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Monthly Archives: July 2017

Goodbye, My Butterfly

 

Three or four hours after Butterfly’s death, Cricket did something she never does: she brought a mouthful of kibble into the living room, dropped the pieces onto the carpet, and ate them kibble by kibble. Did she mean to mimic Butterfly’s favorite way of eating? Was she consciously honoring her sister’s memory? Or did Miss Butterfly find a way to join with Cricket for just a moment to visit us and say goodbye?

I don’t know.

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Cricket and Platypus, after.

I didn’t expect Butterfly to die, not yet. I counted her age from the day she came home, almost five years ago, and tried to ignore the eight years in the puppy mill that came before. Yes, she’d been in the hospital, but she was getting better. She’d coughed a bit the night before, but no more than was usual for her over the past year. Her bark was strained, yes, but I thought it was from a sore throat and it would pass.

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Miss Butterfly

Mom came into my room at 6:30 in the morning, carrying Butterfly in her arms and saying, she’s making strange noises. Just the way Butterfly was limp and awkward in Mom’s arms told me that something was very wrong. She made some sort of wet hiccupping noise as Mom put her down on my bed. And then blood poured out of her mouth, and her eyes rolled back, and more blood poured out of her nose.

She was gone, but I couldn’t believe it. I checked for her pulse and couldn’t feel anything. Mom said she could feel a faint movement in her chest, and then nothing.

I kept my hands on Butterfly, petting her, only because Mom told me to do it; I couldn’t think at all for myself. I could see Butterfly’s hair move as I rubbed her back and I thought, she’s not dead. If I just keep contact with her I can keep her from leaving me. Her pulse is just hiding. It was a lot of blood, yes, but she has more. Doesn’t she?

My mind was split in pieces as I sat there watching her die. No, she was already dead, but part of me didn’t believe it. And part of me was trying to come up with a to-do list (laundry for the bloody sheets, go to the clinic to have her cremated – but she’s not really dead! How dare you even think of killing her! There were all of those meds we hadn’t given her yet, and the diabetes testing supplies, and the diabetic dog food, and the doggy steps next to my bed. She would need them.

I couldn’t move forward in time. I just stayed in that loop, sobbing, and hoping, for forty five minutes. Time was barely creeping by, but then each time I checked the clock, time was galloping past me.

Cricket hid under my bed. Even when Mom went to talk to her, to console her, she hid further under the bed and growled.

I asked Mom for a wet wash cloth and washed Butterfly’s face, but I didn’t want to push too hard, and hurt her.

We put her in her doggy bed on the living room floor and covered her with a piece of soft gray fabric from Mom’s stash. I wanted Cricket to have a chance to say goodbye. It took Cricket a while to come over and sniff the hidden Butterfly, though. I lifted the blanket so she could see that her sister really was under there, and she looked at her face for a moment and then ran under the couch to hide again. I could understand that; I felt the same way. But I re-covered my baby and lifted her bed onto the dining room table, with a towel underneath because the bed had become damp. Mom said that the body lets go of its fluids after death, but I couldn’t think about that. I couldn’t think that she was dead. If I only looked at her back, her tail, her paws, she could be sleeping. But if I looked at her face, I knew she was gone. And I kept reliving that last moment of terrible release, her twisted tongue, her blood flowing onto my bed.

We had to wait until nine o’clock in the morning to call the clinic and ask them what to do, so in the meantime I stripped my bed and took everything to the laundry. I needed something to do, something practical and concrete.

When we went to the clinic, I stayed in the car while Mom went inside to make arrangements. I sat in the back seat, next to Butterfly, and uncovered her tail and her back. Her hair looked normal. As long as I didn’t look at her face it was alright. But then a vet tech came out to the car and reached in for Butterfly. She picked up the doggy bed like a folded piece of pizza and I wanted to yell at her, that’s my baby in there! But I couldn’t speak.

I spent all day Wednesday reading the beautiful comments left on the blog, honoring Butterfly’s special soul and her ability to reach out and spread love wherever she went. All day I forced myself to remember that she was gone. She didn’t need her doggy steps anymore. No more blood tests and insulin shots. No more pills wrapped in peanut butter. No more barks of outrage in the morning when she wanted to go out. No more sous chef resting her chin on the tile leading into the kitchen.

But I didn’t really believe it. She would come back. The clinic would call and say that we made a mistake, Butterfly was awake and needed to be picked up. I didn’t care what was real or possible, I just wanted her back.

I feel like I failed her, like there was something else I should have known to do for her. But most of all I miss her. She brought out the best in me, the kindest, warmest, most compassionate parts of me. I liked myself more when I was with her. I liked everyone more, because I had her with me. And I want her back.

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Butterfly is Gone

Butterfly died at six thirty this morning. She has taught me so many things, and now one more: life is fragile, well-being is fragile, but love is the strongest substance there is.

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I loved you with all my heart Miss Butterfly, and I always will.

Cricket is Ten Years Old!

We missed celebrating Cricket’s big birthday recently, because Miss Butterfly has been having health issues that are distracting all of us. She was in the hospital for almost five days, but I will tell you more about that next week. Cricket has been too anxious to celebrate up until today (though a chicken treat has never gone uneaten). Now that Butterfly is home, it’s time for all of us to focus on Miss Cricket’s big milestone birthday.

 

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Cricket’s first day at home

 

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Her first game of hide and seek

 

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Her first bath

 

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Her first birthday cake

 

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Letting us know that she has a big mouth (we already knew).

 

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Meeting Miss B for the first time

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and expressing her displeasure.

 

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And then realizing that sisters aren’t such a bad thing.

Her adventures continued, despite the entrance of the interloper.

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She learned how to chew and weed at the same time!

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And then she saved the world (and her sister) from the red balloon!

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And then she taught her sister the art of napping (and watching your people at the same time).

We love you Cricket, and we hope your wonderful adventures will continue for many years to come. Happy birthday!

 

Cricket’s Obsession with her Feet

 

Cricket is a clean freak, but only in one particular way. She could be covered in eye goop and mud and poop and feel light and easy, but if her feet are anything less than pristine she has to gnaw them clean. She can sit on her dog bed, or on the couch, or on my bed (damn it), chewing at her paws for what seems like hours. I worry that she will chew off one of her toes, but it hasn’t happened yet, thank God.

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“I have to chew my feet, because you won’t let me chew on your feet, Mommy.”

It’s possible that she is less a clean freak than a dirt aficionado, removing and examining the precious layers of dirt out of a gourmand’s obsession with each new flavor, or a scientist’s passion for discovery, or she could have obsessive compulsive disorder. Whatever her purpose, she takes her work very seriously, until her leg is almost shaking with the effort of holding it up to her teeth for inspection.

I have never seen Butterfly do this. She doesn’t chew her feet. She didn’t even try to chew on her surgical stitches, and she only scratches her ears on the floor because they itch, and not out of some desperate need to see what was hiding in there. Butterfly even tolerates it when I hold her paws in order to wash them in the sink. Cricket would bite my hand off if I tried to touch her toes. They are sacred.

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Butterfly even lets me clean her feet!

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Cricket, not so much.

I met a small white-haired dog recently who chews his paw (only one paw) so much that it has turned rust-colored from all of that saliva. So far, Cricket’s paws have remained white.

I decided to research the issue, in case I was neglecting an important health issue, and one site said that the chewing can be a sign of an unhealed puncture wound, or foreign bodies lodged between the toes, like burrs or grass, or it could be a sign of an allergic skin disease, or a tumor, or an autoimmune disease of the nail beds or paw pads. It could be itchy dry skin because of a diet low in fatty acids, or she could be anxious or depressed from separation anxiety or lack of exercise, she could have arthritis, or there could be a parasite in her feet and this is her brilliant idea for how to get rid of it.

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“Tumor?!”

I’m pretty sure the vet would have mentioned a tumor over the years, if Cricket had had one, and she would have screamed to high heaven if she’d punctured a body part. The foreign bodies lodged between her toes sound like a real option, though. Sometimes when her sister, Butterfly, is limping, it turns out that she has a piece of kibble between her paw pads and didn’t realize it, this would never happen to Cricket. Cricket would always notice. It’s possible that Cricket keeps a collection of the things she’s found between her toes, but I’m grateful that she hasn’t shared it with me.

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Moose is clearly helping Cricket guard her collection, safely hidden under the couch.

Finally, on the fourth or fifth web page of my research extravaganza, the experts said that moderate paw chewing is actually normal, so unless there are other signs of trouble, like hot spots, loss of fur, or bleeding, it’s probably nothing to worry about.

I wish they’d told me that from the beginning. But at least now I know about all of the horrible things that could happen to Cricket’s and Butterfly’s paws. I’m sure that will help me sleep better tonight.

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I will never sleep as well as Butterfly.

Slugs on the Walkway

 

It has been raining a lot lately so, once again, we have a crowd of slugs on the brick walkway surrounding the building. Usually we have slugs and snails, but for some reason the snails are absent this time.

I actually prefer the snails because at least they have shells to provide some cover. Slugs just slither across the bricks, naked and slimy, leaving a slow trail of glistening muck behind them. Cricket is fascinated by them. She will walk up to the slugs and carefully sniff them, like the scientist she is. Neither dog ever steps on a slug, or tries to lick, or god forbid, eat one. I’ve never seen any of the robins pick up a slug either, the way they dig up the worms and carry their squiggly brown bodies in their mouths as they fly away.

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“They’re so squishy, Mommy.”

I decided to do some research to see if I could figure out why the snails are absent this time around. The only real difference between slugs and snails is that snails have shells, like a house they carry with them. Without shells to carry around, slugs can squeeze into smaller, and skinnier spaces to hide. When attacked, slugs can contract their bodies, making themselves harder and more compact, but normally they have soft brownish/gray bodies, and they vary in size from a quarter of an inch to two inches and longer.

(I want to warn you that there are slug pictures coming up, and even the two photographers – aka me and Mom – got a little nauseous during the photo shoot.)

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A camera shy, daytime slug.

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More brazen night time slugs.

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Note the goop trail.

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Follow the leader.

Both snails and slugs like to eat vegetation, so they are ever present in gardens, eating up plants and fruits, and even the roots and stems that keep the plant alive. Some people turn the tables on those slugs and snails and actually eat them. Blech.

They are both very slow moving creatures, so that as they cross the walkway at night they are likely to be squashed or crunched under my feet, making me feel like a murderer, and totally grossed out. There have been a number of times when I wasn’t sure what I was looking at up ahead, especially in the dark, because we have a lot of small dogs living here now, and many of the slugs are about the size of a small dog’s poop. I wouldn’t want to step on that either.

I still have no idea where the snails went this season, but one of the articles I read mentioned that snails, because of their shells, can hibernate, both in winter and summer, by retracting into their shells and creating a mucus plug in the opening, to keep in the moisture and keep out the small insects that would try to invade their sleep. Maybe all of the local snails are sleeping in dark hidden places in the backyard, and leaving it to the slugs to eat up all the vegetation they can, until the weather cools down again. Maybe snails have as much trouble with the heat as I do.

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I wonder if that house is heavy.

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Maybe they could get some in-shell air-conditioning?

In the meantime, the dogs and I have to do a lot of hopping and swerving to avoid stepping on the slugs, and I’ve tried to find something to like about them, since they are temporarily my neighbors and we have to live in such close proximity with one another. Other than the fact that they are very easy to take pictures of, because of their slow motion lives, the mucus trails they leave behind can be sort of pretty, like glittery graffiti.

That’s something.

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“Really?”

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“No, not really.”

 

 

Why I’m Afraid to See Wonder Woman

 

I should have been on line to buy one of the first tickets to see Wonder Woman. It’s a superhero movie, with a female star, who fights for the vulnerable, and the actress in the starring role is Jewish. But I couldn’t make myself go. The movie has become a smashing success, even without my help, and for that I’m grateful, because it means that female superheroes aren’t such a scary idea to (some) men anymore, and if the movie is good that’s really all that matters to an audience. But I still can’t make myself go to see it.

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The thing is, I can never live up to Wonder Woman. I could never be that strong or courageous. I’ve worked my whole life to build up to a level of strength that allows me to believe that I might be able to do some good in the world. If I have to compare myself to Wonder Woman, I’m afraid I will lose all hope. I know women who are fierce and strong and capable, and I feel like I always disappoint them with my vulnerabilities and doubts. Wonder Woman would find me pathetic.

I look at my dogs, both female, and I know that they are not superheroes. They have their strengths and their weaknesses, they can almost fly and they bark at every danger, but they are imperfect and I love them for it, because they make my imperfections seem acceptable. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, makes me think of all of my flaws. She is like the Golden Retriever of women: loyal, strong, up for anything, deceptively smart, and, of course, beautiful. That’s not me.

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Delilah doesn’t even need a special outfit to look like a superhero.

When I was little I loved the Wonder Woman TV show. Lynda Carter and her twirly skirts and golden lassos comforted me. I didn’t imagine that that could be me, no, I imagined that Wonder Woman could be one of my teachers, or a neighbor down the block, or the Torah reader at my synagogue. I thought, maybe there is a superhero hiding in plain sight and she will come to save me. I especially liked that she was in disguise, like Superman, with her glasses, and skirt suit, and a day job hiding her real identity. I wondered, every once in a while, if even Wonder Woman couldn’t manage to be Wonder Woman all the time.

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It’s possible that Cricket and Butterfly think I’m a little bit like Wonder Woman, actually, the way I pretend to be tired and achy and boring most of the time and then suddenly save the day with a walk or chicken treats or extra-long scratching sessions. I’d like to think they could see me that way, but I still refuse to wear the new Wonder Woman outfit, that armor looks painful.

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“Scratchies are wonderful!”

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“Playtime is wonderful!”

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“I wonder where my treats are!”