoption day and see Indy. The day I left for Dresden, I told Jon to adopt him (I don't remember this, but Jon is certain that's how this went down).

So, on adoption day, Jon went to the adoption day, and according to him, spent most of his time with other dogs, and as they were beginning to pack up, told the gals there that he'd been sent to adopt Indy.

But, you have to understand that Indy was not the gorgeous beast he was with us. When Jon brought him home, he was about 20 pounds underweight, his hair was falling out in patches and what remained was bristly, and he was aloof and anxious--not the sort of dog that said "love me".

Jon kept Indy on a leash the first few days. We weren't sure how he would be around the cats, and we'd agreed that we wouldn't adopt a dog that jeopardized the sanctity that our cats had come to enjoy. But, other than giving them a sniff, everyone was mutually uninterested. Indeed, on the whole, he was a great dog: he was housebroken, knew his name and usually came when he was called, and was great to walk on leash.

When I got home, about a week after Jon brought him home, I found him to be gentle and attentive when he wanted to be. And anxious. He wanted to be wherever we were. He didn't make a sound. All his hair was falling out, but the new hair coming in was soft and healthy.

The weekend after I got back, I put my running shoes on to go for a run. I thought I'd take him with and see how he would be. Cesar Milan was a big fan of exercising dogs to help them calm down, and I thought a run would help Indy's anxiety. As I was lacing up a shoe, I suddenly heard this baritone bark. I looked up, and Indy was standing about 10 feet from me, looking eagerly at me, and yelling his enthusiasm. Jon, who was upstairs at the time, peaked down the stairway and said "was that Indy?" After that, we ran faithfully, and he barked faithfully whenever something required him to yell, especially at housesitters around 6 am.

He was a great dog to run with. He always stayed next to me or slightly behind me, and he rarely pulled. He had a gorgeous, steady gate that was easy to keep pace with, and he truly loved being out by my side.

As sweet as he was as a runner, he was a royal pain with any food left out in his reach. Maybe a week or so into his life with us, Jon and I were enjoying cheese and crackers in front of the TV watching Adult Swim (another ritual that fell away with children . . . . but it was better for both our waste lines that we got out of that habit). Indy was nosing around the coffee table, and before I realized what he was doing, he had tilted his head and took the entire block of cheese in his mouth! Now, this is the dog who had to be given permission to eat his dog food, but he had no qualms about stealing food off the coffee table. Or the dining room table. After the twins were born, we had finished up dinner in the dining room and had left plates on the table while Jon and I were changing the girls. When I came back down, Indy was *standing* on the dining room table. It's quite a site to see an 80 pound dog standing on a table. And, of course, when I yelled at him, he jumped off and scratched my beautiful table. Beast!

When the girls were born, he was so gentle with them. He took anything they dished at him, including riding him, grabbing his tale, and playing in his dog dish.

But, what he couldn't take was being left alone, thunder, and fireworks.

Part of the reason I wanted to adopt him, and I convinced Jon to go along with me (or so the story goes), was that Indy had separation anxiety. He needed someone around with him all the time, and since Jon and I typically work from home a fair amount, I figured that we'd be good candidates for adoption. But, everyone needs to leave on occasion without the dog, especially in summer when it's too hot to leave dogs in cars. We adopted Indy at the end of May or beginning of June. A few weeks after we had Indy, we left him behind uncrated. When we got home from our outing, we found the screen door of a window popped out (the window's bottom frame was 5' above the floor), and Indy nowhere to be seen. We began to comb the neighborhood at the same time as our neighbor, Peggy, was bringing him back to us. He'd jumped through the open window, popped the screen, and ran to Peggy's house. Peggy described him as being so sorry and at the same time so happy to find a human. We got a second dog to help him with his anxiety (Bella), and it worked for him, but not for her . . . .

But, anyway, I dreaded thunderstorms through the summer months because Indy was such a mess when the loud booms began. He would start by shaking violently, then pant and drool uncontrollably. He was impossible to get settled down when he got like that. If the storms were when we were up and about, I would start doing chores, especailly in the kitchen, and he would follow me around. I would pin him between my legs and the cabinets and squeeze him there. At night, if we were in bed, we'd coax him up onto the bed, and I would put a towel under him (he drooled SO much), and put my legs over him to squeeze him. Sometimes it would calm him enough to stop panting aggressively. Sometimes. Jon has missed every 4th of July outing with the girls and me, as he stayed home to keep Indy from destroying the house in his anxiety. If we weren't home when the booms began (thunder or fireworks), he could do serious damage. He tore doors off hinges, chewed door frames, doorknobs, and once tried to chew his way through the cat door to get to the basement. His chewing was an effort to get to the other side, where he thought he might find refuge or maybe us.

He developed an auto-immune disorder that was undiagnosed until we moved to Cazenovia. His tail and nose would bleed for no reason. We thought the tail blood was because he would wag so hard when he was excited that we thought he was breaking the skin against the corners of walls or furniture. After we brought Isabel and then the twins home from the hospital and in the intense weeks that followed, my walls looked like a lawn gnome with an axe had come through and had gone on a knee-slashing spree--for all of the blood that was flung against the walls in our living room. The diagnosis and the drugs that we gave him absolutely prolonged his life and gave him renewed health and vitality.

We learned a little about his back story from the workers at Peppertree when we attended an event for dogs and their adopted families the first year we had him. He had been picked up by animal control twice. The first time, his owners had been found and he'd been returned. The second time, he had had a run-in with a porcupine, and the owners told the Humane Society that they didn't want him back. "We are so done with that dog" was the quote we got from a volunteer. He was cared for by the Humane Society for about six months, but no one showed any interest in adopting him. He was taciturn and scruffy looking. He was slated to be euthanized, but the volunteers at Peppertree who worked with the Humane Society to identify dogs that might still get a chance to be adopted out, took him in and fostered him out to volunteers who found him gentle and deserving of another chance.

My only regret is that we weren't with him when he died. We went on vacation last week, and for only one of the two times in his life with us, we boarded him and Bella (her story waits for another day). There is a unique business that boards dogs in our village. Camile is a former vet tech who cares for animals who have medical and anxiety issues. She has a beautiful yard and even plays classical music outside for the dogs. After we arrived in California for vacation, Camile called to say that Indy was having a hard time keeping down water. She'd called our vet, who had advised monitoring him. The next day, before Camile could get him to the vet, he passed on her porch, laying in the sunshine. Camile called while were were at Six Flags for our first amusement park adventure with the girls to share with us this sad news. It was surreal feeling heartbroken while surrounded by
music, crowds, ice cream, and rides. But, I think it was a bit easier on the girls. They were all quite sad, and Audrey was especially vocal about her sadness while Bridget didn't cry but told me later in the day how very sad she was, and I believe her. Indeed, seeing how each girl handled Indy's death in her own way, it reminds me that there is no single way to grieve, and that sometimes the melodramatic sorts (Audrey) are not any more sad than the quiet contemplative sorts (Bridget).

So, Indy, our first dog, the first animal the girls grew attached to and whose death they are likely to remember always, my first dog as an adult that I sincerely enjoyed (most of the time), he was worth the second chance and more.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Farewell to Little Boy

It is with great sadness that we had to say goodbye to Little Boy this morning.

He was diagnosed with diabetes in August. This weekend he stopped eating and became lethargic. He developed diabetic ketoacidosis, which is the effect of poor glucose treatment. He never responded well to insulin, and his blood sugar levels were always high, even as we measured his glucose levels and injected him with insulin twice a day.

Boy-O came to us in 2004. He and his sister Tillie were found as kittens by our friends Kate and Jeff on a golf course during a tournament. Kate noticed a kitten in the weeds, and brought both of them to the vet. They were undernourished and sickly, but Kate and Jeff nursed them back to health. They couldn't keep the kittens because of their own cats, but we had three of our own (Hailie, Shadow, and Fisher), and we were unsure whether it was wise to take in two more cats. Our vet, though, suggested that we could handle it. So, one weekend, we journeyed to Philadelphia and brought the kittens back with us to Albany.

Little Boy was initially named Gormley, after the golf tournament's name. I can't say exactly how he got the name Little Boy. It was a rather ironic name. He quickly became a big cat, around 16-18 pounds, but he had a very high pitched meow like a kitten.

I must confess to feeling bad for letting him get so big, a product of Shadow and then Hailie being sick and hardly eating. We kept food out all the time to encourage our granny cats to eat--something Little Boy took full advantage of.

Little Boy was a playful, loving cat. He and his sister played constantly. They were always tumbling around, chasing each other, and playing with the other cats. When Kitty Meow joined us two years ago, he and she became best playmates. Little Boy is the only cat we've had who snuggled up with the dogs. He would rub his head on Indie's and sleep curled up with Bella. Although, he rarely curled up with us on the bed, and if he did, it was always at our feet.

He was a gem of a beast--by far the mellowest, sweetest, most charming cats we've had. He will be missed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Fairwell Hailie

Today Jon and I had to put our last granny cat to rest, our dear Hailie.

She lived 18 years, which is far longer than I could have hoped for, but the last year she was clearly an elderly cat. About a year ago she began losing weight, just as the twins had come into our lives. We began a more aggressive feeding regimen that included wet cat food and "Cat Sip", a commercial, lactose-free milk for pets, that fortunately she loved. Mixing the two of them together and giving them to her was a recipe she could stand, and although she did not really gain back her lost weight, she did not lose more.
The last few days, I noticed her lying around in unusual places, the middle of the kitchen floor, the bathroom floor, next to the dog dishes. Last week, I came upon her, lying there, looking more like a rug than a cat because she was so skinny, with bony hips and shoulders protruding from her fur, and thought she had died. She was so still and was in such an odd location, I bent down and gave her a little touch, and she raised her head and looked at me in that "do you mind, I'm resting here" look.

Today, she didn't come down for breakfast, and an hour later, I heard her meowing, but it wasn't her usual caterwaul. As an aside, Hailie has always had a loud yowl, but it got louder, I swear the last few years. And, she would yowl at the oddest times, often when the house had grown quiet as we headed to bed or in the wee hours of the morning. But, the meow today sounded more like the meow of her kitten self, and I thought it sounded like she was telling us she was in trouble or in pain. Jon reported later in the early afternoon that Hailie was moving very stiffly. I saw it for myself an hour later, as I saw her walk across the kitchen floor. She was moving so slowly, like every step was a tremendous effort, and her balance was slightly off. Fisher had done the same thing in her last hours. I said to Jon when I saw her "we're going to have to put her down." He nodded.

But, it's Sunday. Our normal vet isn't open. So, initially, the plan was to make a call first thing tomorrow. But, as the afternoon wore on, it became clear that she was in discomfort. She would move every 10 or so minutes from one flat-cat position to another, stretched out, breathing slowly, eyes wide open. At 4, we agreed we needed to take her to the emergency clinic and end her discomfort before tomorrow.

Much to our relief, a neighbor was able to come over and watch the girls, and we took Hailie on her last car ride. She hardly moved while we drove. When we got to the clinic and had her euthanized, she went very quickly. She seemed tired, ready.

We, Jon and I, of course were not ready. It does not get easier, even though this is our third.

But, it's more important to remember how she lived than how she died.

Hailie came to us right before Mother's Day in 1993. The plan was to get a kitten from the local animal shelter and give it to my mom for Mother's Day. So, we went to the shelter, and entered a chaotic scene of young teens and a few adults playing what I can only describe as musical kittens.
There were 8 or so kittens available for adoption, and they were being passed around by interested adopters. Hailie or what soon became Hailie kept getting passed on to others, who passed her on, as they aimed for some smaller, cuter kitten. Hailie was the oldest of the kittens, larger, blander, with big paws. She was shy, and seemed uncomfortable with all the people handling her.

When she finally came into our hands, and there were no other hands to pass her on to, Jon even before I did had decided she was to be ours. We paid our fee, and brought her home. She was the second cat in our domicile. Fisher was the first beast in our house, and I was very curious how Fisher and Hailie would get on.

Of course, at first Fisher was unhappy about this new presence, and Hailie spent much time in hiding, but gradually, they became buddies. Over that weekend, it became clear to Jon and I that we were going to keep Hailie for our own. Another cat would have to be found for Mom (and we did, Cleo, but that's another story).

Hailie became a much more distant cat after Shadow's arrival that summer. She stopped hanging with Fisher, as Shadow began hogging Fisher's time, and Shadow and Hailie never got along.
She almost never slept on the bed with us, and when she did she preferred to be on a corner near our feet.

Hailie was still excellent at getting our attention, though. She was the master of the door (she made a much better door than window standing in front of our monitors as we tried to work). She loved getting our attention while we worked at our computers. Jon created a special camp for her in front of his monitor (in part to try and get her to park her keester so he could see past her).

She had the infamous "paw of doom." When she felt annoyed at Shadow, in particular, she'd unleash a thumping. Hailie would raise her right paw almost above her head, and bring it down in fast, repeated thumps upon the head of Shadow.  Hailie had no use for irritating other cats, and let them know it with her boxer paw.

Yogurt was one of her favorite treats. When I'd dish myself up some yogurt or had a yogurt cup, she'd be at my desk faster than I could take my first taste of it. I used to save the last bits from the yogurt cup for her. Occasionally, she'd get her head so pushed into the cup that it would get wedged in there, and then she'd walk backwards shaking her head trying to get the yogurt cup off, and when it did, her whiskers and forehead often would be smudged with her favorite stuff, then she'd happily sit there cleaning herself off with her hard-fought treasure.

She loved, I mean loved, drinking water by licking it off her paws. She especially loved dipping her paws in water glasses, preferably ones I was presently trying to drink out of. She was so bad about it that I could not trust that if I left a glass of water around that it would not be free of cat feet when I returned. Because of her, I stopped drinking out of regular drinking glasses at my desk, and switched to water bottles that I could close so that I wouldn't lose my freshly poured glass of water to Hailie's furry, dirty feet. She would create such a mess when she drank this way, letting her wet paw drip while she licked the water off. And, when she went back for more, she'd swish her paw around slopping water over the edges of the glass. Indeed, that was often the way I knew she'd adulterated one of my water glasses -- the sloppy wet mess around the glass, and then the wet cat paw marks of her departure. [I poured a glass of water tonight, and with a bitter smile noted I'd not have to worry about losing it to Hailie's cat feet.]

Hailie was a brown tabby, not particularly remarkable in markings, but she had stunning, large green eyes with an intent, wise look in them. She was the tallest and the biggest of our cats, not in weight (Shadow beat her there in her early years), but in height and stature. At her largest I think she weighed around 12 pounds.

As we acquired "the kittens" Tillie and Little Boy and last year Kitty Meow, Hailie tolerated them but like with Shadow mostly ignored them unless they irritated her in some way. It made me sad the day I saw her give way to Little Boy's bullying. In Hailie's prime, she'd have shown Boy-o who was the boxer of the family, but at 15 or 16, she was in her retirement and not up to such kitten antics. She chose to leave rather than fight.

With Hailie's passing, it feels like the end of something, an era maybe. Hailie, like Fisher and Shadow, were with Jon and I from our wedding, our moves around Minneapolis, to Philadelphia, and to Albany and our climb up the career ladder. Hailie had the distinct privilege of being the granny cat who came to know all of the daughters, something Shadow did not live long enough to experience, and Fisher only survived long enough to greet Isabel into this world.

These cats have been like Talismen, totems, sacred objects that journeyed with us, watched over us, nurtured us, and loved us for who we were, imperfect in all our ways. I am, as ever, grateful for their presence. Indeed, before we had daughters, we had cats. They were our children. Now our three cat-children have passed.

To Shadow, to Fisher, and now to Hailie, I honor your lives, your distinct characters, your special way of helping me to pause and share a bit of love with you and in return to receive it from you. Hailie, I love and miss you, special creature that you were, that you are.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No Longer Posting

I've stopped blogging here. With Isabel, twins on the way, trying to achieve tenure, etc., there just aren't enough hours of the day to update this blog.

I've been mulling whether to keep it up or take it down. For the time being, I'll keep it up. Maybe the time and spirit will appear once again.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stand By Me

I have several essays in my head at the moment, but they'll have to wait for the grading to be done.

In the meantime, here's a very sweet rendition of Stand by Me played by musicians around the world at PlayingforChange.com. I'm a big softie for this stuff, and it touches the soul.

'Tis the Season for Giving.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Crisis at SUNY

Today, I attended one of the townhall forums hosted by the President, Provost, and CFO. I thought I was up on the latest budget happenings, but the information provided by CFO Kathy Lowry about UAbany's budget situation is far worse than I'd realized.

A few notable highlights:

--The University is increasing tuition for students by $300 in the spring semester. This money would help offset a small portion of the budget cuts exacted by the governor. The problem is that the legislature did not vote Nov. 19th to allow the SUNYs to spend that revenue. So, the money, as of now, cannot be spent.

--The University is bound by contract to pay union negotiated salary increases, but the state is not going to provide the University the additional revenue to pay for those salary increases. That money will then have to come from somewhere in the budget.

--The SUNY system is considered a state agency, and the governor has sole discretion to increase or cut higher education at his discretion with no input from the legislature. So far, Patterson has cut the budget for SUNY by over 10%. President Phillips described it as: a university research center, a four year comprehensive center, a technical center, and the entire SUNY central administration would need to be dissolved in order for the SUNY system to break even under the current budget constraints.

--Before the current budget cuts, Ualbany was receiving approximately 18% of its operating funds from the state. After the cuts, it's 15%. If more cuts come, then even less (and yet we're called a state school. Cornell gets more revenue percentage-wise from the state than we do, yet they're considered private).

--I asked about adjuncts. Provost Phillips said that the University cannot respond to this crisis with an increase in adjuncts to replace tenure track faculty. We are already ranked poorly because of our 1 to 21 tenure-line faculty to student ratio. With the budget cuts, we're likely going to increase to 1 to 23, which is bad. The Provost underscored that she does not want to see the entire university become mediocre as a result of this budget cut. She mentioned that rather than increasing the number of adjuncts, they are going to shrink the incoming Freshman and transfer populations next year (we're currently at an unprecedented 18,300 students) to try to hold down the faculty/student ratio, and to look at cutting whole programs.

There are a number of problems that the budget situation is highlighting. One of the biggest structural problems for the SUNY system is our designation as a "State Agency" under the Executive. We are the only higher education system *in the country* that is structured this way. It means that even though only a fraction of our budget comes from the state, we are under the budgetary whims of the governor, yet cannot raise tuition without legislative approval. It means that the SUNY system is especially inflexible to find new ways of increasing revenue, such as tuition, when the executive branch decides to de-prioritize higher education spending.

In short, things are grim.

If this pisses you off as much as it does me, the UUP is urging faculty, staff, students, and parents to fax their representatives. Information can be found here: http://www.uupinfo.org/. Do NOT use campus resources (your work computer, the department's fax) to make your voice heard to your state legislators.

If you're not part of the union, but you're worried about what the budget cuts mean for higher education in New York State, then contact your representatives, write letters to the editor, and talk with friends and family about this crisis.

Everyone needs to share the burden in a bad economy, but it is cutting the nose to spite the face to cut higher education in a downturn. It is affordable higher education that gives people the opportunity to enter or re-enter the marketplace as skilled workers and productive citizens.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More from Yes Men

I got another Press Release this evening from the Yes Men about the NYTimes hoax.

November 12, 2008


"SPECIAL" NEW YORK TIMES BLANKETS CITIES WITH MESSAGE OF HOPE AND CHANGE Thousands of volunteers behind elaborate operation

* PDF: http://www.nytimes-se.com/pdf
* Ongoing video releases: http://www.nytimes-se.com/video

* The New York Times responds: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/pranksters-spoof-the-times/

Hundreds of independent writers, artists, and activists are claiming credit for an elaborate project, 6 months in the making, in which 1.2 million copies of a "special edition" of the New York Times were distributed in cities across the U.S. by thousands of volunteers.

The papers, dated July 4th of next year, were headlined with long-awaited news: "IRAQ WAR ENDS". The edition, which bears the same look and feel as the real deal, includes stories describing what the future could hold: national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for CEOs, etc. There was also a spoof site, at http://www.nytimes-se.com/.

"Is this true? I wish it were true!" said one reader. "It can be true, if we demand it."

"We wanted to experience what it would look like, and feel like, to read headlines we really want to read. It's about what's possible, if we think big and act collectively," said Steve Lambert, one of the project's organizers and an editor of the paper.

"This election was a massive referendum on change. There's a lot of hope in the air, but there's a lot of uncertainty too. It's up to all of us now to make these headlines come true," said Beka Economopoulos,
one of the project's organizers.

"It doesn't stop here. We gave Obama a mandate, but he'll need mandate after mandate after mandate to do what we elected him to do. He'll need a lot of support, and yes, a lot of pressure," said Andy Bichlbaum, another project organizer and editor of the paper.

The people behind the project are involved in a diverse range of groups, including The Yes Men, the Anti-Advertising Agency, CODEPINK, United for Peace and Justice, Not An Alternative, May First/People Link, Improv Everywhere, Evil Twin, and Cultures of Resistance.

In response to the spoof, the New York Times said only, "We are looking into it." Alex S. Jones, former Times reporter who is an authority on the history of the paper, says: "I would say if you've got one, hold on to it. It will probably be a collector's item."

Sarah Palin Africa Hoax

Last week much noise was made about Sarah Palin and a "fact" that she didn't know that Africa was a continent. Turns out that story was a hoax.

It's complicated, but in a nutshell the McCain aid the reported that Palin didn't know this basic geographic fact was not a McCain aid.

Read about it in the New York Times, and shame on journalists and bloggers for reporting a story from a guy who was KNOWN to be a huckster (details of this at the bottom of the story).

The Yes Men are at it Again

I got an email message this morning from the Yes Men informing me of their distribution of a New York Times parody around the country.

Here's the text:

November 12, 2008


* PDF: http://www.nytimes-se.com/pdf
* For video updates: http://www.nytimes-se.com/video
* Contact: mailto:writers@nytimes-se.com

Early this morning, commuters nationwide were delighted to find out that while they were sleeping, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had come to an end.

If, that is, they happened to read a "special edition" of today's New York Times.

In an elaborate operation six months in the planning, 1.2 million papers were printed at six different presses and driven to prearranged pickup locations, where thousands of volunteers stood ready to pass them out on the street.

Articles in the paper announce dozens of new initiatives including the establishment of national health care, the abolition of corporate lobbying, a maximum wage for C.E.O.s, and, of course, the end of the war.

The paper, an exact replica of The New York Times, includes International, National, New York, and Business sections, as well as editorials, corrections, and a number of advertisements, including a recall notice for all cars that run on gasoline. There is also a timeline describing the gains brought about by eight months of progressive support and pressure, culminating in President Obama's "Yes we REALLY can" speech. (The paper is post-dated July 4, 2009.)

"It's all about how at this point, we need to push harder than ever,"
said Bertha Suttner, one of the newspaper's writers. "We've got to make sure Obama and all the other Democrats do what we elected them to do.
After eight, or maybe twenty-eight years of hell, we need to start imagining heaven."

Not all readers reacted favorably. "The thing I disagree with is how they did it," said Stuart Carlyle, who received a paper in Grand Central Station while commuting to his Wall Street brokerage. "I'm all for freedom of speech, but they should have started their own paper."