Thumbelina Anne Hopkins Michael, Ph.D. – October 30, 2001 – March 8, 2020

I’ll be honest, I have been dreading writing this since the day I realized I’d have to do it. I know that when we take an animal into our home we get the better end of the deal. We provide them with food, shelter, medical care, and love and in exchange they give us everything – absolute love, cuddles, comic relief – in short their whole entire selves. The hardest part of the bargain is that we have to help them leave this world when they’re ready to go.

Watching from above.

Rarely are we gifted with an animal that falls asleep and doesn’t wake up. We live in a world where we have veterinary medicine that keeps them healthy through ailments that once would have killed them. We owe them this considering their domestication, the jobs they do for us, and their overpopulation – a problem we’ve created.

But it doesn’t make it any less heart rending to hold them and release them from their pain when the end is finally here. And, after 18 years, that’s what we had to do for Thumbelina yesterday. It was time.

Keeping watch on the front steps of our old apartment.

Thumbelina came into my life through the now defunct PuppymillRescue.com (PMR). They got dogs out of puppy mills, mostly in Missouri and other high mill states, and got them into foster care and then good homes. I had always wanted a dachshund and after some terrible trauma in my early 20’s I was ready for a dog of my own. I did a lot of research. I checked a lot of dachshund specific rescues. But then I came across PMR and found Thumbelina’s page. I wasn’t particularly looking for a puppy, but there she was.  Tiny, recently rescued from a broker after being nearly starved to death because it was “cheaper than shooting her,” and in her photo, proudly sitting on a Beanie Baby dachshund looking as though she’d subdued it. Yes.

That was my dog.

I filled out the application, submitted the references, notified my vet that someone would be calling, and had a home visit. There was also a phone interview and then the waiting. And the waiting. I was sure Thumbelina and I were meant to be together.

And I was right, I got a call that I’d been selected as her forever home. It was a matter of making arrangements to go get her in Missouri where she was in her foster home. That was one of the happiest days of my life.

I flew out to get her, brought her back on her first flight of many over the years, and Thumbelina became a Boston dog, all in one day.

Over the years she would become a foster sister to two other PMR dachshunds who went on to forever homes of their own, appear on stage in Gypsy at Suffolk University, on Chronicle, in newsprint, on Boston.com, appear in a marketing film at a former employer, win awards for obedience and tricks, and be responsible for me meeting not only some of my closest friends, but Geoff as well.

Doing tricks at the dog park
Sitting pretty at the dog park

I’m in my 40’s and Thumbelina was with me since my 20’s. In all that time she cuddled up under the covers with me every night except for maybe two-three weeks in total. She was my constant companion and a very real extension of me. She was my best friend, my little clown, my stubborn little life saver, and so much more that I can’t even articulate right now. Not having her here as I write this feels as if a limb has gone to sleep and I can’t wake it up.

She was more intelligent and intuitive than many/most humans I know and it is absolutely without hyperbole that I tell you that I would not be here to write this if it were not for her tiny little 9lb cuddles, her sniff of consternation, her comic relief, her head butting, and her anticipating my needs. She was a once in a lifetime dog, and I am better for having had her in my life. Thank you, baby girl.

Thumbelina found her sea legs and climbed up on the rope pile.
From a long ago trip to Mystic Seaport.

She is preceded to the bridge by her elder brothers Rerun, Bucky, and Smoky and by so many canine, feline, and human friends and family. Donations in her memory may be made to the MSPCA, where both she and Rerun crossed the bridge.

Rest well my darling, someday I will see you again.

Kelly

I’d be remiss not to add a special thank you to Dr. Barbara Bower at the South Bay Veterinary Group who has been Thumbelina’s primary doctor for I don’t know how many years now. She’s been kind, steady, compassionate, and generous with her care, presence, and heart all through Thumbelina’s golden years. I’ve been bringing animals to South Bay for more than 20 years and it is because of vets like her that I will continue to do so. My life and the lives of the animals in it are enriched immeasurably by her and the care of the staff there.

The famous photo that made it to the Pets section at Boston.com

Latest pictures of our little Violet

Violet definitely has her favorite spots in the house to sleep.  One of them is the basket that we made into a little cat bed.  It sits in the guest room (now unofficially called Violet’s room since she is the one who spends the most time in there) under the window.

This cat bed used to sit on top of the upright freezer in our kitchen in the old place and Scratch and Bucky would sometimes battle over who got to sleep in it.  Now Violet is the only one who uses it.  

She also loves to sleep in the office up on the top floor, usually in the little cat hammock but not always.  Lately she likes to sleep under the desk when I am sitting there at the computer working.

I love that she wants to be nearby whenever I am in the office. It is quite endearing.

Yesterday when Kelly was up here practicing her music Violet also came up here to sit with her and listen.

We really lucked out to get a little kitty with such a sweet disposition.

~Geoff

So, we adopted a ninja

After losing Bucky back at the end of May, and then going through the insanity of buying a house and moving, Geoff and I talked about getting another cat.  It was especially evident that this was a good idea once we moved in here as this place has a lot of room and Scratch turned into a SUPER cling monster.  Yesterday, after searching on multiple websites here and there for a couple of weeks, we went to the MSPCA with a couple of kitties in mind as possible contenders.

Our only criteria was that the cat was female, not a kitten, had lived with other cats, and could get used to other cats.  We were not planning on getting a ninja in the bargain.

Presenting Dame Violet Crawley Hopkins-Michael, KBE*.

Continue reading “So, we adopted a ninja”

Gratitude & Grief

Life is always a mixture of the bitter and the sweet, the dark and the light, the gratitude and grief.  I admit that I often focus on the bitter parts to the exclusion of all else.  That is in large part due to the fact that a large portion of my 20’s and almost all of my 30’s have been spent dealing with one crisis or another and, last year, dealing with death after death.  That, and the way that people treat you, tends to color one’s outlook on the world a bit.  Depression doesn’t help either.

That being said, this year is turning out to be one of the best in a long time.  Despite losing Bucky last week, things seem to be looking up for us.

Continue reading “Gratitude & Grief”

In Memoriam – Buckminster Charles Hopkins-Michael III, Esq.

Today Geoff and I helped Bucky leave this world and move on to the next.  He was 18 years old, and I will miss him every day.

Bucky and Scratch, this was as close as they got to cuddling.
Bucky and Scratch, this was as close as they got to cuddling.

Bucky was born on April 15, 1998.  He was born before I graduated from college, in the last century, the last millennium, before Barack Obama became President, before I had my first cell phone, before I had even met Geoff, let alone married him.  He was my first child, and he will always be special.

Bucky moved with me through seven different apartments in two cities, he outlived his younger brother Smoky, he tolerated two foster dachshund sisters, an untold amount of visiting dogs of varying breeds (Scarlett, Ivory, Fletcher, Pixie, Jasmine, the list goes on), living with a roommate who had a dog and a cat of her own*, and surviving a 1 1/2 story fall down an uncovered shaft and being pinned inside a wall in the middle of the night**.

Bucky in his less formal wear. In true lord of the manor style, he showed up for meals and when he needed personal grooming. Yep, he was totally an Earl.
Bucky in his less formal wear. In true lord of the manor style, he showed up for meals and when he needed personal grooming. Yep, he was totally an Earl.

Bucky was nearly imperturbable.  He was loving and sweet with humans, but he suffered no crap from other animals.  When I brought Smoky home from the shelter, at Bucky’s request mind you, and Smoky turned into an unholy terror, Bucky rolled his eyes and we hid in my loft bed and watched the destruction in amicable silence.  When Bucky met Rerun he quickly established dominance with a sequence of three closed paw blows to Rerun’s snout that were over nearly before they’d begun.  Rerun never forgot that encounter.

Bucky was also an athlete like no other cat I’ve met.  In his prime he could jump from a sitting position to over six feet straight up into the air and land on a narrow (maybe 1 inch?) window frame.  That moved.  Then he’d make another flying leap up onto the next story of our interior courtyard and simply hop windowsill to windowsill and visit the upstairs neighbors.  Some of them would leave the windows open so he could come inside and visit.  As he was a stellar mouser and the building was, well, infested with mice, his presence was always welcome.

Privacy in the bathroom? Ha!
Privacy in the bathroom? Ha!

About a year and a half ago we had noticed that Bucky was starting to lose weight.  I fully expected his blood work to come back saying that his kidneys were going.  But they weren’t, turns out something was up in his digestive track.  Eventually there was a tiny hardening in the area.  We kept him on meds for a while, but finally he let us know on no uncertain terms that he just didn’t like the taste.  So we switched to prednisolone.  He was on it for the better part of 9 months.  He was doing fine.  The palpable thing in his belly, as of the first week of May, was small, smaller than a dime.  He spent Brimfield at the vet’s and came back happy and shiny.

Bucky
Don’t look up!

Then this week he pretty much stopped eating.  And tonight he wouldn’t come when we called for dinner.  We went looking for him and found him hiding where Smoky used to hide when he was scared or didn’t want to be pilled.  As I’d barely been able to pill him this morning, we knew it was time.  The vet graciously stayed open late for us, and we said our goodbyes.  I know that he’s with Smoky and Rerun and all of the other furry kids that Geoff and I have had come in and out of our lives so far and I know I’ll see him again.  I am at peace with the decision to let him go and I think that the timing was just right.  But I will miss him.  O Lord, will I miss him.

Bucky came to me from the MSPCA.  He was a Phinney’s Friends cat.  Phinney’s Friends was, at the time, a program at the MSPCA designed to help people with HIV/AIDS keep their pets while dealing with their disease.  Bucky’s human had died and so he was up for adoption.  I adopted him in 1999 and he was with me for the rest of his life.

Phinney’s Friends is now a standalone non-profit and it is entirely volunteer run.  If you are so inclined, I encourage you to make a donation there in Bucky’s memory or in the memory of a person or animal you love.  Without them he never would have come into my life and I would have been all the poorer for it.  Also, Phinney’s Friends now has an expanded mission that, especially with the way the economy has been, is more important than ever.

Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

~Kelly

* Bucky got his nickname “Bruiser” while living with that roommate.  He got in a spat with her cat over some of her cat’s wet food and bit her cat’s tail.  The end of that cat’s tail later fell off.  In her owner’s bed.  Whoops.

** This is a super long story but I will tell you sometime if you want to hear it.  Just not now.

The Kitty Convict Project #KittyConvict

Regular readers know that we’re animal lovers here. We have cats and dogs here at Casa Dachshund, despite the name, and we love all animals.*  That’s why this new project by Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal fame is so cool.  This is, as he explains on the website, a form of cat atonement (catonement) for recently Kickstarting a super successful game called Exploding Kittens.  Really.

Continue reading “The Kitty Convict Project #KittyConvict”

Still thinking of Rerun

I miss him.  I miss my little buddy, and how he used to greet me every day when I come home from work.  Thumbelina still does, of course, but it’s not the same as when the pair of them would get each other all worked up and excited over things like that.

Continue reading “Still thinking of Rerun”