Quote of the week:

“They'd have to shoot me to get me back to Illnois."

~Abraham Lincoln upon going to WDC to become president

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Sweeney Todd --Redeemed!

Sweeney Todd has been redeemed!—No, not the travesty of a movie. It’s still a piece of shit. Over the weekend, as part of my birthday (February 6, for those taking notes), my best friend got tickets for the touring production of Sweeney, which is in Chicago for a brief (way too brief) time. Additionally, the universe showed me some kindness, and by a fluke I was able to see it on Tuesday night as well. I responded to an ad on CL. This guy had a friend back out on him, and he had an extra . I didn’t even have to pay for the ticket. Blind date, great show, nice guy. For both performances we were in the orchestra level at the theatre.

When the revival opened on Broadway two years ago, I was really bummed that I was not able to see it. (This doesn’t qualify as a regret—see previous post—as it’s not that I had an opportunity to see it and passed on it, I just was unable due to circumstances and finances to get to NYC to see it. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how the actors were also the orchestra. How the heck would/could this work?! I did get to NYC last summer and saw Company, which was done in the same manner (same director) and I got an idea, but these plays are so different, I still couldn’t see how this would work with ST.
With the exception of the leads, most of the Broadway cast (or understudies/standbys) are in the touring production. The character of Tobias (Toby) is also an exception. Edmund
Bagnell, the young man (as opposed to a prepubescent boy in the POS movie) who plays him is EXCEPTIONAL. In my opinion, he stole the show. Instrumentally, he played the violin, and clarinet. All of the characters are on stage the whole time, even when he was not in a scene, he was so totally in character. His facial expressions were incredible. He conveyed so much with his eyes, even from the middle of the orchestra section, he was that expressive. He would get this wonderful maniacal look, and even his violin playing looked maniacal at crucial times. He made the violin a character in the show. Vocally, instrumentally, and theatrically, he was sublime.

It was great to hear Sweeney and Judge Turpin singing in those booming, menacing baritone/bass voices, as Sweeney should be. The “Pretty Women” duets were bravissimo! While vocally, Johnny Depp didn’t completely suck (like HB-C did as Mrs. Lovett), a tenor Sweeney just doesn’t evoke the same sense of foreboding that that a deep bass singing Sweeney does. Benjamin Eakeley, who played The Beadle, and instrumentally played keyboard, clarinet and saxophone, gave a very subdued, yet strong, nuanced performance. He played a slick, smooth operating political sycophant, not some greasy snaggle-toothed street bum.

The performance that was not exceptional, and let me state, she was not bad was Johanna. But her star was less bright in this galaxy of comets and supernovas. Vocally and instrumentally, she shone with the rest. I felt though, that she ‘dumbed down’ the character of Johanna to a caricature, being a bit too ditzy, as though being placed in the lunatic asylum may have been the right choice. Also, I didn’t think that she stayed in character when she was playing cello, but not singing. I’m not sure why a woman was cast as Pirelli, the Barber. That didn’t really work for me. This actress did an OK job, but I would rather see that role play by a man with at tenor voice, not a female alto.

Casting this show had to be a nightmare. The instrumental assignments were not random. Toby HAD to be able play the violin. Mrs. Lovett had to be able to play the tuba. Not only did Benjamin Magnuson, who plays Antony have to be able to sing the role, and act it, but also be able to play, cello and keyboard. Finding the right person for each character who also played the instruments assigned to that character. Then there are the Understudies and Standbys, who are US & SB for multiple characters. It blows my mind. Sondheim writes difficult music to sing. But the music is integral to the character and character development. The music is just as important as the words that are attached to the notes. That’s why I can’t understand why he let the movie be done with sub-par (shitty) singers. (I won’t call them musicians). OK, so you want big name actors to be the box office draw. There are plenty of A listers who can sing well. Cast them. But I digress. If this touring production comes to close to you, go see it! ©wtf/rle

Thursday, April 24, 2008

So long, Gary, with some regret(s)

This past Sunday, I became vehicularless. I sold my car, a 2003 Chili Red Mini Cooper. His name was Gary (as in Gary {mini} Cooper). My cars have always had boy names. It’s the second time I’ve had to sell a car due to economics. Over a five year period, I lost 13 months of income, due to my health, from surgeries, chronic pain, broken arm. I learned to quit asking the question, “WTF can happen next?!” Because when I did, the universe would respond. Let me state, the intent of this entry is NOT a poor me pity party. But, rather a documentation of events. This falls into the category of WASTHTR*

I got Gary in the Spring of 2003. MINIs were just hitting the US. I’m not usually at the far left side of the bell curve known as early adopters. But my friend Ben, had just ordered one. (He IS the early adopter profile.) I was starting a new job in the burbs that was going to be a big commute. I had gotten through the chronic pain debilitation, and one (unrelated) surgery. It was the mark of a new beginning, after a year and a half of hell. I had had to sell my previous car as a result of lost income from the chronic pain convalescence.

The funny (strange funny/ not ha ha funny) thing about working in healthcare is that one would think one would have great benefits relating to healthcare—things like short-term and long term disability. Not so much. Each of those 13 months over that 5 year period was a time with NO income, no disability. The most I ever got was one to two weeks of vacation or PTO time that may have been accrued. So, no income means NO income.

Friends were excited for me. Many made a big deal out of getting Gary, because of the previous year and a half and symbolically what the new car meant for me.
I had Gary less than a month, in fact, I had not yet made my first car payment, when one afternoon, backing out of my space in the parking deck at the Hospital (which would later become known as 5RH**), a Chevy Tahoe backs into me. I have no admissible evidence, but the lady driving the Tahoe was on her cell phone. There was a witness who verified that she was the driver at fault. When the witness (an employee) had to leave, she asked the security guard if she needed to leave her name and contact info. He replied, “No”, as he knew who she was. (I would later regret not taking her info myself.) The funny (this time it IS funny ha ha.) thing was, is that security was there in seconds—literally. Hospital security was not known for their swiftness of action. It wasn’t until I was finally driving out after the police showed up and we did the whole police report stuff, that I realized I had already opened up the moon roof, so my voice could be heard. As soon as I heard the crunch of my back fender, I just started screaming,
at the top of my lungs. That’s what got security there so quickly! That was in May. The witness? When I called security the next day to get her name and contact info for my insurance company. They had no recollection of a witness. When I said, “She came up and talked to you!, and you told her you knew who she was!” Of course the Chevy Tahoe driver denied fault. So my first car payment was my $500. insurance deductible.

In September, I was coming back home from a trip downstate to visit a friend. Euckie was NOT with me this time. Being a compliant patient, and following my (PM&R) doc’s instructions, I get out stop at a rest stop to walk around, stretch my legs. Upon re-entering the highway from the rest stop exit ramp, I do my look backwards, see nothing, enter the high, and am immediately hit by someone driving a Cadillac Seville. I veer off to the side, start to open my door, to go to the other car, and I feel pain and dizzy. I stop. I call 911. I get my first (and hopefully last) ambulance ride. While in the ER, on the gurney, on a back board with a C-Collar, I am approached by a police officer who gives me a ticket for improper lane usage. The other driver received the same. Since there were no witnesses, rather than issuing no tickets, as there was no evidence to support either party, they chose to be equal opportunity offenders. I could appear in court to fight the ticket. “I’m sorry for your injuries. I hope you’re OK.” I won’t tell you what words were running through my mind, but I’m sure you can guess. On top of that, I had to piss like a race horse. I learned that this is not an easy task, when flat on your back strapped down, with something pressing on a full bladder. To make matters worse, I find out that the guy who hit me was the son of a Chicago policeman. My chances of contesting the ticket winning that battle were just annihilated.

There was a third incident that happened on December 23 of the same year, leaving the hospital. I was sideswiped by the Electric Company truck. It grazed the side, and took out the side mirror and mirror cap, and door handle. There was no way I was reporting this to the insurance. I went 14 years without an auto insurance claim (and that one wasn’t my fault, either). And, three in a year’s time, with a new vehicle.

I have two philosophies about regrets. The first one is, one should NOT have regrets.
The second one is, or perhaps a corollary of the first is, if you must have regrets, they should be about things you did NOT do. There should never be regrets for doing something, as I think that even the bad experiences in life are hopefully learning experiences.

When I wanted to start my florist business, my Mom was dead set against it. “What’s going to happen if you fail?!” My family has always been a glass half empty (or completely empty) type of people. Affirmation and positive reinforcement were not a part of the arsenal. My response was, “I’d rather try and fail, than not try at all, and when I turn 40 wonder ‘what if’?”

I can say for the most part, I pretty much have led my life with no regrets. And the regrets I do have are of things I did NOT do, or did NOT do sooner. When I was a freshman in college, I was offered a ticket to go see Harry Chapin in Concert. I opted to go to a party instead, rationalizing that Harry came around every year for his ‘World Hunger Concert Tour”. Before Harry got back to a return concert, he was killed in an auto accident.

The next regret is one I vacillate back and forth on. I wish I’d come out of the closet long before I did. It didn’t happen until I was in my late 20s, in grad school. The reason I vacillate on this one is that given the point in history, had I come out in early college, chances are strong that I’d be dead. With my luck, I’d have contracted HIV, when they were still trying to figure out what it was.

My current regret of something that I did NOT do is that I did NOT file bankruptcy when it was recommended by various individuals. I would not allow myself to suffer that sort of shame and become one of ‘those deadbeat sycophants’ on society.

This is what brought me to selling Gary. When I left 5RH to take my current position, I took a HUGE cut in salary—almost half. Yes, it was a conscious decision, partly based on ‘what price do you put on sanity?” The job REALLY was THAT bad. Also, this employer has solid short-term and long term disability plans, as well as a good medical plan. These are things I had to look for in a job. Should I retire from here (it’s unlikely I’ll live to see that), my health insurance is paid for the rest of my life.

I was already asshole deep in medical debt. Last year, to try and reduce some of that debt, I cashed out my life insurance policy, and retirement. As a result, I took a terrible tax hit this year, and owed the IRS. I claim zero dependents, and usually get a very nice return every year. I knew that the cash out would affect that, but I anticipated that it would reduce greatly what I would get back this year, and that I would not end up owing my left nut. I was mistaken. Having no more savings, or retirement to cash out, the remaining thing is to liquidate solid assets…hence, Gary has gone to a new home in Arkansas. If I’d filed bankruptcy, especially before W’s new laws went into place, my life insurance and retirement would have been protected. Stupid fucking pride. What do I have to show for it? Certainly not a car, anymore. On the up side, I've just become more earth friendly.

* Weird Ass Shit That Happens To Randy
** Fifth Ring of Hell

Monday, April 21, 2008

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Earlier this winter I was invited by the Immune Deficiency Foundation to come to Washington, DC to attend their “Capitol Hill Day”, and to meet with my legislators to discuss healthcare funding and reimbursement affecting people who need infusions of IgG to maintain a healthy immune system. If you are a regular reader, you know that I am one of these people. I have CVID and receive monthly infusions of IgG, which is a component of blood, extracted from plasma.

Wednesday night: 9:48 pm (EDT)
We had our dinner and training session for tomorrow. I got my appointments. I’m going to a ‘constituent breakfast’ with Senator Durbin. Throughout the day, I’ll be meeting with someone from Senator Obama’s staff, and two House Reps. It was nice meeting some of the IDF staff, and other Primary Immune Deficiency patients. A special guest was the Mom of “The Boy in the Bubble”. She is the one responsible for getting this bill introduced by one of her legislators. Some of the patient stories were horrific. One woman was told by her insurance company, “We’re not approving your IVIG because it’d be cheaper for us if you died.” This kind of bullshit should be criminal! “Oh, the U.S. healthcare system is fine!” We have a great healthcare system—as long as you’re not a consumer. For one of the richest countries, we have the shittiest healthcare system for an industrialized nation. But that’s not news.
I’m looking forward to the meetings and reporting further. (Although this is all going to be in one post most likely.) The unfortunate part of being in DC right now is that, the Youth for Hitler alumus, with the big hat and red Prada shoes is here at the same time. That’s a pisser. Oh, our dinner meeting got bumped to a smaller room because vp (evil incarnate) cheney took our original room for some function. church and this administration, I’m going to wretch before I get back to Chicago.
The weather is great. I got here mid afternoon, checked in, and went out to enjoy a few hours outside. The hotel is near Dupont Circle –aka “the fruit loop”. That’s a bonus. So I walked down to the “FL”, go to Kramer’s Bookstore and Restaurant (A GREAT Place), and get a table outside on the sidewalk, order a drink, and appetizer and pull out the laptop and relax for an hour and half. I also don’t get out the door without buying a book, “The Best Buddhist Writing 2007”. This is one of my favorite bookstores. I discovered it last fall when I was here. I’m rambling. I have to be ready to roll at 6:30, and you may remember, I’m NOT a morning person. So, signing off for tonight.

Thursday morning, April 17, 6:25 AM. (EDT). I am SO NOT a morning person. Luggage is checked with the bell station. I’m out to get on the bus. Bus is rolling out at 6:45 SHARP! NOT! One person in our group is in a wheelchair. The fucking bus driver doesn’t know how to operate the wheelchair lift. I shit you not, it is 8:00 before we finally leave the front of the Hilton. Traffic is rerouted due to the pope. The President of the IDF is sitting next to me. She keeps saying, “This route doesn’t seem right.” We are assured that it is, that the bus driver knows what he’s doing. We’re deep in Maryland before this imbecile admits that he’s lost. I posed the question, “How does someone get a job in transportation in Washington, DC and not know where the Capitol is?!?!” There is another Illinoisan in the group. We miss our breakfast with Senator Durbin. We’re bummed and pissed. We are finally dropped off at the Capitol, nearly two hours late. A couple of Reps were supposed to get awards from the organization. That didn’t happen either. Those of us who don’t have 8:30 appointments, are able to go to the Capitol building and chow down some breakfast before our previously reserved room is cleared.
We are in DC to Lobby our legislators about HB 2914, which is a Medicare reimbursement add on so that our medical providers can get appropriate reimbursement. Currently, providers get reimbursed for the IgG product, but not for infusion nurses, nor the IV pump. (One woman told about how she had to give herself her own IV, because insurance would not pay for the infusion nurse.) Because our medical conditions are somewhat rare and unusual, medical providers don’t always know how to treat us. Often, we are sent to Oncology centers, to Chemo suites for the infusions. Chemo patients get IgG as a boost to their chemo. For us, IgG is not the add on. It’s the primary ingredient. There are different manufacturers. Each of us responds differently to each ‘brand’ of blood product. We can have adverse reactions to the infusion. I’ve had reactions a few times, fortunately not severe. All this to say that IgG is not generic, as one physician told one of us.
It’s another beautiful Spring day. It’s a great day to be walking Capitol Hill. We are off to our first meeting. It is with Rep’s office of my other Illinois compatriot. IDF has set it up so that we have an ‘escort’, either staff person, volunteer, or blood product manufacturer employee. This person introduces us, and gives the ‘quick and dirty’ of why we’re there—tells about the proposed bill that we are hoping our legislator will support. As constituents/IVIG patients, we are there to tell our stories, and why it (the proposed bill) is important to us. We are the ‘human faces or stories’ of IVIG recipients. The first meeting goes OK. The person we meet with at the Rep’s office does not seem very engaged—like he’s meeting with us only because he has to.
We have some time before our next meeting, with Sen. Durbin’s office. We will have a different host/escort. We arrive sans escort, early. We apologize for missing the breakfast, and relay the bus driver story. We are told that it’s too bad as this morning’s breakfast was a small group and we would have actually had some face time with the Senator. We are doubly bummed and pissed at the bus driver. Our escort arrives, and we are introduced to the liaison that we are to meet. After our ‘presentations’ she asks a number of questions, takes notes, and is much more engaged than our first meeting. We feel this meeting was a success. We have almost two hours before our next appointment. We walk over the Old Union Station for lunch. Our next meeting is with Obama’s Office. This meeting seems as successful as the last one. The liaison we meet with is equally engaged, and tells us she will bring the issue up with the other medical liaisons at their weekly staff meeting. Our final meeting is with my Representative, Jan Schanowski. She actually comes out to meet us, shake our hands, and apologize that she has to catch a plane. Her staff person that we met with listened to our stories and took notes, like the others. She also asked us some really good questions about the legislation, and made connections, “Rep. S is on ‘this’ committee which has crossover to the committee that deals with medical. It was our best and most successful meeting of the day. As we are leaving, returning to the hotel to collect our luggage and head to the airport, our escort for this meeting says to us, “You are lobbyists!”
This day was a really cool experience. It was much more educational that any social studies or government class I was ever in. For those of us who feel like we’ve had so much taken from us (health, financial solvency, dignity, control of our lives) it felt like (for me anyway) that I was taking back a small bit of control. I was at least, not sitting by complacently, letting something happen to me. I was fighting back in some small way. I was able to tell my story to someone who may be in a position to affect change. I was able to be my own advocate. I’m most grateful to IDF for the opportunity to be a lobbyist for a day. ©wtf/rle

Monday, April 7, 2008

Never Enough

No matter how much time you have, it’s never enough. You want more. But you take what you’re given, and you learn to treasure the good, cloud over the bad—not completely, because hopefully in the bad you’ve gained a valuable life lesson. That part shouldn’t be forgotten. But you don’t want to hold on to the bad like you do the good.

In order to feel the exhilarating heights of joy and euphoria, the converse must be present. You also have to be able to feel utter despair and pain of grief. It’s the yin and yang. Not long after Ficus (the dog, not the plant) died, I felt very guilty because I was so grief stricken over losing her. I realized that I’d cried a lot over her, but never cried when my Grandma or favorite Uncle died. Did that mean I didn’t love them enough, because I didn’t cry when they died? Cognitively, I know that’s not the case. I’m not sure I can explain it. They were part of my life—a major part of my life. But they were not a part of my everyday routine. They did not impact my daily schedule. My Uncle had Alzheimer’s. For many intents and purposes, the Uncle/Man that I knew and remembered had died a few years before his body finally expired. In so many ways, it was a relief. Caring for him was taking an emotional and physical toll on my Aunt. Now the universe is repaying her with her own onset of Alzheimer’s. But, I digress.

There have been three times in my adult life that I have had a grief of this magnitude: Euckie’s death, which obviously is still very raw; when Ficus (the dog, not the plant) died; and when Bruce (henceforth known as the Stupid Fucking Mormon—SFM) told me he was leaving me and moving back to Utah to be with a man he met a two weeks before, when he went back to visit his parents. Ficus (the dog), I was prepared for—as much as one can be. I knew she had cancer. She was put to sleep the day the movers packed up my house for my move to Chicago. The good aspect of that, is that there were so many changes that happened at once. I was in a new city, in a new home which never housed Ficus. There weren’t constant reminders of her absence, because everything was different. That made the adjustment easier (or less difficult). It was 3 months later that SFM left me. As the man (a friend) who bought my house downstate commented, “Man, if you took one of those ‘changes in you life’ stressors test, you’d blow that fucker out of the water!” And so I did.

I wanted more time with Ficus (the dog); with the SFM; and with Euckie. The other thing about time is, when enough time HAS passed, after the grief making event, you are able to be grateful and hold the good memories, gently in your mind, heart, and soul. They do sustain you—even the ones with the SFM.

One of my neighbors gave me a bottle of wine, and told me to “Drown your sorrows.” I’ve never been a depressive drinker. I opted to hold on to the bottle, and will open it when I can drink a toast to the good times I had with Euckie—which is nearly all of them. Although there wasn’t enough time for my liking, in time enough when it’s less raw, I’ll walk our usual route, and it will feel good. It will feel right. She will look down, taking a break from chasing a squirrel, and will smile that crooked dog smile. And the sun will shine brighter for just a moment. ©wtf/rle

Happy 75th

I heard today on NPR that today is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition. Drink up!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Sometimes the Universe...

…is a fucking bitch, with a twisted sense of humor.

Author note: If you've not read the previous post, this one will make less sense. Hell, it may make no sense if you've read the previous post. Just so you know, intrepid reader, I am going to be processing my grief (or some of it) by writing here on this blog.

I am NOT a morning person. I used to have no problems getting up when I needed to do so. But these days, I have a hard time dragging my ass out of bed. I relish weekends so I can sleep in. I would take Euckie out before going to bed to empty her bladder, so she would not need to go out at 7:00 am. She usually let me sleep until around 9:00, before putting her paws up on my bed to get me up. This morning (Sunday). I wake up at 7:30. Wide awake. I lay back down. I’m not nodding off. FUCK YOU universe! Funny joke. Ha Ha. I’m not laughing.

So, I get out of bed. I don’t walk Euckie. I don’t fill her water and food bowls. I don’t fix us our Sunday morning eggs. What I do, after I have my coffee and breakfast, is re-bag almost 40 LBS of dog food, that I’d bought a couple of weeks ago. I took it to Anti-Cruelty to donate in Euckie’s name.

The thing I hate most about grief is how it hits you at strange times, triggered by completely unrelated, innocuous events. Yesterday was in the 60’s—the first time we’ve hit those digits this year. My parents drove up for the day. That was a genuine surprise. Well, it was a surprise Friday night when Mom called and asked if I was going to be around on Saturday. If so, they were going to come up for the day. My relatives are not necessarily known for their overt displays of affection or compassion. So, this was pretty monumental. I even got nice notes from my brothers. Sometimes my family surprises me in good ways.

When they left to go back home, I walked them outside to their car. As it was our first great Spring day, I decided to take a walk—I decided to take ‘our usual Euckie walk.” I didn’t expect a stupid walk to make me tear up. I take the repackaged dog food to Anti-Cruelty. I’m driving home. I’m on LSD (Lake Shore Drive, NOT the hallucinogenic), heading north. Radio is playing-Oldies station. “To Sir With Love”, the song from the TV movie in the early 70’s with Sidney Poitier. I know it. I’m singing along. “…who taught me right from wrong, weak from strong, that’s a lot to learn…” I fucking lose it. I’m driving and sobbing. It’s not even a goddamn song about a dog. WTF is wrong with me?!? I felt so fucking stupid, and embarrassed. The only good thing is that I was alone in the car. The mind and heart of grief plays tricks on the soul of grief.

An odd coincidence that I realized is that it was this same week, 13 years ago, that Ficus (the dog, not the plant) was put to sleep. WTF is it about the beginning of Spring and my dogs? Another thing that I’m pissed at the universe with is: It’s finally Spring. You make my poor dog suffer walking on ice in 20 below Chicago winter, you can’t give her at least some days of good Spring weather to enjoy before you start mis-firing her synapses?!
I’m re-reading “Dog Years”. I’m telling you people, buy this book! But I don’t think I’ll read this one on the train for the work commute. I want to try and keep my composure at least in public settings.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Euckie the WONDER(ful) Dog

This is a long post. It’s been a while since I’ve written. I hope you will bear with me and read through to the end—not for me, but for the subject of this post. The pictures here are of Euckie. She was my constant and faithful, loyal companion for almost 11 years. Yesterday, (Thursday April 3, 2008) I had Euckie put to sleep. This is her tribute.

I adopted Euckie from the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. They thought she was about a year old when I got her. She had been badly abused. One eye was smaller, and that ear was cocked differently from the other. This was a result of being hit or struck on her head from her abuser(s). My personal theory is that she was hit by or dumped from a car, as she totally wigged out if we crossed a busy, high trafficked street or road.

About 2-3 weeks ago, she had a seizure in the middle of the night. The past 3 nights in a row, she had seizures again, each one progressively worse. She seemed to be more impaired after each one. She knew something had happened, and it just freaked her out. Last night it took about 3 hours to ‘bring her down’.

When I called to make the appointment on Tuesday, I knew/felt in the pit of stomach that we were going to the vet, and I was going to come back home alone. Wednesday night, I made her eggs with cheese. Eggs for breakfast is--was a weekend treat for both of us. Instead of her usual one treat per night, she got one every time she went to the cabinet and stared up at the cookie jar with her treats. We had a great night until the last seizure that night—less than 24 hours after the previous one. I begged to the universe, “Let’s us get through Thursday without a seizure. Let this day be as good as possible for her.” This was of course before I knew what the outcome of the trip was going to be.

The vet said that the exam indicated that the seizures were neurological in nature, and that most likely were the result of a brain tumor, given her age and other symptoms. He said I could have had a CT or MRI done to confirm, and if confirmed, there was nothing that could be done.

After the procedure he told me that if she’d been his dog, he would have made the same decision, which at least helped me to feel that I’d made the correct decision, albeit a hard one—actually, the decision wasn’t hard. Following through was. My best friend G (and Euckie’s favorite human) went with me and was with us. We stayed with her, and I held her while she received the IV.

She was the most loving dog I have ever known. Although I’m biased, this is a sentiment that myriad people have said to me over the past 10 + years, time and time again. Last Thanksgiving, at Mom & Dad’s, my sister-in-law told me she’d never seen a dog so devoted to its master before. The devotion was mutual, but I’m certain she was better than I. She was the most loyal and faithful companion, and greatly loved by pretty much everyone who knew her. I think that the best testament of that is this. As I’ve come home and told two different neighbors, they broke down, crying, with me. It wasn’t just for my loss, but because they loved Euckie for the great and loving dog she was. That’s a testament to her, not to me. People consistently have told me, “she such a lucky dog to have gotten you.” That’s not correct. I’m the lucky one. We-I {the fucking strikethrough function isn't transfering on blogger-italics followed by bold indicates what should be a strikethrough replaced word} currently live in a Co op. When I was buying this place, before my offer could be accepted, I had to be interviewed and approved by the other owners of the building. (It’s one of the differences between a co op and a condo.) There had not been a dog in the building before, so we both had to be interviewed, and ‘pass the test’. After we were accepted and moved in, I was told that J my neighbor P’s son, kept asking, not when is the new man moving in, but “When’s the dog moving in?” Euckie was already in like Flynn. The jury was still out on me!

I think that she chose me as much as I chose her 11 years ago at Anti Cruelty. I had been going back every Saturday, after I moved to my first condo. It was almost two months of returning either seeing dogs that had already been adopted, or not ‘connecting’ with a dog. With Euckie, it was immediate. Here was this emaciated, anorexic, terribly frightened dog, with a crooked face and smile, who looked like a patchwork quilt. As one friend commented, “She looks like she was put together by committee!” She was an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix. She was damned smart!

They had given her some name that just didn’t fit. I don’t even remember what it was, now. I used to be a florist. My dogs have been named after plants. My previous dog that I got after college (the first time) was named “Ficus”. I wanted to continue the tradition. Since my new vocation was healthcare, I wanted somehow to tie that in. Eucalyptus is a plant with healing properties. It’s native to Australia. It was a trifecta—plant, health, native origins! It was shortened to Euckie.

Here are a couple of my favorite Euckie Stories:

Not long after I got her, I took her downstate to Mom & Dad’s. She didn’t do well in the car the first few times. (I think she’d been dumped from a car.) But she came to love car rides, especially to Mom & Dad’s because she could be off the leash and run free. The first time we did that, I took her to my old high school, across the street, and she ran in the practice football field. I apparently was not keeping up with her, enough to suit her anyway. She began circling big and ‘herding’ me to get me to go where she wanted me to be.

She loved chasing squirrels. She almost caught them couple of times. Had she not been on her leash, I have not doubt that she would have. She’s the only dog I’ve ever seen who tried (and nearly succeeded) to climb a tree, while chasing a squirrel.

When Mom and Dad came up here after my first shoulder surgery, I was unable to sleep in my bed and was sleeping my recliner club chair in the living room. In the morning, I heard Mom, whispering, “Euckie, come here. Come here. It’s time for your walk.” (Euckie was always eager for her morning ‘constitutional’.) She had camped out beside my chair, and would not leave my side. It wasn’t until I told her it was ‘OK to go’, and I had to get up and take to the door, before she would go with Dad for her walk.

A few months ago I read the book, “Dog Years: A Memoir” by Mark Doty, which is a great book. I highly recommend it. At the time I didn’t realize it was preparing me for today, but in some ways as I read it, I knew that it was. Now it’s almost spooky. I have many pages ‘dog eared’—how apropos. At the end of chapter 1 he writes about his dog Beau. As this is not a critical article, nor a review, copyright infringement prohibits me from excerpting it. So GO BUY HIS BOOK, especially if you’re a dog lover! But he talks about how during his dark times, how his dog(s) gave him his will to live. I totally got that. Euckie did that for me, when my life was at its worst. I wish I could have conveyed that to her. She truly was my savior. One of the serendipitous things about reading the book when I did, is that it made me much more consciously aware that Euckie was getting older, and it caused me to spend more time with her. Instead of sitting at the computer constantly, I’d stop and play ‘tug ball’ with her when she’d bring a toy up to me. Or, I’d stop, and go sit or lie down with her on the floor and pet her. She was nearly 50 pounds, but she thought she was a lap dog. I later regretted that I got rid of that green leather club chair a couple of years ago, because that was ‘our chair’. We didn’t have a good sharing place after I gave that chair away. She made me a better human.

I had her--We had each other for almost 11 years. She outlasted a serious relationship and a few boyfriends. I will--do miss her terribly.

My quote on my home page is the perfect closing. I would just add, if there is anything I’m certain of, if there is a heaven, Euckie is one of those dogs.