Some years ago, my Neurologist said to me, “You sing, right?” And the rest, as they say, is history. I’m not sure how many years it has been since that fateful question, but this Plague Year is the first year since then that I’ve not been a part of the When Patients Heal You annual concert. COVID kind of got in the way of that.Continue reading “RIP Denise Taylor”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today Geoff and I took a trip to South Weymouth, MA to visit Mount Hope Cemetery where his Civil War ancestor, Moses Beaulieu, is buried. Geoff has done a lot of research into Moses Beaulieu and recently discovered a photo of his headstone and rough location in the particular cemetery in South Weymouth.
This past week, my Aunt Donna, who had been suffering from vascular dementia for the last couple of years, passed away. She was 72 years old.
Aunt Donna was one of those relatives of mine who helped shape me into the person I am today, in many ways. I loved her very very much. I wish I had been able to be there for her more often, especially in the last few months. They were particularly difficult for her, as her ability to have a conversation and organize her thoughts was eroded away by the ravaging disease acting in conjunction with her other health issues. Before I met Kelly, she was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to move back to Massachusetts, so I could be there for her when she needed me. And in some ways I was, and I am all too glad to have done those things like help her get her house ready for the big hurricanes a few years ago. It was the least I could do. I wish I had done more.
She went with me to my first live Red Sox game, which was such a treat as I had been a fan most of my life but, living far away, was unable to attend any games, even in childhood. Kelly (who was also there) snapped this picture of us, which is my favorite pictures of her and I. It reminds me of how she was always so full of fun, so full of life. She was a truly good person, with an endless supply of empathy and compassion for other people. She donated to all sorts of liberal causes. She befriended so many people from different walks of life. Although she did not have any pets of her own as an adult (at least, of which I am aware), she loved animals, and loved to have our dogs sit with her or on her lap.
Even as a kid, she indulged me with things like books and models and taking me places. She was the one who introduced me to the science fiction of Isaac Asimov. She also got me interested in political writers like Molly Ivins and Robert Reich. She was a huge supporter of President Obama, and we had many great conversations about politics. She always encouraged my intellectual curiosity. And as a lifelong music teacher, she always encouraged passion for music.
I will miss her greatly, possibly more than I am capable of uttering or showing, at least in public. I think the world is lesser without her.
Goodbye 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. All things being equal, this year was a social, geo-political, and popular culture disaster. From the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, Leonard Cohen, Ron Glass, and Michelle McNamara, to Mohammed Ali, John Glenn, and Elie Wiesel, the list of those we mourn is really long and really hard. Then again, Hell also got a little more crowded with the additions of Antonin Scalia, Fidel Castro, Rob Ford (the crack smoking Mayor of Toronto), Phyllis Schlafly, and Nancy “Just Say No” Reagan.
Continue reading “This is Your Card – Our Annual Holiday Post”
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!
* 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.
At some point I will write a proper post, but our reaction to last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, particularly the last 7 minutes or so, can probably best be summarized like this.
One of Kelly’s Twitter friends beat us to first use of this GIF, but it is still one of the most appropriate ones out there that I can find.
Anyway, I need more time to process it all. The episode would have been outstanding and highly important even without that last few minutes, and with it, it is absolutely one of the most consequential episodes of the entire show so far.
Please go on a vacation.
Unlike a lot of people in Boston I can’t claim I knew Tom well. I’m sure that the couple of times we met didn’t make an impression on him at all, as a matter of fact. But he was a bit of a legend in his own time and, unlike a lot of far less talented people I’ve met, he wasn’t a legend in his own mind. That much was clear the moment you met him, he didn’t buy into the “Artist as Asshole” phenomenon.
I hate that particular phenomenon.
Regular readers will remember that not long ago I posted in this space about a benefit for Tom. The link to that post is here. Teri had told me recently that Tom was being moved into hospice care. That’s never good. People generally go into hospice care in order to peacefully move from this world into the next, not to return to the bloom of full health. Tom had apparently been given about 6 months, maybe less, as a prognosis.
The Early Music community here in Boston has been collectively holding its breath while Tom’s illness has been unfolding. He was not only a well respected performer here, he was also a teacher and friend to many. He was also just unfailingly nice.
Tom died on Saturday. And though I didn’t know him nearly as well as many, I still grieve for those who loved him, especially his lovely wife Lilli, the community of which he was a linchpin, and the rest of us who were touched by his presence.
There is a lovely post about his life here. I encourage you to read it. I do not know the author, I found the post by happenstance, but it is beautifully done.
“Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”
Shakespeare, Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2
Rest in Peace, Tom.