July 2008


Teva Bonita Rosita Chihuahua, aka T-Bone, Boney Rose, etc., etc...

Teva Bonita Rosita Chihuahua, aka T-Bone, Boney Rose, etc., etc...

I noticed her on my first day volunteering with the Yolo County SPCA. The shrunken German Shepherd look-alike, completely filthy from head to toe, as were all of the dogs from Carrie’s foster farm. She was sitting in a kennel with a pre-teen who was more interested in the new puppies that had arrived on the scene. I fell in love with another dog that day (“Midnight” – the mother of the puppies), but I made a mental note to tell Brent about this pretty little Sheltie/Shepherd mix. He always wanted a shepherd.

Over the weeks, I learned her story – as much of a story as any pet in a shelter can bring with them. She was 4 years old, something about being surrendered by a man who had his own issues in his life (a move? An illness? No one quite knew or could remember the details). I watched each week as shoppers would browse the selection of adoptable animals in front of the Davis Petco, sure of the fact that Teva would be adopted by one of them. She was attractive, good natured, mellow. Not at all like the fidgety, hyper-active dogs with “issues” that were the typical scene in an environment like that. Week after week, however, I watched prospective adopters look at her and then move on to the next. At 4 years old, she was positively geriatric – no one wanted a dog more than a year old.

In the meantime, Brent started visiting me on those Saturdays. Every once in awhile, he would pass in front of my cage with Teva on a leash. Walking her. Checking her out. Spending Alone Time with her in the grass – far away from the chaos that was Mobile Adoption Day. You can see where this is going. I had my “Midnight” picked out, he had his Teva. Our family was starting to take shape.

Then it happened. Just as we were finalizing plans on a house in Winters, another couple about our age was looking for a dog. Their choice was between Teva and “Midnight.” We panicked. I knew they would pick Teva (how could one not?), and I was angry at myself because I didn’t adopt them ahead of time. Brent was very mad. I pulled rank and called Carrie – we wanted to adopt both of the dogs. Too late, Carrie said. The couple had already chosen . . . Midnight. Unbelievable. Why could no one see what I saw in her? The best dog anyone could ever choose, gone unchosen again. That Saturday, Brent paid Teva’s adoption fee along with the newly-returned “Midnight” (immediately changed to Edith), even though we had no place to bring them home to until the house in Winters was finished.

When Brent got caught in a corporate downsizing, our world was turned upside down. Within 6 weeks, we moved to Brent’s hometown in New Mexico, 2 dogs and 3 cats in tow. It was a traumatic time in our lives. Living arrangements weren’t completely stable, I had no job, Brent only a student position, I knew virtually no one, isolated. My dogs were my best friends. While Edie showed nurturing concern, Teva showed courage and curiosity with the new situation. After awhile, I took her lead and found a bit more courage to investigate the possibilities of this strange new land that would be my home. It was the first of many lessons I learned from this 37 lb. creature.

Follow Your Bliss with No Fear.

I remember the times we took her out to Deer Trap Mesa. We learned quickly to put a harness on her for maximum briefcase-carrying-like mobility in case one of her jaunts down a sheer face of the mesa for a peek over the canyon edge ended in a call to Search and Rescue.

And the time we were running her in the soccer fields, and the 1 foot wall that she had jumped over had risen to a 6 foot retaining wall. We called her back, she responded, jumped as though she were jumping over a small wall, only to do her best Scooby Doo scrambling imitation mid-air and landing with a belly-thumping thud on the ground beneath. Shake it off, she seemed to say. Battlescars build character.

And all the times she and Edie would run the full length of the Quad’s front yard – with much-faster Edith knocking over the full-speed Teva, rolling her in the grass like a spare tire.

Edie and Teva on a sunny snow day in the backyard, 2006.

Edie and Teva on a sunny snow day in the backyard, 2006.

The times we would visit the dog parks. She had an uncanny way of posturing and posing to defuse potential altercations with other dogs and make them all play together as friends. You could see her saying, “I can take you if you really want to go there, but why? I’d much rather play and be happy together.”

And that girl loved playing in the snow. I don’t think she had ever seen the stuff before we moved to New Mexico, but she took full use of her time to catch up on all she was missing while we were here.

Stubbornness Isn’t Really So Bad

If there was only one thing about Bone that I could say I admired the most, it was her sense of free will, wrapped in that iridescent blanket of stubbornness. That girl would learn how to “shake”, demonstrate that she could do it once, then never do it again — “I’m proving to you that I’m smart, but I won’t play your Stupid Pet Tricks. Give me something worthy of my talents.” On more than one occasion, after, say, she stole a portion of Brent’s lunch off the coffee table when he wasn’t looking and got caught, you could see her mind processing the consequences — “If I do what Dad says and stop eating the pizza, I get in trouble for stealing, and I don’t get the pizza. BUT if I keep eating it, I still get in trouble for stealing, but I also get the pizza. Decisions, decisions…” Then she would keep eating the pizza. “How bad can the punishment be?” she’d think. “These people are wusses.”

I remember Brent coming home from taking Edie and Teva on a trail ride, exasperated at “the damned dog!”. While Edie would maim herself to keep up with the pace, Teva would take her sweet time. If something caught her eye and needed investigating, she’d investigate. If she got too tired, she’d slow down or simply stop mid-trail and lie down for a bit. “What’s the rush? We’re missing all this great stuff by going so fast. Plus, I don’t want to run this fast anyway. It’s not like you’re going to leave me behind, or anything.” Sure enough, Brent would wait at the top of the crest, the bottom of the hill, or just around the bend, and Teva would trot along to meet him when she was good and ready, never veering from the trail, but never working harder than she wanted to.

Joie De Vivre

T-Bone in AZ, 2002

T-Bone in AZ, 2002

Teva did everything with a sheer love and passion for living.

When she ate, she would take her time, slowing savoring the complex flavors of her premium dog chow or McDonald’s french fries with the same enthusiasm as a wine and cheese connoisseur. “Hmmm. Very good vintage. Nutty, with a hint of oak.”

Everyday after work, Freight Train would come alive! Open the garage door where she had been cooped up with her siblings all day and watch her GO! Run as fast as my legs will take me! Oh, oh. . . sliding, sliding. . . BAM! Hip into the wall! Let’s try again – only faster! More abandon! Running, running, we’re gonna make the turn this time. . . SLAM! Full body into the opposite wall! CRASH! goes the framed picture that was waiting to be hung! Glass everywhere! Well, People. You know that I do this routine every day, and you know that I’m klutzy and loving it! So don’t yell at me over a broken frame when you clearly knew disaster would happen if you left it out! Still, pretty cool glass shatter, don’t you think? One of my better Freight Train moments. . .

The doctor even marvelled at her sheer will to live – saying “She’s a tough old lady! You could see her, 90 years old, living by herself, rearranging the furniture. . .” Except for the “old lady” bit, she was 100% correct. Stubborn and focused, Teva could have been an astronaut if she had opposable thumbs.

The Day We Hoped Would Never Come

Hemangiosarcoma is a wicked disease, and our best friend had it. She fought valiantly for 11.5 weeks against a disease that experts said wouldn’t take her past 12 weeks. She almost made it.

On Saturday evening, she was showing signs of pain – the first time ever she had shown pain. X-rays showed that her insides were just a tangled mess. The spleen tumor had grown and was pressing on her stomach and her intestines. The heart tumor had grown and was pressing on her trachea, esophagus, and lungs. Her stomach was not properly digesting food, and so was enlarged beyond its own capacity. Her once normal hourglass figure looked as though someone had slipped a helium balloon down her gut and pumped it up.

I’m sure there were things we could have done for her – pump her stomach, more meds. At that point, though, she was already on high doses of so many meds – prednisone, tramadol, famotidine, yunnan baiyao, cephalexin – the meds were the only things that were keeping her from full blown infection and inflammation. Anything else was crossing into the “inhumane” category. Plus, she felt like crap. The rollercoaster was finally pulling into the station, but wouldn’t quite stop on it’s own without human intervention. Our intervention.

At 1:00 AM, Sunday morning, with a beautiful full moon shining through a still and warm summer’s night, my beautiful and brave best friend was lovingly (yet reluctantly) guided to her final stop. It wasn’t her time, but cancer had other plans. I told her that as long as she was fighting, I would fight for her. Her body was fighting against a dirty opponent, though. Cancer had more tricks up its sleeve than we could attack against.

I love her more than I can possibly explain, and I will always regret not being able to save her from this dirty, rotten scoundrel of a disease that took hold of her in the first place. When she died, a sliver of my own heart died along with her. The house has a hole in it without her there. My life has a hole in it without her there.

Our girl taking a nap during the New Year's celebration, AZ 2002.

Our girl taking a nap during the New Year's celebration, AZ 2002.

Brent says that he sees her reincarnated as a horse. I agree. But a wild horse. Free to roam, free to play, free to smell the wind and eat the grass and gallop around at her own pace. I hope I see her again someday like this. In some ways, we weren’t the right family for her. Too sedentary and predictable. Boring. She was exactly the right dog for us, though, and our world will not be the same without her.

  1. If (A) I don’t want to have to make the decision to put her down, and (B) I really want her to die peacefully in her sleep, and (C) the world conspires to make happen that which I concentrate energy into, then should I put “Teva dies peacefully in her sleep after an Up Day” on my Vision Board?
  2. When Brent and I are in serious talks about whether or not this is The Time, I start to think about the Monty Python and the Holy Grail skit “Bring Out Your Dead“. A Sample:

Cart Master: Bring out your dead!

Customer: Here’s one.

Dead Person: I’m not dead. . . .

Customer: Yes he is.

Dead Person: I’m not! . . .

Customer: Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.

Dead Person: I’m getting better!

Customer: No, you’re not. You’ll be stone dead in a moment. . .

Dead Person: I don’t want to go on the cart!

Customer: Oh, don’t be such a baby. . . .

  1. Too bad my artist neighbor stopped smoking pot. A few long, slow tokes blown into her face might make her feel better and stimulate her appetite.

A commercial caught my attention last night that I had some time today to investigate. It started out as a typical political ad about how we are too dependent on foreign oil and that we need to do something about it, blah, blah, blah. Then, a curious thing happened. The ad started talking about wind farms and solar. Not in the typical political ad style – the “We need to invest more in renewable energy to keep American safe” crap, but the “I actually have a plan and am gonna tell you what it is” type. As the ad went on, I was waiting for the punchline, “I’m T. Boone Pickens, (party name) candidate for (political office) and I approve this message.” It didn’t come. Intriguing. What’s that all about?

Well, it looks like Mr. T Boone Pickens is a wealthy Texas oil man who is starting his own campaign to reduce the amount of oil we import. In essence, his plan calls for the installation of wind turbine fields in the center of the US to generate clean electrity. With all of the wind-created electricity in the grid, we can then divert the Natural Gas used to make electricity into vehicle fuel, thus displacing much of the foreign oil needed to power cars. Pretty simple concept. He’s got nice videos describing the plan on his Media page.

A couple of hiccups for me:

  • He’s a rich oil guy — so what’s in it for him? Seems to me he’s trying to diversify his risk by becoming an important early player in the wind-farm market. Nothing wrong with that, per se. A businessman’s gotta make his money. But if he is spending his own money to recruit me to lobby my congressional leaders on his (plan’s) behalf, doesn’t that make me an unpaid chump in his scheme to make a lot of money for himself?
  • And if I am being a chump, how can I tell? His plan seems pretty common-sense. Simple, really. But there’s the rub. Energy policy is rarely simple, so this whole thing makes me suspicious of the motivations.
  • Another thing to be suspicious of his motivations — he’s a big-time, big-money contributor to good ol’ G.W., and a Swift Boat basher of John Kerry. Not that this should make any difference related to his ideas about clean energy. However, it is another Red Flag that this guy might not be all sweet and concerned as his ads make him appear.

I’m going to keep looking into it, but so far trading wind for natural gas for oil seems like an idea I can get behind. In theory, of course.

Before July 4th, 2002, I bought a very cool, artsy shirt online that has an image of the Statute of Liberty superimposed with the Preamble to the Constitution, and “We the People” prominantly repeated in down the sleeves, back, etc. Sounds gawdy, but it’s perfect for 4th of July.

I bought it at a time when I was rebounding from 9/11, in the midst of a strongly nationalistic streak, and I wanted to believe that this country’s people were bigger than the politicians who rumbled about a war with Iraq. Americans keep their eyes on the ball. We wouldn’t let our politicians run roughshod all over the world.

On February 5, 2003, I put that shirt in the back of my closet. I felt angry and defeated and not at all proud to be an American. Every July 4th since then, I’ve looked at the stupid thing, sneered, then chosen something else to wear to the fireworks.

This year, though, I wore it — my un/conscious recognition that this 8-year long, oppressive tunnel is finally showing signs of daylight . . .