Twenty-One Little Ralphie Things

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

2012-10-03 - A lazy afternoon with the dogs - 0002

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

2012-03-24 - Dogs Outside - 0004 [Original]

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

2016-05-14 - Jayne - 0005 [flickr]

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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2016-08-19 - Jayne Pop - 0002 [flickr] 2016-08-19 - Kaylee Pop - 0001 [flickr]

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

2015-07-05 - Peedee & Rennie Out to Sea - 0056 [flickr]

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

2015-06-27 - Morning Walk at Smithville Lake - 0023 [flickr]

 

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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

2017-09-17 - Rennie Batgirl - 0018 [flickr]

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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2017-09-06 - Mags, Rennie & the Acorn Cap - 0014 [flickr]

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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.)

2017-09-30 - Banana Bread - 0002 [flickr]

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.

2017-04-02 - Mags aka Noodle - 0006 [flickr]

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.

2017-10-17 - Banana Bread - 0008 [flickr]

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

2013-05-07 - An Afternoon at the Park - 0036

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

 

2010-09-30 - Walking Kaylee & Jayne - 0018

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

2017-07-14 - For My Dog Mags (Fetch) - 0009 [flickr]

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

2015-08-30 - The Birthday Boy & His Cake - 0010 [flickr]

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]

 

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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!)

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

Book Review: Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home by Nicole J. Georges (2017)

Tuesday, July 18th, 2017

oh h*ck.

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review. Trigger warning for allusions to rape, child abuse, domestic violence, animal abuse, alcoholism, self-harm, and suicidal ideation.)

I first discovered Nicole Georges’s artwork nestled within the pages of Bitch Magazine. Instantaneously smitten, my adoration only grew when I learned that Georges was a vegan who referred to her furry sidekick Beija as her “canine life partner.” Her 2010 Invincible Summer Queer Animal Odyssey calendar still rests in the plastic protective covering it arrived in. (Don’t worry, I take it out every once in awhile for much-deserved admiration.) I enjoyed her debut graphic novel, Invincible Summer: An Anthology, well enough, though haven’t quite gotten around to reading Calling Dr. Laura. Even so, I can say with 99.9% certainty that Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home is her best work yet.

2017-07-14 - For My Dog Mags (Fetch) - 0011 [flickr]

My Mags, more noodle than dog.
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At the tender age of sixteen, Georges adopted a dog as a gift for her then-boyfriend and first love, Tom. The ensuing back-and-forth demonstrates why you should never give a dog as a gift: despite clearing it ahead of time with Tom’s mother, Tom’s stepfather did not sign off on the deal. Nicole’s mom reluctantly allowed her to keep the dog, but Beija’s many behavioral problems quickly wore her patience thin.

Beija harbored an intense dislike/fear of men, children, and veterinarians; did not enjoy being picked up or touched on her sides; did not suffer invasions of space lightly; and frequently antagonized/was victimized by other dogs. She was temperamental and required patience, compassion, and understanding – much like her new human.

And so, in a situation so weird and improbable that it seems like the plot of a bad Fox sitcom, you have both sets of parents conspiring to push their teenagers out of the nest and into a seedy apartment, just so they could have a Beija-free home: “Starting now, this gift would change the course of both our lives. […] All of this in order to keep the dog. As if we’d had a teen pregnancy.”

While Nicole’s relationship with Tom would soon implode, her partnership with Bejia proved to be for keeps. Through unhealthy relationships, annoying roommates, professional upheavals, and the trials and tribulations of growing up and discovering oneself, there was one constant in Nicole life. And if she just so happened to have four legs, a soft tummy, and spoke in a series of barks, whimpers, and tail wags, so what? Family is what you make of it.

2017-07-14 - O-Ren Hearts Fetch - 0011 [flickr]

Fetch is Rennie-approved.
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Most of the blurbs I’ve read so far focus on the coming-of-age aspect of Fetch (e.g., it’s not “just” a book about a dog). And while it is indeed that – after all, at the time of her death, Beija had lived with Nicole for almost exactly half of Nicole’s life – to me Fetch is, above all else, a love letter to and everlasting celebration of a best friend. A soul mate. A patronus, to quote Georges. (A daemon, in my vocab.) The dogs, they will always come first. PRIORITIES.

There’s this one Mutts comic I love: It’s a lovely day, and Ozzie is walking Earl on a long leash. A little heart bobs in a thought bubble above the human’s head. To the right is a quote by one W.R. Purche: “Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.”

To borrow a phrase from an online friend (Marji Beach, who works at another awesome animal sanctuary called Animal Place), it’s clear that Nicole considers Beija the best worst dog ever. Their love for one another shines through every panel and page, making the inevitable goodbye that much more heartbreaking. It took me a full week to read the book, just because I couldn’t bear to face the last forty pages.

I think it’s safe to say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, especially when it comes to Fetch, and animal lovers will take something a little extra special away from their experience. When I say “animal lovers,” I mean both in the conventional sense – i.e., those who care for culturally appropriate animals, such as dogs, cats, horses, and rabbits – as well as those of use who extend that circle of compassion to all nonhumans. There are precious few comic books that I could call overtly vegan – only two come to mind, namely Matt Miner’s Liberator and The Animal Man by Grant Morrison – and I’m happy to add Fetch to the list. While Georges only drops the v*-word (vegetarian or vegan) a handful of times, she does introduce readers to animal rights issues in a gentle, subtle way. If you’re not on the lookout (and I always am!), you might just miss it.

Though all the better to sneak into your subconscious, worming and niggling and prodding you to think about the face on your plate or the skin on your back … to see them as someones rather than somethings, more alike than different from the dog snuggled up next to you or fast asleep at your feet.

2017-07-14 - O-Ren Hearts Fetch - 0009 [flickr]

Full disclosure: In between bites of spider trappings, Rennie assisted me in writing this review.
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I especially loved Bejia’s manifesto, “I am not a stuffed animal,” which surreptitiously introduces readers to the idea of intersectionality: “It’s kind of like feminism, but for dogs.” That line (along with countless others) literally had me squealing for joy. Little Beija-Boo – is she a shar pei-doxy mix? corgi and beagle? who knows! – is adorable and tubby, even as she’s telling you to back the fuck off.

I could go on and on – about the many weird parallels between Georges’s life and mine; about how I see pieces of Bejia in my own dogs; about the many ways, both large and small, that my loved ones and I have adapted our everyday routines and very existences to better accommodate our four-legged family members – but suffice it to say that Fetch is a must-read for anyone who’s ever loved (and lost) a dog (though you may want to wait until the loss isn’t quite so fresh – the ending is freaking brutal).

Ditto: anyone who just likes good storytelling or quirky artwork. I know I’ve focused on the nonhumans for most of my review – hey, that’s how I do – but even those rare scenes sans doggos are beautifully rendered and engaging.

In summary: Fetch is easily my favorite book of 2017 thus far, graphic novel or no.

Aaaaand just in case the previous 1,000 words didn’t convince you, here are a few of my favorite panels to help seal the deal.

(That last one? So charming that it displaced foster doggy as the background on my desktop. Temporarily, but still.)

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Book Review: Lessons from Shadow: My Life Lessons for Boys and Girls by Shadow Bregman (2017)

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

All I Need to Know about Life I Learned from Dogs

three out of five stars

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

Shadow Bregman has been through a lot in her short twelve years. She was rescued from an abusive home; pushed around by her older adopted sister, Betsy; and braved the loss of both her mother and sister. She’s got a life’s worth of wisdom to impart to her young readers, but the task requires an astute translator: Shadow is a black Lab, you see! Luckily, her Daddy Walter is more than happy to help.

Lessons from Shadow is a sweet and heartfelt book. Using anecdotes about Shadow’s life as a jumping-off point, Bregman addresses tough topics like bullying, depression, and loneliness in a unique and accessible way. The chapter on sadness hit me especially hard, since I’m grappling with similar issues in my own life:

2017-06-12 - Lessons from Shadow - 0002 [flickr]

Now, it’s just Daddy and me. We lost Mommy and we lost Betsy and now it’s just the two of us together trying not to be sad all the time. It’s getting a little better I guess now that it’s been quite a while. But, you can never forget the wonderful people you knew and the great times you had, and you never should. Always keep them in your heart. Just try and get on with your life and be as good a person as the people you lost were.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the intended audience, though; while the tone seems aimed at younger readers, this is really more of a short chapter book than a picture book. Each lesson is told via one to three pages of twelve-point, single-spaced type. Parents and caregivers should probably expect to read this one to/with their younger bookworms and animal lovers.

The book has a decidedly homemade, DIY vibe to it – which isn’t a bad thing!; I’d love to have similar keepsakes for my own rescue dogs (seven and counting). That said, I think it could have benefited from a more heavy-handed editor. Granted, the story is told in Shadow’s voice and aimed at a younger audience, which speaks to the tone. Yet I noticed several obvious errors (e.g., capitalization), not to mention the many long and meandering sentences.

2017-06-12 - Lessons from Shadow - 0001 [flickr]

The illustrations by Fatima Stamato are charming, and the format is nicely done as well; it has the feeling of a scrapbook. I also love that Bergman has promised to donate the proceeds to Best Friends, of which his late wife Robbie was an ardent supporter.

2017-06-12 - Lessons from Shadow - 0003 [flickr]

The afterward even includes an invitation to email the author herself, which is hecka awesome and makes me even more envious. I know I’d get a kick out of reading letters addressed to my forever dog, Kaylee; Ralphie the one-eyed wiener dog; or little Noodle Mags. When they’re gone, our loved ones live on in our hearts and memories; in the stories they inspire, and the good deeds we carry out in their names. Shadow Bregman is one lucky little girl.

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

Thirteen Little Rennie Things

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

2016-12-30 - Walking at Wallace State Park - 0057 [flickr]

Oh, my Rennie. Given the year (decade?) we’ve had (and we’re not even a quarter of the way through yet!), you have to live forever. Or at least to the ripe old age of twenty-three. Anything else might very well kill me. No pressure or anything. :P

On that note, I know that today is kind of blah, but I promise that we’ll celebrate your birthday-slash-adoption-day-a-versary in true We Rate Dogs style next week. Your uncle Mike is coming to visit, and there will be loads of walks, belly rubs aplenty, and, dog willing, maybe even a trip to the drive-in (or two or three). We will cram so much fun into so few days that you may never want to chase a ball again. Just kidding! Knock on wood! The day that happens will be a sad one indeed.

On that note: I love you! But I have calls to make, books to sort, and maybe even a few people to yell at. We shall see how the day progresses. Just know that I’m doing it all for you. You and Mags and Finnick, you’re the reason for my being. The things I’m trying to claw my way back for. You three are my everything.

Love you, forever and always,

– Mom

2016-07-26 - AM Sun With My Girls - 0025 [flickr]

 
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Stacking the Shelves: December 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

2016-12-26 - x-mas book haul - 0006 [flickr]

2016-12-26 - x-mas book haul - 0008 [flickr]

My Christmas book haul! I got a few new comic books as well as two crafty-type books, but my favorite gift by far is the O-Ren Ishii Funko Pop from my sister! Five of my seven rescue dogs are named after fictional characters (Ralphie refused to respond to anything other than “Ralphie,” and I rather liked Peedee’s name, so we kept it). My girl Rennie is named after Lucy Liu’s character in Kill Bill, and I already have the Kaylee and Jayne pops to represent my little fireflies. Sadly, I don’t think Funko makes Mags and Finnick pops. Mags is a pretty minor character in The Hunger Games series, so that’s kind of expected, but Finnick is a fan favorite. Not that I could just buy one half of the pair, that seems w-r-o-n-g wrong.

My parents also got me – well, Mags – a blue life jacket with a fin on it. I shit you not, Mags side-eyed me when I took it out of the box; she knew what it was straight away. I can’t wait to photograph her in it this summer. I think we’ll have to make a special trip to the beach so it looks authentic, with the sand and waves. Our little pool will just look cheesy.

2016-12-30 - Treating Myself - 0003 [flickr]

There were two books in particular that I REALLY WANTED for Christmas but didn’t get: Volume 1 of Clean Room, by Gail Simone, and APB: Artists Against Police Brutality. (Which, if you’ll remember, I tried twice to buy used but ended up with unfinished ARCs each time!) As it just so happened, Amazon had a Season 9 Angel & Faith title randomly on sale, so I used that as an excuse to treat myself to all three.

2016-12-11 - Book Outlet Black Friday Haul - 0002 [flickr]

2016-12-11 - Book Outlet Black Friday Haul - 0005 [flickr]

Since I rarely buy print books anymore, I haven’t been browsing on Book Outlet in ages. But I happened to catch an ad for their Black Friday sale in my spam folder and decided to give them another look. And, hello, when did they beef up their comic book selection? I checked some items off my wishlist and discovered a few new series, too.

As it just so happens, by the time I filled my cart and started the checkout process, I’d missed the deadline for the sale by like an hour. So I pared my purchases down a bit and settled on these eleven titles. It all came out to around $60 in the end, though, so it was still a steal. And now that I know they carry more graphic novels, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for the next big one! (Spoiler alert: I went a little overboard on their Boxing Day sale. More on that next month!)

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much merries from the @furkids

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

2016 X-mas Card, Final

Since Jayne passed away in July, we’ve been down to “just” three dogs (not counting the fosters, of which we’ve thankfully had four since. They keep me busy and distracted, okay.) I know that three is still more than most households have, but we haven’t had such a critical low number since we adopted Kaylee and Jayne (dogs #4 and 5) in 2006 – so basically a decade! Not coincidentally, 2005 was also the last year I was able to squeeze all our dogs into a single photo. I gave it ye ole college try in 2006, but it was a hot mess.

Anyway, I took a bunch of pictures of Rennie, Mags, and Finnick, both individually and as a group, and the result is what you see above. This wasn’t my favorite shot, but it begged the best captions, so there you go.

I kind of stumbled when it came to the message on the back of the card. 2016 was a dumpster fire from beginning to end, and 2017 is looking even worse. Not much to celebrate, you know?

2016 message label

That’s David Bowie’s Rochester mug shot in the background. I chose it both because I’m from Rochester, and it matched the picture I made for the address labels, which was a montage of photos of Bowie, Prince, and Gwen Ifill, run through the charcoal filter in Photoshop so they’d be all nice and matchy. It took awhile to find a good one of Prince (his face always tends to be turned and in shadow more often than not), but I think it came out pretty neat.

2016 address label montage

For the return label, I just went with a simple pawprint and heart design.

2016 return label

These dogs are my world and they each carry a slice my heart with them. Some days this arrangement works out better than others. Sigh.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty melancholy today. The fog and thunderstorms aren’t helping, but at least there’s a Golden Girls marathon on TVLand, and plenty of cookies and chocolates in the fridge. (Yes, there will be pictures and recipes in the new year!)

After the jump are a few of my favorite pics. Look out for each other, people. Be compassionate and RESIST.

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forever and a day

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

2015-11-23 - Late Morning Office Sun - 0030 [flickr]

Trish walked out into the dawn and wished she still believed in God. The sea was still lapping on the shore, the last stars were vanishing as the sky brightened. But the sky was empty of comfort. There was no loving God waiting, no heaven where Doug could find happiness. Just the cold contingent universe where things happened for random reasons nobody could understand. Nevertheless, while she was torn apart with grief for Doug she also felt at peace. His struggle was over. There was no more pain. And she had been with him and helped him. She had seen his whole life, from his birth to his death. “Everyone is born,” she said to the empty sky. “Everyone dies.”

It was cold comfort as time went on and she began to understand what missing him meant.

– Jo Walton, My Real Children

Oh, my little Peedee monster. You’ve been running around my head and heart so much these past days, weeks, months. As the one-year anniversary of your death approached, I found myself thinking about where we were a year ago: exploring new trails, sharing slushies at the drive-in, snuggling and reading comic books in the sun room. Trying to put on brave faces despite our anticipatory grief. And, now, mourning you like crazy.

I wonder what you’d think of our newest foster(s), and wish like hell I still had your shoulder to cry on.

It’s been a damn tough year. Jayne was diagnosed with cancer just four months after it claimed you, and she only last four months. Then there was the election. I went to bed that night feeling just like I did when we learned that Jayne had lung cancer: terrified for her, and for us; wondering just how far this thing would spread, and knowing that it’d be terrible no matter what. It’s made me miss you all the more, since of all the dogs, you were always the best at knowing when I needed comfort, and giving it in abundance. Oh, how I wish you were here.

We have a new foster doggy, a fat little Chihuahua who we’ll call Chunk. I think you’d like her; she’s pretty old and chill, gets along well with Rennie, Mags, and Finnick, but is not a fan of the cat. She likes to follow Lemmy around the house, barking at him. Even though she’s getting a bit bolder, I think Chunk is a little scared of him. Yesterday she darted at him from across the living room; Lemmy stayed put, and she realized too late that she couldn’t stop easily, thanks to the slippery floors. They came within an inch of colliding, and the look of sheer panic on her face was priceless. Lemmy, of course, remained unimpressed.

Regardless, I suspect you two would do some major bonding over policing the cat. (He’s gotten so bad, you don’t even know.)

2007-06-25 - Morning Playtime - 0023 [original]

Yesterday I spent the day decorating the house, even though I found it impossible to get into the mood. Dad and I put up the Christmas tree over the weekend; I think we just wanted to get it out of the way, and maybe we were also compensating for our late start last year?

We had comfort food – extra-cheesy mac & cheese – for dinner. Rennie’s become the designated dish licker in your absence, so Dad set her up with the pans in the bathroom. She was making such a racket that I sent him in there to hold the dishes for her; they took so long that I fell asleep on the couch, my face buried in Mags’s belly! (Like 45 minutes, for reals.) Then we watched that Nazi episode of Supernatural and spent an hour discussing/arguing about Trump before bed. Things became animated enough that you would’ve hid behind the tv before we were done. Luckily Chunk didn’t seem bothered. (I always worry how my loud talking will affect the fosters.) Good times.

Today is Thanksgiving, though I don’t feel much like celebrating. Luckily Dad’s volunteered to make dinner, while I start Chunk’s new exercise regimen. I see lots of trips to the park in our future! The weather’s finally turned chilly, but she’s got several extra layers of fat to keep her warm. You always had such thick, luxurious fur for that.

Dad and I are thinking about adopting another dog or two, but I don’t know. It feels…weird. Wrong. To have new dogs who never met you other four; who are traipsing into the middle of an existing pack, a broken pack. But then I don’t want to wait until everyone else is gone, either. For me or for the dogs. Whether Rennie outlives Mags or vice versa, the surviving dog will need a friend to fall back on, you know? Idk, maybe I just need to let it happen organically instead of forcing it; Ice Cream Star and Brutus fit in so well, I would’ve adopted them in a heartbeat if it was that kind of foster situation. Maybe fostering for a regular rescue group is the way to go. Try everyone on until we find the right fit.

You and Ralphie and Kaylee and Jayne left such large, gaping holes, I don’t even know how to started to fill everything back in. It’s just too much. I don’t want new dogs, I want the old gang, back together. Sigh. I am in such a mood lately, let me tell you.

And…I guess that’s it. I don’t know what else to say except I love and miss you. Last year was so impossibly difficult, but I’d do it all over again just to have some more time with you. Now more than ever.

2015-08-19 - Terrible Trio at Smithville Lake - 0098 [flickr]