I’m in my final semester at UMass Amherst in the Union Leadership and Activism program. I have a remote semester in January in which I do my capstone project and then I graduate with my MS. Why am I telling you this? Because today we launch our 4 day fundraiser to fund our scholarship program.
I’ve benefited from this scholarship as have many of my fellow classmates. This year we’re spreading a donation link out among our social networks to see how much we can raise to enable the next generation of union leaders to attend this program. If you are not able to donate I ask only that you pass along the link.
The people who are making unions more diverse, inclusive, accessible, and just are coming from this program.
Kelly and I took Dash and Nymeria with us to southeastern Vermont this past weekend. The weather was mostly sunny and actually got quite hot for Vermont. But the dogs generally enjoyed themselves, as did we.
We have become particularly fond of that part of Vermont, basically between Springfield and Brattleboro, and are doing a lot of sightseeing and antique shopping in it. It’s amazing how much greenery there is. I can imagine why so many people come here in autumn.
Well everyone, today is the last day of 2020, and I have to say Thank GOD it is finally coming to a close. This has been a tough year for virtually everyone*, and for some people it has been just horrific. Kelly and I have managed to make it through the year without getting COVID (at least as far as we know) and we are both still employed**. But we did lose one of our beloved fur-kids – our little Thumbelina: the princess; the Khaleesi; the mighty little Emperox of our universe. We miss her and still often think about her.
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 WhenPatientsHealYou annual concert. COVID kind of got in the way of that.
After filling out many applications for many different dogs, Kelly and I were finally approved for adoption of a lovely little girl.
Everyone, meet The Baroness Nymeria Frieda von Hopkins-Michael. Her friends call her Nymeria. She is a short-haired dapple red boar mini-dachshund weighing about 8 pounds with startling blue eyes. She came from a rescue called Out of the Woods Rescue.
Dash and Nymeria enjoy a sunbeam together in our kitchen near the door to the deck.
Like her dearly missed older sister, Thumbelina, she is a puppy mill rescue. Nymeria comes from Pennsylvania, in Amish country. She did not even have a name, just a tag that said “11”.
She was born in September 2016 so she is about 3 1/2 years old. So she is by far the baby of the household now, which is kind of ironic since she has had a litter of puppies every heat since she was able. This poor little girl lived in a rabbit hutch with a wire floor for pretty much her entire life, until she was rescued.
Still, she seems to be in pretty good shape considering all she has been through. She has her appointment with our vet scheduled this next weekend, but her foster mom, Chrissy, and the good folks at Out of the Woods did an amazing job with her initial shots, her spay, and her dental in which she lost17 teeth!
She is full of energy and has a great sense of curiosity. So far she gets along well with all the other animals. Just this weekend she touched noses with Violet, which was a huge and pleasant surprise. There were cats in her foster hom who she apparently ignored, but Violet was very concerned upon her arrival. But she doesn’t seem interested in chasing them, and so far she has only had a passing interest in them at all.
She and Dash LOVE to play together, and it’s great because now he will be worn out enough to go to bed without much fuss, the way he would after a long day of walking around at Brimfield.
She is named after Nymeria, one of the direwolves from ASOIAF/Game of Thrones, and after Frieda, a character from Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.
The good folks at Out of the Woods Rescue sent us home with food, medicine, toys, and so much more. I can’t tell you how thankful we were for their treatment of our still scared but wonderful little girl. If you are so inclined, please celebrate with us by making a donation so they can continue their excellent work.
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.
Or Holiday/Yule/Festivus/Kwanzaa/New Year/Whatever card. You do you. You have choices between three photos this year, pick the one that best suits you. Or go for all/none of them, we’re ecumenical here at Casa Dachshund.
Management regrets to inform you of the death of Mrs. Geoffrey Michael. Mrs. Michael died the way that she lived, which is to say, not at all. Mrs. Geoffrey Michael, just like Mrs. Kelly Hopkins, was a figment of the fevered imaginings of the patriarchy and men threatened by equality of the sexes.
Ms. Kelly Hopkins, we are happy to report, is still alive and well and still a feminist progressive working for a more just society for all. Except for those who would disregard her humanity. Those folks can go straight to hell with all the rest of the Trump voters.
Management would further like to note that all mail sent to the Hopkins-Michael household addressed to either the late/non-extant Mrs. Michael or Mrs. Hopkins will be immediately recycled without opening.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts.
The Battle of Fredericksburg was fought from December 11th to December 15th, 1862. Among the 120,000 or so Union soldiers in the Army of the Potomac was a 36 year old French-Canadian immigrant named Moises Beaulieu. Moises had enlisted in June 1861 in Company A of the 11th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment (sometimes known as the Boston Volunteers) and thus had already been in the Union army for some 18 months when he found himself on the bank of the Rappahannock River across from the town of Fredericksburg, Virginia. Major General Ambrose Burnside, a Rhode Islander who had risen from Colonel of the 1st Rhode Island to commander of the army, was waiting for pontoons to arrive so bridges could be built across the river. At that time the 11th Massachusetts was in Brigadier General Joseph Carr’s brigade, of Brigadier General Dan Sickles’ Second Division of George Stoneman’s Third Corps, part of the Center Grand Division commanded by Major General Joseph Hooker.
Yesterday, July 18th, was the 156th anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, where the famous 54th Massachusetts Infantry (Colored) made its spectacular but tragic charge and cemented its place in history. The story of the 54th is kinda-sorta told in the movie Glory, which came out thirty years ago and is still one of my favorite movies of all time.
Imagine, if you will, a little boy whose family was from Massachusetts, who read a book about the Civil War and learned about a brave unit, also from Massachusetts, that suffered some 44% casualties in its first major battle. The accompanying artwork was something that has stayed in my memory ever since.
So you can imagine my excitement when they actually made a movie about the 54th. The movie is far from perfect, both from a historian’s perspective and from a moviemaker’s perspective, but still, it is just a superb film and I love it. And the fact that they show how Colonel Shaw and his men were buried just makes the ending so powerful. The Confederates reported that they buried some 800 dead bodies in front of Fort Wagner that day, July 19th, 1863. They had intended to disrespect Colonel Shaw by burying him with his soldiers. But his parents, when asked if they wanted to try to recover his body, said that they could imagine no better place for him to be buried than with the men of his regiment.