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shameless pleading





May 2013

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


All right, already. I know it’s May (just barely), and we sort of slid past April. There are two reasons, which I will explain. Briefly.

Number one is that my ability to walk seems to be fading fast. At the moment I can only sort of shuffle along unsteadily, and on a scale of 1 to 10, I’m about two clicks away from calling the Scooter Store. I’m kidding, of course. I’ll crawl across the floor before I do that. Anyway, that plus the really quite annoying now-constant pain in my legs has been very demoralizing and a major distraction.

I was also knocked a bit off course by the death of Annette Funicello, on whom I had a huge crush as a little kid, of the same sort of ms (primary progressive) that I have. She was, of course, in far worse shape than I am ever likely to get, but still, I was knocked a bit sideways. Here is a well-made (by CTV in Canada) three-part program on her struggles with ms. I admire her husband’s determination to help her, but I’m more than a little leery of the surgical procedures she underwent. The CCSVI procedure in particular is widely regarded by most ms experts as expensive and dangerous quackery.

Anyway, I used to walk faster than anyone I knew. When we lived in NYC, I walked like a typical New Yorker, zipping in and out of crowds on the sidewalk, stepping off the curb if necessary without a second thought. I’d mentally fume at the tourists in their Hard Rock t-shirts lumbering down Lexington Avenue six abreast at lunchtime (“Is that the Chrysler Building? The guide says that’s the Chrysler Building.”). I never actually said anything rude to such people, but one day a guy next to me addressed the herd blocking our way with a very loud “You people walk like you’re dead!” and a dozen New Yorkers in the vicinity started laughing and clapping.

So I really miss walking. And New York. The 4th floor walkup, not so much. But now I can walk on our road as slowly as I want and as wobbly as I am and only worry about being taken for a straggler by the coyotes. I saw one last week wearing what looked like a tattered Hard Rock t-shirt. Karma: It’s the Law.

Reason number two for the delay is that our dear little dog Pokey died last week of lymphoma, after going downhill for several months. Taking care of her in her last month was taxing but I’ll always be glad we did. She couldn’t manage the back steps any longer, so I had to carry her out and back in, and while she was nowhere as big as Brownie, our beloved dog who died last fall, Pokey was still about 30 lbs., which made every excursion an adventure in precarious balance. We kept her eating by cooking all sorts of people-food for her (she was partial to scrambled eggs and noodles), but eventually she could no longer stand much of the time and had difficulty swallowing food. So we fed her with a spoon and washed her with washcloths. She was still in there. She was still our little Pokey.

When Pokey wandered in 15 years ago (she followed Kathy home from a walk in the woods down by the old Ohio-Erie canal nearby), she had been neglected, abused, and apparently finally dumped in the frigid January woods. She looked like a dog built by a demented committee, maybe a cross between a corgi and a small pig, covered in a Harpo Marx wig of yellow curls topped off with an absurd feather-boa tail. We think she had recently given birth to puppies (the probable motive for her abandonment), who most likely had ended up in the icy canal.

Pokey in her chair, 2002

I had to keep Pokey in my office until she learned to tolerate cats, and I used to sit on the futon she slept on and tell her bedtime stories about a lucky little dog who’d never have to worry again. It must have worked, because once she felt at home, Pokey was the most relentlessly happy dog I’ve ever known — she’d literally jump up and down at the sight of the same old boring canned dog food in her bowl. Sadly, she had never learned to play as a puppy, so while Brownie chased Frisbees with manic energy, Pokey just wandered around the yard looking for things to eat in the tall grass. Indoors, she spent a typical evening wandering around the kitchen licking the floor and stealing … things …  from the cats’ litter box. Letting Pokey lick your face, or even your hand, was a very bad idea. A walk with Pokey meant stopping literally every few yards for her bathroom breaks; I used to joke that she was actually a purebred Shih Tzalot. Children and cats loved Pokey, though she seemed strangely oblivious to the cats and would walk right over them if they happened to be between her and food.

Pokey & Brownie; Pokey had already eaten her antlers.

She was a sweet, sweet little doggie who followed me from room to room and up and down stairs a dozen times a day. She was  happiest when I would sit on the top step of the stairs with my arm around her and sing her silly songs about Pokey-Dokey the Flying Dog, whereupon Brownie would race up the stairs and demand that we make room for her. By the time Brownie died, Pokey had survived heartworm, the loss of most of her teeth, partial blindness and near-total deafness. We were lucky to have her for so long — we never knew her exact age, and she may have been as old as 17 or 18 — and now, with both Brownie and Pokey gone, the house seems intolerably quiet. Every morning for fifteen years I’ve gone downstairs, put on water for coffee, and headed for the leashes hanging by the back door. I still start for the door before I remember.

So, anyway, that was my month. Tune in next time when I’ll tell you something interesting about Thomas Pynchon’s novel Vineland (seriously). In the meantime, please consider subscribing or just contributing. We have always been dependent on the kindness of youse guys.

And now, on with the show….

5 comments to May 2013

  • Chrysti M. Smith

    As a lifelong dog devotee, and as one who has said final farewells to several of my canine companions, I extend my condolences to you and Kathy on the loss of your Pokey. Our dogs and cats provide such comfort to us as writers (I am one of those also), sleeping nearby as we labor away, and leaping up in glee when we decide that everyone needs a walk.
    I am sad with you.

  • Craig Scheir

    Very sorry to hear about your doggie. We, too, lost our little doggie in February. He was 17 and while we feel blessed that we had him for so long, the house is too quite and we miss him. We feel that pain of loss along with you.

  • Victoria Ayers

    We had three dogs and lost them one after the other at two week intervals, of cancer, heart disease and kidney failure. We swore never again to give our hearts away like that and we stuck it out for a good six weeks during which we were awash in depression. Then one little rescue pup showed up, and another, and now we are a happy family again, with hair on the furniture, no leftovers in the fridge, a medicine chest full of dewormer and anti-tick goo, the occasional slippery patch on the kitchen floor and a lot of laughs. My heart goes out to you, and I hope Pokey and Brownie send you a comforter, the way Duffy, Cricket and Humphrey did for us.

  • Sarah Henson

    I’m so so sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a pet is losing a family member. My sincerest condolences.

  • Lynne

    Sorry to hear about Pokey. She reminds me of the sweet dog we had while I was growing up, Sherry. A happy, friendly little girl, she loved to go for walks, ride in the car, and whenever my Dad played his electric organ she would stop whatever she was doing and curl up under the bench. Nominally my brother’s, she looked a lot like Pokey, the golden color, sweet face, and plumed tail. She also had the same bouncy enthusiasm for her dinner.

    We fed her kibble mixed with canned, which didn’t fool her a bit: She picked up each kibble, sucked all the good stuff off it, then spit it out on her placemat. Once she had cleaned out her bowl and consumed all the “good stuff” she ate all the kibble.

    We knew it was her time when dinner no longer evoked any enthusiasm. She was by then aged, near blind, incontinent, senile (if she missed the steps to the back porch she would stand, with her chest against the porch looking up in confusion as to why she couldn’t get into the house), and had been partially paralyzed for years in her hind legs in an unprovoked attack by a neighbor’s dog. But dinner was always an event, until the day she just stood there, too tired to bounce.

    I still miss her.

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