Twenty-Two Little Ralphie Things

Thursday, October 10th, 2019

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Dear Ralphie,

You were my very first real dog, and also the first dog I lost; you were the beginning, and also the beginning of the end. (Dramatic, who me?) If I sound a wee bit morose, well, a) this is me you’re talking to and b) I have my reasons, dammit. But this is your birthday, so I won’t indulge. All of this is just a very roundabout way of saying that I miss you like heck, and I wish we could go back to those early days, when both our lives stretched out, seemingly endlessly, in front of us.

I’d return to one of the many occasions I got poison ivy walking you along the trails next to our apartment. Or the first time we met, when you were so a-scred you ran away from me (but were snugging me in the backseat by the end of the drive home. Where, upon our arrival, you promptly pooped in the kitchen.) Your first Christmas with us, or perhaps the first 4th of July, when your allergies manifested in a grotesquely swollen belly (inching dangerously close to your wiener.) Or even when that paranoid BluePearl tech insisted that the Kong fragment stuck in your stomach was MOST CERTAINLY a cancerous tumor on the x-ray. (It’s funny in retrospect.)

I miss you so, so much: both as the unique and funny and stubborn little person you were, and for all that you represented. After you and Kaylee passed away, I tried to find meaning by fostering. And it was great. But I’ve been on a hiatus for entirely too long, and so meaning is increasingly difficult to find. It’s hard, my little pooh bear. I wish you were here to make it a little less so.

I’ll always have the memories, though. You certainly made sure of that.

Love you to infinity and beyond,

Mom

2016-07-14 - Ralphie's Adoption Day

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Thirty-Six Little Kaylee & Jayne Things

Monday, September 30th, 2019

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Dear Kaylee,

You were an excellent doggo, the best, 15/10, all the stars. I miss you terribly, even after all these years. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you; and, weirdly, this is truer than ever now that Mags is gone. You two were a package deal, like it or not, with your matchy matchy faces and your never-ending rivalry for my affections. I worried that, when Mags left, that would also be like losing you all over again. And in a way, it was. But reminders of Mags are everywhere: syringes carefully arranged on the kitchen backsplash, her unused wheelchair sitting in the corner of the bedroom. Her Batgirl jammies hanging right underneath your Wonder Woman underoos. I think of her all the time, and from there I get to reminiscing about you. You see, it’s not so bad being tied to that old broad now, is it?

You and Ralphie were my first lesson in true heartbreak, and it feels like my heart’s been shattered and only partially mended a million and one times since then. I expect to be grieving yet again before the year’s out; dear old Finn is in rough shape. I don’t know what I’ll do when the last of you is gone. Start again? With an all-new pack? It’s hard to imagine new doggos, loving floofers who have never had the pleasure of knowing you (and Ralphie and Peedee and Rennie and Jayne and Finnick). It just seems…wrong. Still better than the alternative, though. (Living without dogs? But why.)

Anyway, this is all a very morose and roundabout way of saying that I love you like h*ck and would do anything to have you back here with me, healthy and happy. Since that isn’t an option, I’ll have to pour all that love into another pupper. Don’t be jealous. I’d rather have you, babygirl. Always you.

With love,

Mom

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Dear Jayne,

It still kills me a little that you’re not here to celebrate your birthday with us this year. Sixteen would maybe be a stretch, but fifteen? Seems pretty attainable. Twelve? Definitely! It’s not fair that you were taken from us so early.

I hope we gave you a good life, including by your very non-doglike standards. It was always hard to know how far I could push you; just enough to challenge your boundaries, maybe teach you to chill out a bit, but without stressing you out to the point of learned helplessness. I think I struck a good balance, but sometimes I wonder. Always know that I loved you, exactly as you were. From one Eeyore to another.

Love,

Mom

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Thirty Little Mags and Finnick Things

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2019

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Mags,

So you know the purpose of this exercise, right? I list one thing I love (or love-hate) about you for each of your birthdays. Either until I run out of things or I return to starstuff with you. The thing is, I think I could keep this up forever. Seriously, I can’t imagine ever running out. I don’t know how she did it, but the great Dog above packed so much sass and ferocity and Manic Pixie Dream Grrrl and just sheer personality into such a tiny package. Like, it defies expectations. Or physics. You were one of a kind, sweet babygirl.

(By the by, I discovered Nitty Scott over the summer. Whenever BBYGRL comes on, I imagine a video starring you: “no I ain’t bossy / I just be the boss.”)

I miss you so very much. Seriously, not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. Whether it’s the Dogsure-stained sweatshirt in my closet (which I will never wash!), the wheelchair sitting in the corner of the bedroom, or the Batgirl jammies hanging in the office, the house is brimming with reminders of you. You were such a huge part of my life, and I hope you know that I fought for you as hard as I could. I’m talking bare knuckles, knock-down, drag-out, straight up brawling. I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more. I loved you so, so much, and in that I never failed or faltered.

I wish I could have you back – healthy and whole, of course – but, failing that, these memories will have to suffice. To misquote Lucinda Williams, your memory may not keep me warm, but it never leaves me cold. (Sometimes it does, though. Keeps me warm, that is. Only sometimes, but we’ll get there.)

Say hi to the rest of the pack for me.

Love always,

Mom

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Finnick,

It’s been a rough ride, hasn’t it? I hope we at least landed somewhere good for you, a nice, cozy place where you can enjoy your senior years. I know I’m not dad, but I hope I’m doing right by you. You’ve turned out to be almost as much of a handful as your dog mom, and I promise to fight for you the way I fought for Mags. Even though I’m exhausted beyond reason and don’t have too much fight left in me. Whatever’s left, it’s yours.

I know we haven’t always been BFFs, but the last few years have brought us so much closer, and for this I’ll always be grateful. You may be an AGGRESSIVE PATIENT who’s prone to sudden outbursts (which makes snugging difficult, just sayin’) and has his own monogrammed Hannibal Lecter mask (j/k), but you’re my crazy ass dog, dammit, and I love you. For however long we have left together, and then for infinity after that.

Okay, it’s time I sign off. It’s almost time for your eye drops, CBD oil, and anti-seizure and pain meds. (so many issues!) Happy birthday/gotcha day, my grumpy old man.

Love,

Your human mom

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Seventeen Little Peedee Things

Friday, August 30th, 2019

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My dearest little monster,

I find it endlessly and disproportionately amusing that you share a birthday with my little sister, sweet Peedee. Every year I text her a reminder that it’s your birthday, pretending to forget that it’s also hers, and every year she indulges me in my dad joke. This morning I included the above image, which gives me all the warm and fuzzy feels. Even though it was your last birthday, and even though we knew it at the time, the memory of those last months – May-November 2015, aka THE SUMMER OF PEEDEE – brings me so much joy and bittersweet nostalgia. I’m so glad we were able to spoil you like that; we haven’t always been that lucky, before or since.

You already know – because I’m sure your stardust is twinkling somewhere above, watching and waiting patiently for me to join you, so that our atoms can recombine into something awesome, like a humpback whale or a Tofutti factory – but it’s just Finnick and Lemmy and I now. (Your least favorite siblings, right!) I had to say goodbye to Mags shortly after we arrived in New York, and I lost Rennie a few months later. I won’t pretend that I don’t miss them horribly, but on the flip side, I’ve grown closer to the boys, and – you won’t like this next part – Finnick reminds me of you in so many ways: his silly smile; his nervous, high strung temperament; and his general goofiness. I dread the day when he will leave me too, because I know he’ll take pieces of you with him. Much like Kaylee lived on in Mags, I see you reflected in his eyes, which makes their dimming that much more painful.

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I discovered a new category of dog photos today: Peedee side-eying Finnick, an obvious offshoot of Kaylee side-eyeing Mags.
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I wish you were here with me; I wish you could be with me forever. But I guess you are, in a way, and that will have to do. You were (are!) a pretty awesome doggo, Peeds, easily one of the best: boundlessly happy, scary smart, always up for anything, be it a new adventure or a sobfest with mom. You are the standard by which I judge other dogs. Well, one of the standards, anyway. (You’ve got some stiff competition in Kaylee, Mags, Rennie, and Ralphie, okay. Jayne and Finn, I love you guys, but you are more cat than dog.)

Happy seventeenth birthday, my baby boy. Be certain that I’ll binge enough baked goods for the both of us today.

Love times infinity,

Mom

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Book Review: A Book For Sad Pets by Kristin Tipping (2019)

Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

brb gonna go walk my doggo and give him all the treats and belly rubs okay

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

Hey.

Tell me I’m pretty.

Tell me I’m smart.

Tell me I am of value to someone.

Please, tell me I’ll be alright.

I really don’t know what to make of A Book For Sad Pets.*

If the mere thought of your furred, feathered, or scaled family member in pain – physical, mental, emotional, you name it – is like a knife to the heart, then A Book For Sad Pets is murder by fourteen stabs. (I counted.)

If, on the other hand, you think nothing of buying a designer dog to specs, like she’s a new Ford pickup or a set of custom kitchen cabinets; crow about how your dog is a member of the family…who you keep chained outside 24/7; or dump your senior doggo off at the pound because his incontinence is too much of an inconvenience for you – then this book is meant for you, even if odds are 99.9999% that you’ll dismiss it as sentimental librul snowflake nonsense.

I guess maybe the best audience is children, whose minds are still malleable and open to some compassionate guidance?

I fall into the first camp (obvs) and, while it depressed the h*ck out of me, it’s also a welcome reminder to put down my iPad/Kindle/keyboard/comic book every now and again and show my remaining nonhuman family members just how much I love and cherish them.

“Please, please tell me that you will always think of me.”
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* Especially the Goldy panel. It seems pretty tragic, as though Goldy’s people view their dogs as interchangeable, but I’ll be damned if they aren’t also thinking of Goldy 1 and Goldy 2, as Goldy 3 implores. SOMEONE TELL ME HOW TO FEEL ABOUT THIS, PLEASE I AM BEGGING YOU. THE GOLDIES FOR REAL HAUNTING MY DREAMS.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Fifteen Little Rennie Things

Monday, March 11th, 2019

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My dearest Oh-Ren-Rennie,

Happy fifteenth birthday to my little baby girl! My little pop tart. My sweet sweetling. My heart.

I’m sorry I can’t give you a better one. Google Photos oh-so-helpfully reminded me that, on this day last year, we celebrated your big day with treats in the sun, a walk on the beach, and even a dip in the lake. (In March! CAN YOU IMAGINE!) But here in New York it’s 35 and dreary, with an ice rink in the back yard. I wish you enjoyed company more in your old age, then we could have a pupper party with your cousins Hash, Roxy, and Leila, but that’s no longer your jam. So I guess mom and Finn and Lemmy will have to do.

After I wrap this post up, I’ll hide treats all over the house for you and Finnick to find and devour. Then maybe some belly rubs in front of the fireplace? And some of Finnick’s special, stinky canned food for dinner as a treat? I wish I could do more, but times are kind of sucky. Your presence makes then a little less so. I hope you can say the same about me.

Wow, these birthday intros have gotten pretty depressing the past few years, haven’t they? Well let’s lighten things up with piggy bellies and silly shake faces.

I love you so much, sweet girl, and I try every day to show you just how much. I know our days together are fast dwindling, but I’m determined to fill them with as much joy and happiness as I can muster.

Furever yours,

Mom

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Twenty-One Little Ralphie Things

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

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Dear Ralphie,

I know I’m a day late with this, but cut me some slack, okay? It’s been a pretty stressful week/month/year/decade around here. Mags is maybe-probably dying – or at least really struggling – and I have to deal with selling my house, packing up, and moving back to New York when I should be worrying over her 24/7. (Yup, right back where we started!) Anyway, if you think about it, it’s a tiny miracle that I was able to continue the tradition at all this year. I’m sure there are a million other things I oughta be doing right now.

Anyway, you’ve been on my mind lately. I’ve spent no small amount of time in the local auto shop’s waiting room, and the owners have two dachshunds that they bring to work with them! The more curious of the pair kept me company; I rubbed my clothes all over her to keep my doggos jealous and on their toes. It worked as planned with Rennie and Finnick, but Mags really couldn’t have cared less. She knows where she stands. (Right on top of me, if that is her wish.)

I miss you, bud, but I’m also glad you got to go first. These have not been happy times, and you got out while the getting was good. Lucky goose. I still miss you anyway. Shine a little light my way if you can, okay? I mean, assuming part of you is now a star. We could sure use it down here.

Love you. Wish this was more upbeat. Next year, maybe?

Forever yours,

Mom

Sunday Afternoon

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Thirty-Four Little Kaylee & Jayne Things

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

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Dear Kaylee,

Last week my sis asked me to send her a few of my favorite pictures of you. I’m sure you can guess what happened next: I spent all night on Flickr, perusing and reminiscing, and was only able to whittle it down to twenty-six pictures or so. I don’t care what she says, you were by far the loveliest and most photogenic all of my doggos. I mean, that butt alone!

I also don’t care what you might say, you and Mags didn’t coexist nearly long enough. Among my absolute favorites are the photos of you two together: Mags trying her best to cozy up; you, snubbing her with all your might. I wish you two could have been friends, but I understand your position. You didn’t want to share me. I get it! I didn’t want to share you either. At least not with any other hoomans.

Even at eight, Mags looked so impossibly young in those pictures! Now she’s older than you were when you passed, and I find myself having to confront her mortality too. She was diagnosed with dementia in July, and things have escalated pretty quickly in the weeks and months since. We’re planning a move to New York in November; on her worst days, I fear that Mags won’t be there to see it. As difficult as this all has been, it’s that thought that hammers my heart the hardest.

I find myself measuring and marking time by you guys: Shane and I got married the summer before we found you, so it was June of 2016; or, we started house shopping the spring after you joined our household, so it was in 2017. We put that new walkway in the winter before Ralphie died – just in time for his stubby little legs to enjoy the new short steps – so it all went down in the last months of 2012. And so on and so forth. You get the idea.

You guys are the single most important thing to me, so much so that you are the things around which all else revolves. I don’t know who I am without you. I don’t want to find out, but it’s inevitable, I think.

Anyway, these are the thoughts rattling around in my head on your birthday/gotcha day. It’s a melancholy one, but then so are most anniversaries nowadays. Things have changed so much for me in the last few years, and I’m not even halfway out the other side yet.

One thing that will never change is how much I love you. I wish you were here for real to see me through it, and not just haunting my heart.

I love you so much, baby girl.

– Mom

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Dear Jayne,

Thinking of you still hurts my heart. I wish we could have done more for you…or less, as it were.

Though your final few months were mostly filled with pain and sorrow, there were good things too: You opening yourself up to us, if even just a tiny bit more. The spring sun on your face, and leisurely strolls at Smithville Lake. Trips to the drive-in with your sisters. Snuggles and naps and new experiences.

It’s not fair. Eleven was far too young. You should still be alive. Your Eeyore face would fit right in around here.

I miss you too, sweet girl. Even though you were more cat than dog, I never regret a bit of it. I’d adopt you again fifteen times over.

I hope your atoms are happy, wherever and whatever they are now. You deserve an eternity of sunshine after all you’ve been through.

xoxo,

– Mom

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PS – One thing I’ll definitely find a place for in my new home are your funny little Funko peoples. That way I’ll be sure to think of you a dozen and one times a day.

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Twenty-Eight Little Mags & Finnick Things

Monday, September 3rd, 2018

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Dear Mags & Finn,

The past who-knows-how-many years have sucked, but you guys make everything worth it. (Mags especially. Sorry Finn! We’re each others’ second choices and we both know it. I still love you though!) I hope you both make it to New York with me, and Rennie too of course, and live at least long enough to experience each season in the Northeast. It’ll be a big change, but we’ve got each other, and isn’t that the most important thing? Plus you’ll finally get to meet (and snub, lmao) your extended nonhuman family: Hash and Roxy, Diablo, Jack and Diane, and Laila and Shadow.

It’s been a rocky ride, but just know that I love you both so much. You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go.

Forever yours,

Mom

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Sixteen Little Peedee Things

Thursday, August 30th, 2018

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Peedee,

I’ve been missing you so very much the past year plus. You were some dog, you know that? Things have been terrible, and I could use your stupid silly grin and lolling pink tongue more than ever. Not to mention an extra-soft shoulder to cry on, assuming your antics didn’t do the trick.

Also, I think you would have made a great therapy dog/babysitter for old Magsy. What’s that, Peedee? Mags fell down a well!? Take me to her, boy.

Seriously, though, you were rad. I’ll never forget you, even if I live to be one hundred and twenty three (dog forbid).

Love,

Mom

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Book Review: Scout’s Heaven by Bibi Dumon Tak & Annemarie van Haeringen (2018)

Tuesday, June 19th, 2018

Lovely in its simplicity.

four out of five stars

(Full disclose: I received a free copy of this book for review through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program.)

— 3.5 stars —

It is raining the day Scout takes her last breath.

Little Brother peppers his family with questions: Where has Scout gone, if she’s no longer here? Does it rain above the clouds? Who will feed Scout? Will she have a sea to splash in and other animals to chase? They answer his questions as best they know how and, after burying Scout, coax him to sleep.

The next day, they wake to an impossibly sunny sky. (When you’re in the throes of grief, everything good and pure and beautiful seems a personal affront.)

…and the sound of Scout’s barking, coming from way up high.

Scout’s Heaven is a simple yet elegant book about loss and grief for dog lovers young and old. The whimsical illustrations nicely complement the story, which is more understated here than in similar books I’ve read. With books about “pet” loss, I measure stars in tears shed, and I didn’t bawl nearly as hard as I normally do. But maybe this is a good thing, especially when trying to explain death to kids.

The vague references to Heaven definitely give the book a religious bent, but as an atheist I appreciated it just the same. The message could easily be tweaked to fit with my own favorite imagery, that of the souls of the ghosts in His Dark Materials breaking apart like so many champagne bubbles as they leave the land of the dead and join their daemons in the living world. Particles breaking apart and then coming back together to create new and wonderful creatures. Scout may be in the ground, but she’s everywhere else, too: in the air and sky, the sycamore tree that shades your bedroom window and the squirrel that calls it home. Listen closely, and you can hear her voice.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Fourteen Little Rennie Things

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

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Dear Rennie,

I love you.

I want to say more, but I’m apt to get weepy and hysterical in my present condition. And no one wants that! There’s just so much to worry about lately without you going and getting all old on me!

I hope you’re still around when we up and move to New York. I hope you like your new home and yard (smaller though they may be), and your cousins Hash and Roxy. I hope I’m doing right by you guys and making this all at least a tiny bit easier. You guys do, you know: make this all a little easier to bear. Some days you guys are the only reason I get out of bed. (So you don’t poop in it, hardee har har.)

I love you. Please stick around a little bit longer, for me?

xoxo

Mom

(Can you believe it’s been thirteen years? I mean, h*ck.)

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Wonderfully Walnutty Banana Bread, Two Ways

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

What’s a gal to do when suddenly she finds herself in possession of a ten-pound bag of walnuts? (Thanks, Gourmet Nuts & Dried Fruit!) Make banana bread, of course! (Bananas + walnuts are my favorite.)

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I started out with the classics: soft, spongy banana bread laced with a generous helping of chocolate chips and walnuts. Delish!

I could have stopped after polishing off that loaf in record time, but a) I still had a half of bunch of rapidly blackening bananas and b) I wanted to try a loaf out on Mags, the littlest and oldest of my dog-kids. Over the past few years, she’s slowly been shedding weight, to the point that she now looks almost painfully thin. Thankfully, I think this is more a result of her fussy eating habits than a health problem. I thought I was doing good by letting her eat as much as she wanted and not pushing her – so as to not make mealtimes a horror show – but apparently not. My new strategy is a mix of good cop/bad cop: cajole her to eat a set amount at every mealtime, but also mix things up with new and exciting foods.

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The result? Five different kinds of kibble in my cupboard, not to mention a bunch of canned food, and specially prepared dishes like roasted sweet potatoes, tofu battered in nutritional yeast, and sweet and sour soy curls. She is so spoiled, you guys.

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Mags is especially fond of baked goods, including banana bread. Since walnuts are a big no-no for dogs, I kept the batter kind of basic, without any add-ins. Instead, I dressed things up in the form of a topping, borrowed from the Big Boat Banana Bread from Laura Dakin’s Cookin’ Up a Storm. That way, I got the top half, Mags the bottom, and we were both as happy as clams in a vegan ocean town.

Recipes after the jump!

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Mini-Review: Fliers: 20 Small Posters with Big Thoughts by Nathaniel Russell (2017)

Friday, October 27th, 2017

Is it a book? An art project? A new life philosophy? All of the above?

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Blogging for Books.)

Nathaniel Russell’s Fliers: 20 Small Posters with Big Thoughts is exactly what it says it is – a book of mini tear-out posters with Big – and sometimes Absurd – Ideas. Based on the sort of fliers that litter/decorate telephone poles, community billboards, and other public spaces, Russell’s art pairs a simple, minimalist aesthetic with the sort of weird and random thoughts of a full-time stoner. The result is whimsical, funny, and – at times – profound AF.

Being an Animal Person, my favorite posters are those modeled on “lost dog” fliers, in part because they’re a lot more whimsical and lighthearted than their sad and tragic cousins. “Found Dog” is the sort of thing I’ve fantasized about posting,

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and “The Opposite of Lost” is the plot of what could be an amazing, vegan-friendly animal uprising flick. (Think Planet of the Apes, minus the inter-species speciesism.)

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A few of the posters fell flat with me, but overall this is a pretty kickass collection. Many of the prints – or variations thereof – are available for perusal on the author’s website. Some aren’t even in the book, but should have been. (“I wish I was born an animal support system network,” I’m looking at you!)

As for the practical design of the book, the posters are printed on heavy cardstock, perfect for framing, hanging, displaying, etc. Though it’s a paperback (kind of), the book comes with a dust jacket that unfolds to reveal – wait for it – a photo of a telephone pole.

Whether you choose to regard it as a book of art or a collection of posters, Fliers is a neat little thingamajiggie.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Twenty Little Ralphie Things

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

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Dear Ralphie,

I love you so very much, my darling boy. If your atoms happen to bump up against those of Dad – or Jayne, Peedee, Kaylee, or Ozzy – tell them I said the same.

Miss you, little bear.

– Mom

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Thirty-Two Little Kaylee & Jayne Things

Saturday, September 30th, 2017

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My dearest little daemon,

I miss you so much, sweet Kaylee baby, but you already know that. I think about you all the time (good!), even if many reminders come in the form of a certain nemesis named Mags (bad! boo! hiss!). Sometimes I refer to her as Kaylee 2.0, but I’m totally joking! No one could replace you, baby girl.

Probably it will delight you to learn that there are some autumnal photo shoots in Mags’s immediate future, and that last week I made her dress up as Batgirl to cheer up your aunt Meesh. Finally, we can retire those Wonder Beyatch pictures. (Not! That was the best. I have those ‘roos hanging up in my closet, right next to your shindig dress, because they always make me think of you.)

Anyway, just checking in. Even though it’s been 1,229 days since I last snuggled your mushy little body close, your absence remains a palpable, heavy thing. You were – forever are – my one and only. You need not worry about some sassy little upstart supplanting you, in my imagination or my heart.

With love,

Your other half

 

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Dear Jayne,

You should be here with me, celebrating your thirteenth birthday in style (read: at the drive-in with ample biscuits and noochy popcorn). I wish things had gone differently; that the surgery had worked, or the chemo; or that we’d had the ability to see into the future, and not subjected you to either. Another canine cancer diagnosis is my worst fear, since it will likely shock me into paralysis. Weighing Peedee’s (relatively) good outcome against the terrible time you had; what’s a caregiver to do?

I miss you, sweet girl. Sure you were a loner, Dottie, a rebel; a bit of a misanthrope who just wanted to be left alone (but not too alone). But on that point, I can relate. We had so much in common, you and I; and you taught me to accept you on your terms, to love you for who you were not, who I hoped you could be. You had a pretty good life, all in all, and I’m happy I could give that to you, if nothing else.

I hope you’re happy, wherever your handsome little atoms are now.

Love,

Mom

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Twenty-Six Little Mags & Finnick Things

Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

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2017-07-28 - Treeloot Monkey Rodeo - 0004 [flickr]

Dear Mags,

It seems you have become my Kaylee 2.0. (That bitch again!) That’s not to say that you guys are interchangeable, or even all that much alike. Yet you are now the little old lady I love to spoil, whereas it used to be Kaylee. You’re not huge on snuggling (though definitely more down than Kaylee), yet we have a whole morning routine that’s worthy of a Folgers commercial. You’re here for me when I need you, and do I need you like whoah lately. It’s been a time, these past eight months/four years+++, and I cannot tell you how much it helps to have you by my side.

Wait, yes I can. You guys – you and Finnick and O-Ren – are the reason I’ve made it this far. The reason I choose to hang around, day after day after day.

You’re turning fourteen this year, and fourteen was Kaylee’s last. I can’t lie and say that doesn’t make me more than a little nervous. I hope you’re still here next year, and the year after that; long enough to see Trump’s impeachment (yea right!) and our move to New York. Long enough to get to know Hash and Roxie – and loathe them with every fiber of your being, on account of they divert some of the spotlight away from you. (See, you and Kaylee aren’t so very different after all!) At least until the sixth Bitch Planet TP comes out, so I can photograph you noming on it.

And if you’re not, that’s okay too, or will be in time. We’ve made so many wonderful memories in the past six years. And I have to disagree with Steve Earle on this one – they’re enough to warm my soul. I learned that from Kaylee. (Sorry!)

Love you, noodle.

– Mom

 

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2017-07-08 - Finnick Does Not Want the Pool - 0004 [flickr]

Dear Finnick,

Dad should be here to write your letter this year, and it breaks my heart that he isn’t. I hope I’m doing right by you, though I know some days, not so much. (Friday was wild, right? CenturyLink really knows how to drive a girl crazy.)

You remind me more and more of Peedee every day. I always thought you two were so much alike – enough to repel each other! – but now you’ve taken on his role as comforter, too. Your rough edges are still in need of some light polishing, but I appreciate how willing you are to set your fear aside and snuggle on up to me when I’m having a bad day. Of all the dogs, Shane’s death hit you the hardest. And how could it not? You are a daddy’s boy, through and through. But it’s also led to a strange, sad kinship between the two of us. We are bound by loss, you and I.

But I don’t want for that to be the bond that defines us. I promise to try my best to soothe your hurt, the way you do mine – and also build some wonderful new memories, just the two of us. I love you so, so much, little buddy.

xoxo

– Mom

 

2017-08-07 - Walking at Jesse James Park - 0025 [flickr]

2017-07-19 - Rennie, Mags, Finnick - 0004 [flickr]\>

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Fifteen Little Peedee Things

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

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Dear Peeds,

So you were kind of the best, weren’t you? I don’t think I fully appreciated your awesomeness until after you were gone, and that’s on me. You were hecka smart and kind of a handful, but also the most empathetic and comforting dog I’ve ever met. It all goes hand in paw, I guess.

Part of me wishes you were still here, because I could use a soft, furry shoulder to cry on. But I’m also glad you’re not, since these past few years have been terrible – that last eight months especially – and you don’t deserve all this. So it’s a relief, too, I guess, on account of I couldn’t stand upsetting you with all my tears and temper tantrums and fits. Mags and Rennie mostly ignore my hysterics, which is nice; they spare me the guilt. (Finnick, on the other hand? He takes after you. Which is why you hated each other, I suspect.)

Oh boy, this is pretty morose for a birthday letter, ain’t it? Just know that I love and miss you, and think about you all the time. You’re always with me, sweetheart, through good times and bad. Especially the bad.

I guess you’re my daemon, too.

Love Always,

Mom

2015-05-31 - Peedee on a Boat - 0018 [flickr]

 

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Unleashed by Amanda Jones (2017)

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

Floofing Good Fun

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Library Thing’s Early Reviewers program.)

Pet photographer Amanda Jones has released several books of canine photography, but Unleashed represents a bit of a departure. Here she says au revoir to the studio, instead capturing her doggo subjects out and about in the wild: retrieving sticks, chasing balls, clowning around with friends, catching some rays beachside, and stopping to smell the roses (errr, hydrangeas?).

The photos are organized by season, with spreads for spring, summer, fall, and winter. To no one’s surprise, the autumn backdrops are among the most gorgeous – but even bleak, chilly winter days are vastly improved by the addition of a pupper or two.

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0028 [flickr]

Finnick sez, “Don’t get any ideas, human.”
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It’s hard to choose just one favorite dog (among the best problems, I say), but my favorite subgroups are 1) little dogs doing Big Things

and b) BFFs teaming up to conquer the world (or at least playtime).

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0035 [flickr]

I mostly loved the photos and found many of them poster-worthy, although the colors on a few felt a little washed out.

The layout is pretty rad, with a mock dog collar belted around the cover of the book. (I like it when artists pay attention to the cover hidden under the dust jacket, too. Naked covers are so boring!)

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0017 [flickr]

Don’t mind Mags, she’s camera-shy. By which I mean she thinks it’s h*ckin evil.
——————————

If I could change just one thing, it would be to add a brief write-up about the model and setting. I need to know more about these awesome doggos and heart-stopping, seemingly dog-friendly destinations.

Okay, I lied.

2017-06-24 - Puppers & Unleashed - 0031 [flickr]

Truman. Truman is my favorite dog.

(This review is also available on Amazon, Library Thing, and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

Rescue dogs, interspecies manifestos, and vegan pizza: An interview with Nicole J. Georges.

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

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(Photo © Amos Mac.)

 

Nicole J. Georges is a professor, writer, and illustrator who has been publishing her own zines and comics for twenty years. Her first book, Invincible Summer: An Anthology, published by Tugboat Press in 2004, is a collection of her autobiographic comic Invincible Summer. Since then, she has published several additional books, including Invincible Summer: An Anthology, Volume Two; the Lambda Award-winning graphic memoir Calling Dr. Laura; and Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home, out today from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her work has appeared in Bitch Magazine, Food & Booze, Baby Remember My Name, and It’s So You. Her custom pet portraits grace the homes of many lucky animal people. (I’M NOT JEALOUS YOU’RE JEALOUS.) Georges lives in Portland, Oregon and Los Angeles, California.

Equal parts coming of age memoir and love letter to a four-legged best friend, Fetch chronicles Georges’s sixteen-year relationship with Beija, a shar pei-doxy mix who Georges adopted at the tender age of sixteen. Meant as a gift for her then-boyfriend Tom, Georges ended up keeping Beija: first when Tom’s step-father wouldn’t allow the exchange; again when multiple attempts at rehoming didn’t pan out; and finally, for good, after her relationship with Tom imploded. Through unhealthy relationships, personal and professional upheavals, kitchen fires and living room concerts, Beija was there. Barking at strangers and friends alike, peeing on the carpet, and chasing down children; Beija was the so-called “bad dog” who helped Georges grow up.

I was lucky enough to receive an early copy of Fetch for review (spoiler alert: it is gushy and oh-so-fangirly) – and to interview Nicole about rescue dogs, interspecies manifestos, and vegan pizza, among other things.

 

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Twenty-nine pages in, I texted my sister a photo of Fetch: “I think you’d like this book Fetch. She’s part Corgi, and the book opens with her attacking two kids at her 15th birthday party.” She’s a dog person; she gets it.

 

Nicole, I’ve been a fan since I first saw your artwork in Bitch Magazine (longtime subscriber here!). As a self-described “heathen vegan feminist,” I often find that my support for women’s rights and animal rights are intertwined. I especially love how you drew this connection with Beija’s manifesto, “I am not a stuffed animal.” How would you say that your veganism has influenced your feminism, or vice versa?

I think I became a vegan and a feminist at the same time. At first it was about finding my voice and taking up space, speaking for myself and other women. I felt like this was also my obligation with animal issues.

I had this dog, Beija, who was actually a very reasonable animal (coming from a rough puppyhood, she needed a certain level of familiarity with people to trust them enough to be pet by them) , but since she did not perform the function of “friendly, pettable cute thing” for people, they didn’t see her value. It felt like objectification, which felt familiar, and I wanted to write her manifesto to clarify that she still had intrinsic value anyway, as we all do, as beings on this Earth. We don’t need to perform submission and likability to have worth.

One of my mission statements in life has been self empowerment through representation. I try to offer tools to people to share their stories and take up space.

Obviously animals can’t do this (self publish), so I try to represent their stories and intricacies whenever I can.

You draw parallels between your own “feral” nature and Beija’s many behavioral issues. Did your own dysfunctional upbringing make it easier or more difficult to relate to Beija and handle her hangups?

I could relate to her. She just needed patience, and so did I, and I tried my best to give her what I both had and wanted growing up.

I grew up in a very makeshift and scrappy way. I would white knuckle through anything, and make do with whatever I had in front of me. I idolized the Boxcar Children in this way.

I think if I hadn’t grown up with this as the bar, I may not have had the patience and fortitude it took to keep a special needs rescue dog for as long as I did. She barked incessantly, picked fights, peed on the floor religiously, and jumped at strangers and children. I just moved my life around her. I don’t regret it at all. We grew up together and at the end of the day, she was an extension of me.

If adult Nicole could offer teenage Nicole one piece of advice, what would it be?

Go take some figure drawing classes, and start publishing comics immediately. Send your work to small publishers and people you like, but ask for feedback this time.

Also, consider letting your very stable sister adopt Beija when she offers to do so. It will give you more freedom of movement growing up.

If teenage Nicole could offer adult Nicole one piece of advice for surviving a Trump presidency, what would it be?

I would somehow quote both Nina Simone and Shirley Chisolm (which would be extraordinary to hear a teenager do):

It’s the responsibility of the artist to reflect the times we’re living in. -NS

Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this Earth. -SC

Keep making art, keep doing service. Keep your head down and do your own thing, it will be over soon.

I just have to know: What’s with the water bottle Beija’s dragging around on page 179?

OMG GOOD QUESTION. That drawing is based on a polaroid I have of Beija’s leash tied to a giant empty water bottle at a yard sale. It was to slow her down if she tried to run away or run at a dog walking down the street.

Like I said, I really made do with the resources available to me!

If there’s one thing – a lesson, a feeling, an impulse, whatever – you hope that readers take away from this book, what would it be?

I hope that people can cultivate empathy for animals, even ones who are too complicated to pet.

Portland or LA: which city has the best vegan pizza?

I’m sticking with Portland. Because you can walk into Sizzle Pie and buy a slice, get an entire OUTRAGEOUSLY DELICIOUS cornmeal crust pizza at Dove Vivi, or go to Via Chicago and get your own Chicago deep dish.

If Los Angeles has equivalents to these that are within 20 minute drives of each other, I’d like to see them.