Remembering Maggie

I was talk­ing to my dad last week and I had­n’t real­ized until he asked about Mag­gie that I had­n’t writ­ten about her here. I guess I don’t write here very often any­more, and it was­n’t the sort of thing I was real­ly look­ing for­ward to. As Har­ry had lived longer and also had a longer, slow­er decline, I had sort of men­tal­ly pre­pared for some time for his death. Mag­gie, on the oth­er hand, had been the pic­ture of health up until June, when she start­ed show­ing signs of what we thought was arthri­tis. A vis­it to the vet and some x‑rays revealed that it was actu­al­ly osteosar­co­ma (bone can­cer) on her right, front wrist joint. There’s no treat­ment for that in dogs, short of ampu­ta­tion. How­ev­er, for a thir­teen year old dog that had already lived past her life expectan­cy by near­ly two years, that seemed like a cru­el way to make her live out her days.

So, we gave her med­ica­tion and tried to spoil her. She con­tin­ued to man­age ok but the last cou­ple of weeks of her life she had extreme dif­fi­cul­ty mov­ing about. Her tumor had then grown to soft­ball size and she could bear no weight at all on her left front leg. She did get to enjoy sev­er­al pounds of deli turkey in order to get her to take her med­i­cine along with canned chick­en in her dog food. That dog was always crazy for poul­try.

Once we had admit­ted to our­selves that Har­ry could­n’t go on and put him to rest, we of course had to then acknowl­edge the lev­el of pain Mag­gie had to be in. Could she last a cou­ple of more weeks? We went back-and-forth but after just a cou­ple of days after Har­ry was gone, she seemed to grow very depressed. Though Mag­gie and Har­ry were nev­er quite what you’d call close bud­dies (they nev­er laid next to one anoth­er or showed much dog-sib­ling affec­tion), I tru­ly thing it upset her when he did­n’t come back after a cou­ple of days. They’d nev­er been sep­a­rat­ed in over 13 years for more than a day (when Har­ry had a surgery and stayed at the vet overnight). She had just become used to him in the pack, I guess.

She would­n’t eat much, if any­thing (not even chick­en). She moved about very lit­tle. The skin over her tumor began to rup­ture, either like a bed sore or from the ever-grow­ing tis­sue destroy­ing her bone. The ques­tion very quick­ly became, can she stay anoth­er day?

We decid­ed that though she would hang on as long as we insist­ed, it would only be mak­ing her mis­er­able to do so. So, only four days after Har­ry died, we took Mag­gie to the vet to have her put to rest as well. I wish I could tell you it was eas­i­er the sec­ond time, but I was com­plete­ly unpre­pared for how dif­fi­cult that was. I’d been men­tal­ly ready­ing myself for a cou­ple of years to accept Har­ry’s death but had nev­er real­ly giv­en myself the time to con­sid­er los­ing Mag­gie so soon, too. You can know some­thing as a fact (such as, “my dog won’t live for­ev­er”) but hav­ing to face that fact in real­i­ty is some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent. She passed with us pet­ting her and telling her that she’d been a good dog.

Of course, Mag­gie maybe was­n’t the best dog when she first came to live with us. She was big and crazy. Imag­ine a hyper lit­tle ter­ri­er dog that runs around bark­ing. Now imag­ine that becom­ing over 50 lbs. She’d attach the mail and the only rea­son she passed obe­di­ence train­ing is because Pet Smart real­ly won’t fail a dog. She out­weighed Har­ry by two times, so play­ing tug of war was real­ly more drag­ging him around until his neck got too tired to play.

But Mag­gie grew into being a great dog. She got a lot calmer, which comes lat­er to ter­ri­ers but it does even­tu­al­ly hap­pen. She enjoyed going for walks and became my evening walk­ing bud­dy. She’d let Angela pet her and would paw at Angela should the pet­ting cease for even a few sec­onds. And on her last day, despite all the pain of her can­cer and bones, she hob­bled out our front door and fol­lowed the kids to the bus stop to give them a good­bye. She’d nev­er done that before, but was deter­mined to get into one last piece of mis­chief, I guess. They gave her a big hug each before they got on the bus.

So, now, a few weeks lat­er, we’re still learn­ing how to deal with a house that is a bit qui­eter than we’ve real­ly ever known it. The box­es con­tain­ing their ash­es sit beside one anoth­er, by their col­lars, on a low shelf. Not real­ly touch­ing one anoth­er, but close enough they’d know they weren’t alone. Just like our two dogs spent most every day.

How Maggie Plays Fetch

Shiny Bowie

My kids love the Moana sound­track and who can blame them? Lin-Manuel Miran­da is amaz­ing. So back in Feb­ru­ary I intro­duced them to the Hamil­ton sound­track. Turns out, there are a lot of kids who love Hamil­ton (despite the not-at-all-age-appro­pri­ate mate­r­i­al in many of the songs).

So, giv­en that music link­ing suc­cess (I’m get­ting burned out lis­ten­ing to Hamil­ton every day), I decid­ed to try my luck with some oth­er music. My son loves the Moana song Shiny which is sung by Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Con­chords fame.

The song has a def­i­nite David Bowie feel, some­what influ­enced I think by Flight of the Con­chords Bowies in Space.

So, any­way, I fig­ured he might be inter­est­ed in some clas­sic David Bowie. So, I let him lis­ten to both Changes and Fame on the way back home this evening. He seemed to enjoy them (well, at least he did­n’t ask to lis­ten to any­thing else), so who knows maybe I can get them inter­est­ed into a lot of dif­fer­ent kinds of music. That will def­i­nite­ly save me from get­ting burned out on just a small hand­ful of songs.

What I Told Our Kids

I’ve been inter­est­ed in pol­i­tics for most of my life and Angela is much the same. So we of course dis­cuss pol­i­tics quite a bit around the house. I do my best to fol­low my par­ents’ lead and 1) not get over­ly emo­tion­al­ly or upset about pol­i­tics and 2) not present my opin­ion as the only one that mat­ters. This is impor­tant so the kids can grow up form­ing their own opin­ions and also so they will be less like­ly to get in an unnec­es­sary argu­ment with oth­er kids. Kids at school should focus on learn­ing and being kids, not argu­ing with some­one else over who’s par­ents vot­ed for who. Though I’m adamant our chil­dren under­stand how our coun­try is gov­erned, it’s not real­ly impor­tant for them to have strong opin­ions in grade school on mat­ters of nation­al pol­i­cy.

But kids do talk about cur­rent events and even pol­i­tics, to a less­er extent, at school. So I was­n’t too shocked when my son told me last Tues­day night after I turned out his lights “I sure hope Trump does­n’t win or I’ll have to move to Cana­da! He wants to build a wall around the entire coun­try.”

I assured him that we would­n’t have to move no mat­ter who won and that there was­n’t going to be any wall1. The next morn­ing Angela and I dis­cussed the out­come of the elec­tion before the kids got up. But once they did wake up, it was a typ­i­cal week­day rush to get ready for school and work, so there was­n’t any time to talk about the results of the elec­tion. After school, though, while I was mak­ing din­ner, my daugh­ter called out “So did Trump real­ly win last night?”

“What!?” my son shout­ed with a look of gen­uine hor­ror on his face.

So I told them that, yes, Trump did win and that one of the great­est parts of being an Amer­i­can is that we have free elec­tions for our lead­ers. And even though mom­my and I may have both vot­ed for Sec. Clin­ton, we don’t have to leave or lose any­thing just because she lost. I explained that this is just how we pick a leader but it has noth­ing to do with who gets to be Amer­i­can.

Now, to a cer­tain point, that is true. How­ev­er, there are plen­ty of peo­ple who Trump has promised should­n’t get to enter or even stay in Amer­i­ca. And even if Trump has­n’t direct­ly expressed it, plen­ty of his sup­port­ers have some very strong and dis­gust­ing opin­ions about just who should or should not get to be an Amer­i­can at all. But I real­ly did­n’t want to have to bur­den a nine- and sev­en-year-old with that, so I fig­ured that would be the end of my two-minute reas­sur­ance talk with them.

Then my daugh­ter asked what the KKK was and why were some kids say­ing the KKK were hap­py Trump won? That’s right: my inno­cent lit­tle kid was ask­ing about the god­damn Klu Klux Klan2. I explained that they were a very racist group who felt that white peo­ple like me were some­how bet­ter than oth­er peo­ple but that I am most def­i­nite­ly not bet­ter than any­one else, no mat­ter what they look like, where they come from, or for any oth­er rea­son. That God loves every­one just the same and that, with­out ques­tion, any­one who con­tra­dicts that is wrong.

As hor­ri­fied as I was that I was hav­ing to hold this con­ver­sa­tion with my chil­dren as a direct result of a U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, I decid­ed now was the time to start right­ing the ship. I explained that even though we weren’t bet­ter than any­one, there are racist and prej­u­diced peo­ple in this coun­try who wrong­ly believe that. Fur­ther, that our fam­i­ly prob­a­bly already has it bet­ter than most peo­ple and are like­ly to expe­ri­ence far less dif­fi­cul­ties and prej­u­dices than oth­er peo­ple in our coun­try already do and will under Pres­i­dent Trump and many of his sup­port­ers. And that as a result of that, it was our duty to help speak up on the behalf of oth­ers. That if we ran away or even just looked the oth­er way, it would make the bul­lies stronger and their vic­tims’ pain even worse. I asked them both to promise me that if they ever heard or saw any­one else being mis­treat­ed because of how they look, the col­or of their skin, or what they believe, that they would tell the per­son doing so to stop. Tell them that they were wrong. And to tell a respon­si­ble adult imme­di­ate­ly.

They both glad­ly promised that they would. So if two kids are brave enough to make that promise, I know I will be, too. There was nev­er a time in this coun­try’s his­to­ry that we did­n’t need to look out for one anoth­er, but maybe it took some­thing like this elec­tion to remind us of that.

Please note that any hurt­ful or deroga­to­ry com­ments will be delet­ed with extreme prej­u­dice.

  1. I’m equal­ly con­fi­dent about both. Pres­i­dent-elect Trump has already stat­ed that the wall may just be a fence in some places. I doubt even that will get built, but feel free to re-check me on that state­ment over the next four years. []
  2. Let’s be very clear bout some­thing right here: If you feel the need to say some­thing in defense of the Klan, you need to leave this site and nev­er come back. If you are some­how offend­ed or upset that I despise the KKK, just as much as I do any white nation­al­ist, white suprema­cy, or oth­er racist group, you and I can call it quits right here. I may not think I’m supe­ri­or to you, but I know you are wrong and I have zero need to tol­er­ate you. Full stop. []