A bottle of wine and a cat: Surviving the first dogless days


Tuki & Sweetheart, relaxing. This was after she’d reached the point where we let her on the couch and before the point where she couldn’t get up there by herself anymore.


The house is so quiet. No one needs to go outside before we go to bed. There are no clacking feet in the middle of the night, the prelude to a trip down the stairs and outside into the dark. No one needs to go outside first thing in the morning. And no one is chasing Sweetheart out of the driveway when he leaves for work.

How things went

Four of us left the house to go to the vet on Saturday morning. Three of us came back.

Tuki and I sat in back of Talia’s SUV. Sweetheart sat in front. T had put the seat down on Tuki’s side and spread blankets out, so she could lie comfortably. She’d also bought a bag of freeze-dried duck hearts for her Best Girl. I spent the ride feeding them to the grateful recipient.

When we got there and got her out of the car, Sweetheart took her over to eat some snow. It had snowed the night before. Fitting, as it had done the same thing the first night she’d been with us all those years before. That morning, she’d been in constant motion, dancing all over the yard, sticking her nose in the snow and tossing what she didn’t eat, openly delighted at this toy that spanned everything she could see.

I walked into the office. Joanne was sitting behind the counter. She’s been the receptionist there since before Tuki was born. I put my head down on the counter and burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s the hardest thing we have to do.”

She took us into the exam room and got a blanket so Tuki wouldn’t have to get up on the table. Tuki, never one of Park Pet’s grateful patients, stayed true to form, growling at the vet. Dr. Poehlmann told us what would happen – first a shot to send Tuki into the Happy Place where Everything is Wonderful (or that state of mind where, as Talia said later, Tuki would be doing things like staring up and saying things like, “Wow! My paws are SOOOO big!!”). Then, five minutes or so later, she would shave Tuki’s back leg, insert an IV and inject the drug that would stop her heart.

Sweetheart held and petted Tuki, so she was distracted when Dr. Poehlmann put the needle into her left flank. The vet stepped out. We got Tuki settled onto the blanket, and Talia and I laid on either side of her and stroked her. We talked and sang to her.

When Dr. Poehlmann came back, Tuki was unconscious. Dr. P shaved Tuki’s leg. She told us that the knee was very swollen and that Tuki had practically no muscle in that leg.

“I take comfort in biochemical information,” Talia said. “Can you tell me exactly how the drug works?”

I don’t remember what Dr. Poehlmann said. It had to do with interrupting some process or other.

Pho and tears

After it was over, we dropped Sweetheart at home. Talia bought pho for lunch, and we ate at Oldest Daughter’s house. We hugged Layli, my granddog, and talked about Oldest Daughter’s impending baby (yes, I’m going to be a grandmother, which feels very weird although I’m told by all my friends who have grandchildren that it is amazing). And, of course, I cried some. But it was easier because I wasn’t home. Then, I was. I spent the rest of the day sobbing.

I was a little better on Sunday, though not much.

“You need a bottle of wine and a cat,” Sweetheart said at one point.

On Monday, Sweetheart took the car to work. I managed to get all the dog things – water dish on a stand, food dish, food container, grooming tools and toys – gathered up and put away.

Then, I picked up her bed. She slept, ala “The Princess and the Pea,” atop a dog bed under which several blankets were piled.

I am not ready to wash it, or throw it away.

Goodbye, Tuki, and thank you for 15 amazing years.

I’m writing this with a view.


Tuki is lying with her head on my outstretched leg. In two hours, she will be gone and I will be bereft. I’ve never had to put a dog down before.

In between writing, I put my hand on her head and stroke the space from just above her nose and between her eyes with my thumb.

We’ve had nearly 15 years together. Our 15th Doggiversary would have been November 30th. That was the night I found her, a three-month-old stray puppy gamboling in the grass with a friend’s dog.

“Who’s the other dog?” I said, as we watched the two of them frolic from a porch above the patch of lawn where they were having a grand old time giving chase.

“No idea,” she said.

I ventured out into the dark for a closer look. Lucas, Ann’s dog, was a seven-year-old Schnauzer/Yorkshire Terrier mix. He weighed about 10 pounds. The other dog was bigger but, as I got closer, I could see how young it was.

She spent one night with us, and those of us not crazy in love with her from the jump (my then-husband) were moving in that direction. Animal Control picked her up in the morning so she could be reunited with her owners. We filled out a “first dibs on adopting” form if no one claimed her.

Fast forward three weeks.

The Humane Society says we can adopt her. But, they say, she has kennel cough and they want to keep an eye on her for a couple of days. The next day, they call and tell us to pick her up. We bring her home.

A week later, we’re at the vet for the second time. The first vet said it was bronchitis and threw pills at us. The second vet says, “I don’t know if this dog is going to live through the night.”

I ask how what it will cost to see if we can save her. Money is short, but I decide I can handle giving up three months of cell phone service.

As we leave, I can hear her shrill puppy cries as the vet tech and vet insert an IV.

The next morning, the vet calls.

“Good news,” he said. “The antibiotics did the job. She popped up this morning and gobbled her food. We want to keep her another night.”

Fast forward to now.

There are not enough or the right kind of words to express the universe of love, kindness and joy this dog has brought me. She was the valedictorian of her manners class. You could leave a plate of food in reach and she wouldn’t touch it if it wasn’t offered. She caught two squirrels, and tried to be a good friend to all her feline housemates, some of whom were more receptive to her overtures than others.

So, I am going to get dressed now and the three of us – that 13-year-old, who is now 28, and Sweetheart, who’s been my best human partner for 10 years – are going to do the last, best right thing we can for someone we love.


Muslims, Jews, History, Cities: A Dispatch from Refugee Heaven

This is my kitten, Grover. Grover had been beaten pretty badly by a group of ferals when I got him, and still has scars. I chose this image because of that and because  everyone on the Internet loves cat pictures.

By now, everyone is probably experiencing what it is they experience after a major tragic event that ripples out from wherever it happened and into their daily routine.

The day after ISIL/Daesh shared its latest commentary on modern civilization, one of my friends posted this story. It’s dense, but worthwhile for anyone who wants a real understanding of what this movement is all about. If you’re too busy, here’s a six-word summary: “Let’s return the world to 630!”

Here, in my own backyard, I’ve been reading about US governors (my own included) falling all over each other in their haste to announce that Syrian refugees will not be allowed to enter their states.

I know that while many Muslims don’t hate Jews, some do, and would hate being compared to us. But there’s no way I can unsee what I’m seeing, which is a contemporary version of the run-up to the Holocaust with these refugees taking the role of the Jews, ISIL/Daesh playing Nazi Germany, and the rest of the world playing itself.

There’s a Canadian book on Jewish immigration policy during that period called “None is Too Many: Canada and the Jews of Europe, 1933-1948.” The title comes from a comment made by Frederick Blair, then head of immigration for the Canadian government. It was his answer to the question about how many Jewish refugees should be allowed into Canada after 1945.

I was at a neighborhood meeting last night where two aldermen talked about the number of vacant city-owned houses available for sale. I’m sure mine isn’t the only city trying to figure out ways, in the wake of the foreclosure crisis, to deal with this issue. I’m sure it’s not the only city that would love to see those houses filled with hardworking people who would increase the tax base.

No one wants to invite the Angel of Death in for tea and cookies. I’m not saying people shouldn’t be vetted. I am saying that there are three million refugees who would probably think they’d gone straight to heaven if they could walk to the store without being blown up or shot or beheaded or raped or enslaved. Refugees who would be thrilled to pay taxes because it meant they were able to work and earn money.

Here we sit, in our cities full of boarded-up houses and empty apartment buildings. Here we sit, living in heaven and not even realizing it.

A vote for harmony and service: Skipping the Republican Debate to sing and tie a shoelace

I spent Tuesday night with some old white men here in Milwaukee, and they weren’t Republican presidential wannabes.

Not only did we get to see Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey on stage, but after the show, we got to go backstage and hang out with them. Well, mostly we hung with Peter. And we did get to thank Noel for co-hosting a great evening, and especially for the terrific story about how his song “Cue the Moon” came to be. They also talked about singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” at the March on Washington in 1963, and how their late partner Mary Travers (z”l) called it a song with nine questions.

Most of the audience was “of a certain age” and white. But there were a few whippersnappers in the house, among them Niece and Nephew (who survived my childhood) and a sweet young writer named Ben, his mother Wendy and their friend. Ben, Wendy and Friend had driven into town for a protest at City Hall in advance of the Republican Presidential Debate, which was occurring in a theater down the street at the same time Peter and Paul were performing.

My sister (she of the 1,400-mile road trip) and brother-in-law, Dr. Brilliant Scientist Guy are visiting Mom this week and sprung for the tickets. I am currently between paying jobs (read: unemployed and looking for work), so Sweetheart and I have stricken the live show line item from our household budget.

Peter Yarrow, however, occupies a special place in Debby and Dave’s lives. Twenty-five years ago, D&D, along with a friend, headed straight from his successful dissertation defense to a pizza joint in New Haven to celebrate. There, they ran into Peter, who was dining with his daughter. Debby had had occasion to go to Peter’s apartment after a concert he’d performed with our cousin, and he’d been lovely to Debby, plying her with cranberry juice and engaging her in pleasant conversation. She wasn’t sure he’d remember her, but he did, or at least pretended to. They chatted, he congratulated Dave and they parted ways.

“Who was that again?” Dave said as they sat down at their own table.

Peter Yarrow,” Debby said, “You know, from ‘Peter, Paul & Mary.’ ”

Dave and his friend gawped.

“WHAT?” he said, when he’d finally recovered enough to say something. “That was PETER???”

Debby then answered a raft of questions about how it had come to pass that an original Puff Daddy and Debby were well enough acquainted to exchange friendly greetings during a chance restaurant encounter.

The story has become part of family lore. So when I realized Debby had a chance to take Niece & Nephew to see one of the featured players in their parents’ lives, I let her know. She asked if we’d like to come, and I told her that Sweetheart gets up very early for work and probably wouldn’t but that I’d be up for it.

Debby bought five tickets and then got in touch with the person she remembered as Peter’s manager. After a few bouncing e-mails, she eventually connected with someone who hooked her up with backstage passes. She was very excited, and asked me to keep it a surprise from the N’s, which I did.

Things got confusing when the guy working the Will-Call window handed her an envelope containing four tickets and four passes.

“I bought five,” she said. Then she looked at the tickets. They weren’t the ones she’d bought. By the time it was straightened out, we were holding five backstage passes and nine tickets. The five she’d bought (in the second balcony) and the four she hadn’t (near the front of the house).

She sent the family inside and we hung out on the street until we’d given the tickets away to our new protester friends and a kid on a skateboard who ended up not using it. I know, because those were my people. I sat up in the bought seats for the first half of the show, and Debby hooked me up with an unused front-of-the-house seat for the second half.

Our backstage visit with Peter was lovely, I met a local writer who is a friend of his, and doubled the items on my “Things I Have Done for Folk Singers” list, which consisted of “making coffee for Arlo Guthrie” and now includes “tying Peter Yarrow’s shoe.”

Peter Yarrow with my sister and her family.  My brother-in-law was a mere boyfriend 25 years ago when Peter was the first to congratulate him on his successful dissertation defense.
Your correspondent (left) with Peter Yarrow and my sister.
Your correspondent (left) with Peter Yarrow and my sister. Maybe we should invite him to come along on our next road trip. (Or not.)

Ranting with manners: Donald Trump, Larry David and why Tribe Golden Rule needs to start role modeling polite rage

Larry David calls Donald Trump a racist on live television. People magazine writes about it. What comes crawling out of the woodwork?

The love children of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Who are, in turn, the love children of talk show hosts like Father Coughlin and Bob Grant.

Wouldn’t you just love to invite these two to your next dinner party? (If the answer is yes, I’m washing my hair that night.)

Here are the first two comments on the story:

  1. “That’s how we get rid of the spics (sic). OFFER $500 BOUNTY ON EACH SPIC’S HEAD. As the saying goes dead or alive. Help out the economy at the same time getting rid of the spanish (sic) rats.” Vote trump (sic)
  2. “International Zionism has relentlessly pushed for open immigration in every Western country going back to the days of the Russian revolution (sic); especially just before and right after WW2 where the guilt tripping has never stopped; with the advent of terrorism and the proliferation of Muslims entering Europe and the USA they are no (sic) backtracking a little bit, and obfuscating their role…..the open immigration is for the USA and other countries, of course, but ironically not for Israel. That is just for Jews..” The Advisor 77

Aren’t they nice?

There are so many things to find wrong with the writings of “Vote trump (sic),” “The Advisor 77,” but I will refrain from any critique of their ability to construct grammatical sentences or logical arguments in English and focus, instead, on the messages they are attempting to send.

For starters, it’s a good bet that Vt and TA77 are not the names that appear on their birth certificates. Then, there’s the fact that People seems to have no problem featuring their comments on its web site. In this, People is not unique. My hometown paper’s comment section reads like the Greek Chorus from a Hieronymus Bosch painting.

It’s easy to point the finger at haters and trolls who seem to have unlimited time and energy to post their vitriol on all kinds of web sites. But people like Limbaugh, Trump and, in my town, our sheriff, David Clarke, have and continue to pave the way for people like VT and TA77. The big monkeys beat their chests, spouting nastiness and getting rich. The little monkeys, inspired by their behavior, peep out from behind the trees to throw poop. Then they run for cover.

So what’s to be done in a world where the voices of people doing their best to play by the fair and honorable rulebook are drowned out by an endless parade of extremism and nastiness?

How do we raise voices and create pathways to tangible kindness in a world that is becoming increasingly polarized, a world in which 158 US families will control the purse strings of the upcoming presidential election and the loudest, meanest voices get the most attention?

What do we do to reclaim our collective humanity in a world in which a nonstop parade of mean-spirited fear-mongers are successfully pitting people with common interests against each other for their own benefit? (A point illustrated by the following joke I heard back in 2010, just after Act 10 was passed.

“A 1 percenter, a Tea Party Republican and a union member sit down at a table, on which sits a plate containing a dozen cookies. The 1 percenter takes 11 cookies. Cocking his head at the union member, he addresses the Tea Party Republican.

‘Look out for that guy,’ he says, conspiratorially. ‘I think he’s trying to take your cookie.’”)

We stop being quiet, that’s what. We can get angry and stay polite. We can find each other, our tribe of angry, polite people. We can stand, together, and fight for decency, civility and tangible kindness.

Postscript: A recent checkback an hour after taking the screenshot in this post showed that Vt’s comment was deleted. TA77’s is still up. So what’s the takeaway? That coded hate phrases (“International Zionism”) are okay but overt slurs (“them spics”) are off-limits? (Note to VT: You might want to tear a page out of TA77’s book next time, couching your rage about your tiny privates in hateful terms more acceptable to People’s comment moderators.)

My day at the food show: The pie was to “Dye” for and now I’m dreaming of a US Map made of pancakes

Three hours after my friend Grace called last week with a spare ticket to a recent Wine and Dine Expo, I was walking into the Exhibit Hall at the Wisconsin Center.

Exhibit halls. They make airplane hangars look intimate. The Wine & Dine airplane hangar was a sea of tables, counters and demo stations. The tables and counters were laden with bottles, chafing dishes, disposable plates and cutlery, cocktail napkins in every color of the rainbow and all the shades in-between. And we won’t even talk about the business cards and information sheets, which, if collected and given to a family with a fireplace, would probably have been enough to heat their house for winter.

My admission ticket got me a wine glass and bag to carry my share of those cards and information sheets, and I spent $3 on a plastic tray with a cutout for the wine glass. Which turned out to be a smart move. Between the cheese-tasting station and various restaurants handing out samples of their signature dishes, it was easy to pile up more than was possible for a two-handed person to manage.

The event was aptly named – I’d estimate that “Wine” (which, for purposes of this event also included beer and hard liquor) outnumbered “Dine” by at least 2:1. I’ve always preferred to eat my calories than drink them. So the exhibitors who took “Best in Show,” a category for which I served as judge and jury, were food purveyors. “Most Original” was, well, most original.

Here are the award winners:

Picture all 50 states in pancakes, not just New York and Wisconsin.....
Picture all 50 states in pancakes, not just New York and Wisconsin…..
  1. American Skillet Co., “Most Original”
    These cast-iron pans are the ideal blend of fabulous and insane. Because they’re in the shape of states. I now have a fantasy about buying a set of 50 and throwing a brunch party in which I serve a US map made entirely of pancakes.

    Mr. Dye, with his amazing sweet potato pie.
    Mr. Dye, with his amazing sweet potato pie.
  2. Mr. Dye’s Pies, “Best in Show”
    The company’s slogan is “What are Grandma’s Gonna Do Now?” His sweet potato pie was a slice of heaven. Every tiny plastic spoonful was another chance to savor its satiny texture and the perfect blend of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and other flavors. He also had a key lime, which was equally good.

    Look at that smiling face! If you made crackers that tasted that yummy, you'd be smiling, too.
    Look at that smiling face! If you made crackers that tasted that yummy, you’d be smiling, too.
  3. Wausome Foods, “Best in Show”
    They make crackers out of cheese. Five flavors, the best of which is their Colby/Swiss. there are also Cheddar, Jalapeno Pepper Jack, Bleu. These things are crispy, tasty and crunchable. That study that claimed cheese as addictive as crack? These crackers will do nothing to dispel that. The good news is that you can get them in portion-controlled serving sizes. Also, they’re from Wausau and they’re awesome.