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.

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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).

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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.

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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

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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

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Stacking the Shelves: December 2016

Saturday, December 31st, 2016

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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Nineteen Little Ralphie Things

Monday, October 10th, 2016

2002-06-17 - RalphieAtTheGame-12

Oh, Ralphie.

Can you believe that fifteen years ago today we were celebrating your first birthday with us?

Last month was the fifteenth anniversary of 9/11. It’s silly and incidental, but my memories of that day will forever be bound up in you. I was on the phone scheduling an appointment with the dermatologist when I heard the news. We must have gotten into poison ivy while walking the trails next to our house, and I was covered in the stuff. Well, not covered by today’s standards, but by Fairport only semi-rural standards. (Egads, I didn’t know what “covered in poison ivy” meant back then, with one dog and limited green space.) Anyway, the news coverage and photos of search and rescue dogs? Always makes me think of you, and our first years together. Before we became a pack of two and three and five and finally seven.

Your dad and I miss you so much, buddy. Whenever we get a new foster, I wonder what you’d think of her. I picture you with Daisy’s curlicue tail, and we compare the size of Brutus’s paws to yours. (I think they’re nowhere near as big, fwiw.) Every time we find a new trail to explore, my heart shatters for a split second, on account of we’ll never be able to walk it with you.

I don’t want to get all depressive on your big day, though. So instead of saying I miss you (again!), I’ll just say thank you: for being the first in an era, my Other Boyfriend, by little Ralphie Bear. The very first dog I adopted on my own; the very first dog all my own. For being the leader of our little pack, for nearly twelve years. They were the best. You were the best.

Love you so, so much,

– Mom

2002-06-17 - Kelly&RalphieAtTheGame-11

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Thirty Little Kaylee & Jayne Things

Friday, September 30th, 2016

2009-10-24 - Kaylee - 0013

Dear Kaylee –

Remember how last year I said that writing these annual posts had finally begun to feel more sweet than bitter? Well, this year was a bit of a struggle. Maybe because it’s just so soon after Jayne’s passing, but the prospect of penning this letter to you was daunting; a tangible thing that made my shoulders slump and my stomach sink.

You see, I worry that you’re slipping away from me. That every passing day takes with it a piece of you: a memory, an image, a smell, a fragment of thought. And no matter how small, it’s still you; all I have left of you, in point o’ facts. It hurts so much, this feeling that you’re like sand seeping through my fingers, no matter how tight and steady I squeeze them shut.

Some days I feel like Mags is overwriting you. Like I’ve so completely adopted her as your doppelgänger (but never your substitute! never that.) that her picture’s begun to ghost over yours.

Days like these, I wish I was an android with playback memory. Okay, I always wish I was an android; androids are awesome. But still. You know what I mean.

Anyway, I was feeling down – in general, because things have been the worst lately; and about this birthday letter, specifically – and then I read something rather lovely. Something that made me reevaluate all the Kaylee-based angst I’ve been grappling with.

“Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can’t even remember what she looks like. You know? Not really. I miss her, Subhi.” […]

I give Jimmie’s hand a squeeze. “It doesn’t matter what you see. I think it just matters what you feel.”

(from The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon)

You made me feel warm. Happy. Loved. Overcome. Content. Heroic. Awed. Grateful. Mothered.

You were home and light and joy. You were the best girl I ever had; my daemon; my soul mate. My wonder doggie. My avatar.

You’re still all of those things, of course, just more internalized than before. Those little lawn dances you used to do? Now they rock my heart.

I love you so much, sweet babygirl. And as long as I hold tight to that, a part of you will live on.

I am forever yours.

– Mom

 

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Sweet Jayne –

I’m so sorry. Sorry that we weren’t able to save you. Sorry that we put you through surgery and chemo, all for nothing. Sorry that you aren’t here with us to celebrate your twelfth birthday in person. Sorry that I didn’t make you my special project ten years sooner.

All those years, I thought I was doing the right thing: giving you your space, letting you come to us in your own time and way. And maybe I was. Doing the right thing, that is. Or maybe I could have pushed just a little harder.

I always worried, what the end would be like for you, our little outsider. If we’d be able to offer comfort and support, the way we did with Ozzy and Ralphie and Kaylee and Peedee. I think we did, though. I think you opened up to us, just a wee bit, in those last few months. You dug the drive-in, and sitting close to us while you napped, and even laying out in the sun with me. You even liked being pushed around in the stroller, though I’m beyond sad that we only got to use it twice.

It’s been two months and I still can’t bring myself to write about your death. I’m going through some hard-core avoidance. We got two new fosters the week after you died, and they’ve been keeping us busy. I thought they’d be a nice distraction, and they are both nice and a distraction…but I think maybe it was a bit too soon. Like maybe I should have given myself (and the other dogs) more time to process and grieve first. Because now I feel crazy stuck. The past six months just feels like one bad dream.

Anyway, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this. Even though I haven’t been handling your passing terribly well, I want you to know that I love you and think about you all the time. It’s true, I never bonded with you the same way I did my other babies, and for that I’m sorry. But I do miss you, so, so much.

When I look at your little cave-bed in the corner of the office, I still half-expect to see you snoozing there. I catch myself leaving a book lying around, and then remember: with you gone, there’s no other dog who will steal it as a chew toy. Dad kept getting your bottle of Proin out of the cabinet for peanut butter time, until I removed it to your memory box (minus all but one of the pills, which we’ll donate to RBC). And every mealtime, I found myself setting a fourth bowl for you. Now, with Daisy and Brutus, we’re back to five bowls, which is hella weird.

It’s funny; when you were alive, it sometimes felt like you weren’t there: you existed on the periphery. But now that you’re gone, it’s like we feel your absence even more than we did your presence. Is that awful? I don’t know; I suspect it just is. Neither good nor bad, just how – who – you were. And I love you no matter what, with no preconditions. You’ll always be one of my girls.

That picture of Kaylee in the leopard getup may be my avatar, but the one of you wearing a Jayne hat? That’s my background. I glance at your sad Eeyore face roughly two hundred and eleven times a day.

Love always,

– Mom

(More below the fold…)

Twenty-Four Little Mags & Finnick Things

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

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Mags –

I LOVE YOU SO FUCKING MUCH, MY SWEET BABYGIRL! I can’t believe it’s only been five years since you noodle-walked into my life; it feels like you’ve owned a part of me forever.

There are so very many things I love about you, good and bad. Is that weird? If any other dog gave me love bites or barked at me to hand over peanut butter balls that they didn’t even want, it might not be so cute. But somehow you make it work. You are fierce and funny and so damn sweet, even when you’re trying not to be. I guess it helps that you’re old and have a bum hip. Like, how much damage could you do, even if you tried?

And it’s not like you do. Try to hurt me, that is. I know because occasionally I’ve been on the receiving end of your “real” bite – like when I try to trim your nails – and you pack a surprisingly mean one, for an old girl who’s missing a fair number of her teeth. Nope. All the mouthiness is just your way of professing your love for me. I {{nibble}} you right back.

I love how great you are with O-Ren, and with Finnick. We may only have three of you little buggers left, but it’s shiny that you all get on so well; you guys make a nice pack, as little as it may be. I even love how not-great you are with the fosters; it’s ironical, since it’s more or less how Kaylee treated you. Howdya like them apples?

Even so, I’m sorry the newest fosters are putting you out so. I’m starting to think that maybe we rushed back into it after Jayne’s passing. I thought that you guys could use a distraction, but perhaps quality time with mom would have been better. Plus Brutus is so damn fluffy and cute. It must be eating you alive.

But I love you and you know that and I’ll take a little extra time on your birthday to remind you of that fact. You’re my sweet little babygirl, my lovable little shithead. My Mags and Cheese, my Mad Mags; my Mags and Other Monsters, and my Baked Magsaroni. My sun and stars, my little spitfire. The one and only dog I photograph next to serendipitously-titled literature, much to your annoyance.

Wishing you a happy fifth adoption day anniversary (and an even happier thirteenth birthday), and crossing my fingers and toes for five more.

– Mom

 

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Dear Finnie Boy,

I never would have guessed that when Kelly called me five years ago about two dogs in a shelter, that I was about to meet my constant companion for the next five years. You were called unadoptable and we already had five dogs, but we did the crazy thing and took you and Mags home with us. I don’t remember how many days it took, but soon you were following me around, curling up next to me on the couch, curling up on the chair in my office, and curling up next to my hip at night.

I’ve loved all the dogs equally, but you and I are a pair. I could be sad and bummed out, and you’ll still want to lick my face like nothing is wrong in the world. You don’t mind if we watch a bad Sasquatch show, as long as I pet you. I’m still the only one who can pick you up with without a freakout. We’ve been best friends for almost every day you’ve lived with us, and we’ll be best friends even after we’re both gone.

How much code have you watched me write? How many times have you heard me lay down on a bed and immediately break into a run to go find me? How many nights did you sit on my lap while I played video games? I wish I had counted all of that and more, and maybe that would approach a way to quantify how much you mean to me. But you know, I bet it would fall so very, very short.

–Dad

(More below the fold…)

Fourteen Little Peedee Things

Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

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Oh, my crazy little birthday boy, I miss you so much. Even more so since going through a decade-plus of pictures, looking for the perfect shots to round out this year’s list. Which was actually kind of fun, despite the heartache and pending tears. The Summer of Peedee was pretty freaking awesome, you know? I’m so, so glad we were able to give that to you.

Jayne passed away just over a month ago. She was diagnosed with cancer four months after it claimed you. We got the first call on O-Ren’s birthday, while we were driving out to Smith’s Fork Park for a walk, as a matter of fact. What is it with us getting bad news on birthdays and anniversaries? Anyway, she didn’t have anywhere near the run that you did; it was four short months from beginning to end. Surgery, chemo, last hurrahs, all crammed into one too-short season. I’ve barely had time to catch my breath. It makes me appreciate what we had with you all the more.

Right now one of our fosters – I’ll call her Daisy – is perched on my lap, right where you used to sit, long, gangly legs be damned. She and her brother Brutus arrived the week after Jayne left the building. Mags almost immediately developed diarrhea, and now Finnick and Brutus have it. So far there are two types of worm infestations in the pack and counting. It’s been a time.

Anyway, Daisy. She has a stinky butt and a nosy disposition; I think you might like her. Or maybe not. You were kind of over puppies and their puppy shit by the end.

One day Rennie started playing with Brutus. You know how when dogs (that’s you!) find a dead animal or some stank poo and roll into it with their necks? That’s what she’s been doing with Brutus. Anyway, Daisy saw Brutus getting all the attention, and inserted herself into the middle like little sisters tend to do. Now she’s under the mistaken impression that she and Rennie are friends. She keeps backing her ass up into Rennie’s face. Rennie snaps at her and she tries again, like it’s part of the game. I kind of feel sorry for her; she just wants to be friends!

On second thought, I’m 99% certain that you’d disapprove. I can just picture you now, scolding her from your perch on the back of the couch.

I think about you a lot, is my point. How you’d react to the fosters; whether B.’s balls (sterilization TBA) might mesmerize you the way they do Finnick. How you’d pick up every parasite in the house, on account of your poo fetish. How nice it’d be to snuggle into your thick, wolf-like fur while I cry my stupid eyes red over Jayne.

Confession time: I sleep with your talking chimp at night (he holds onto my hair bands for me!) and take him to the drive-in with us in your memory. (Daisy is terrified of all your talking toys. Now THAT is something I bet you’d love to see!) That’s how much I miss you, big guy. You’ve left a hole the size of which I couldn’t even begin to anticipate, back when this all started.

I love you so much, Peeds. If there’s one thing I’d want you to know, it’s that I always carry you with me: you and Ralphie and Kaylee and now Jayne. Together, forever.

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And these are just fourteen of the reasons why. (A drop in the proverbial bucket, okay.)

(More below the fold…)

Stacking the Shelves: August 2016

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

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It’s been a rather shitty month (literally and figuratively, hardee har har!; no but really, the new fosters introduced a worm into the pack, and everyone’s had varying degrees of diarrhea, yay!), so I decided to treat myself to a few comic books from my wishlist. Also: A Helena Pop, because 1) it was on sale and 2) Helena is easily the best character in one of the best shows on television, so.

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

…aaaand of course, once you buy one Funko Pop, you can’t stop. My next two purchases were Kaylee and Jayne, in honor of my little ladies, may they rest in peace. Kaylee looks scrappy as heck – wtf is up with that hairline!? – but there’s no way I can return her. Besides, my Kaylee was pretty funny-looking too, so I guess it evens out.

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Pictured here with our 2011 FSMas card, which featured some pretty hardcore cosplay. (We leave a laminated version on the fridge year-round, because how could we not?)

(More below the fold…)

Book Review: Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend, Nancy LeVine (2016)

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Old Dogs Rock (and so do Nancy LeVine’s Portraits!)

five out of five stars

(Full disclosure: Schiffer Publishing provided me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.)

An old dog’s eyes, milky white, are not so much going blind as they are being clouded by memory: every stick, every ball, the squirrel that got away – they’re all there. Nothing is forgotten. The day she swam across the lake, or chewed your mouthguard into a million pieces. Remember when she was lost for two days, and came home soaking wet, muddy, and with a bird’s feather – blue and white – somehow lodged beneath her collar? She remembers. They all do. Every word, every walk, every time you RUBBED their neck. The memories spill into their eyes, and eventually all they can see is the past.

– Daniel Wallace

Anyone who’s ever opened their home and their heart to a dog is sure to love Senior Dogs Across America: Portraits of Man’s Best Old Friend. Award-winning photographer Nancy LeVine traveled across America, photographing senior dogs in their natural habitats: in forever homes and animal sanctuaries; lounging on couches, riding along with their humans in tractors, and playing with their siblings, human and non; aging with dignity and wisdom and grace.

The eighty-six portraits included here promise to tug at the heartstrings – and make you hug your canine companion just a little bit tighter tonight. The dogs featured run the gamut: there are big dogs and little dogs; pit bulls, dachshunds, greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and mutts; and several tripods, a few one-eyed dogs, and one very big German Shepherd on wheels (hey, Abby!). There are even two Otises, both chocolate Labs by the look of ’em, living just a state apart in Washington and California. LeVine lovingly captures the spirit and personality of each of her subjects; while the book is rather short on words, each picture sings and shines and speaks volumes, dancing off the printed page and right into the reader’s heart.

(More below the fold…)

Stacking the Shelves: July 2016

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

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July’s comic book pre-orders!

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I won an autographed copy of Reliquary along with some shiny book swag, also signed by Sarah Fine. Thanks Sarah!

(Photographed next to my giant TBR comic book pile. SO MANY BOOKS SO LITTLE TIME.)

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Schiffer Publishing was nice enough to send me a copy (beautifully wrapped, I might add!) of Nancy Levine’s Senior Dogs Across America, which is 1) lovely; 2) already out; and 3) makes a wonderful gift for dog lovers of all ages.

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Mags is rather miffed that she didn’t make the cut. :P

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Shelf Awareness FTW! Specifically, an ARC of The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín.

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Also from Shelf Awareness: an autographed copy of Vengeance by Zane.

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For review from the publisher: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne. I had the pleasure of reviewing Mark’s previous two books, and the intersectional focus of this one really has me psyched!

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I know we’re barely halfway through the year, but The Many Selves of Katherine North is poised to go down as one of my favorite 2016 releases. I was lucky enough to win a hardcover copy, signed by Emma Geen herself, in a launch day giveaway on Twitter.

(Check the shiny little blurb graphic Bloomsbury made for me!)

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Normally I’m not a huge book collector, but. I AM SO HAPPY YOU GUYS I CANNOT EVEN!

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I wasn’t quick enough to snag an ARC of Soraya Roberts’s upcoming book, In My Humble Opinion: My So-Called Life, on NetGalley – but when I emailed the publisher to inquire about a physical ARC, ECW Press was kind enough to put one in the mail for me. Thanks a bunch, Sarah!

 
I also snagged a few great deals on ebooks this month:

  • The Chain (The Kinship Series #1) by Robin Lamont ($2.99)
  • The Other Side of the Stars by Katherine King ($.99)
  •  
    For review on NetGalley:

  • The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward
  • Haters: Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online by Bailey Poland
  • Ice Crypt (Mermaids of Eriana Kwai #2) by Tiana Warner
  • The Lost and the Found by Cat Clarke
  • Hag-Seed (Hogarth Shakespeare) by Margaret Atwood
  • Everfair: A Novel by Nisi Shawl
  • A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All by Mark Hawthorne
  •  
    For review on Edelweiss:

  • Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt
  • History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
  • Yesternight by Cat Winters
  • The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
  •  
    For review on Library Thing:

  • The Kraken Sea by E. Catherine Tobler
  •  

    (Not-So-) Happy Ralphieversary!

    Thursday, July 14th, 2016

    X-Mas 2015 - In Memoriam (Ralphie) (cropped)

    Oh, Ralphie. I miss you so much.

    It’s been a tough three years since you left me. Kaylee followed you soon after, and then not a year later, Peedee was diagnosed with cancer. He put up a really good fight, but last November we had to say goodbye to him too. He was only thirteen. Thirteen! Of all you guys, I thought he’d live the longest.

    Pictures of happy young Peedee, with his huge goofy grin, still make me cry. Pictures of you two (or three!) together are even worse. Sometimes I wish I believed in heaven, or an afterlife. Images of you guys snuggled together, running through fields and chewing on Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, taking care of one another in my absence, sure would help. But the past is a kind of comfort too. Everything that made you you is gone, dispersed into the atmosphere to form new creatures, but your memory will always live on in my heart. Some days it’s not nearly enough; and yet it kind of has to be.

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    And now we’re going through the same thing with Jayne. She had surgery, and then chemo, but she’s having a much harder time with it than Peedee did. We got some really bad news this morning. Things aren’t looking good. Probably we should stop scheduling vet appointments on anniversaries and birthdays. It was on the two-year anniversary of Kaylee’s death that Peedee got his death sentence. And we found about Jayne’s possible cancer on Rennie’s birthday. Sigh. How am I supposed to deal with that?

    I wish I could bottle that feeling of nervous excitement I felt fifteen years ago. There’s nothing quite like welcoming a new dog into your home; knowing that you’re about to meet your new best friend and constant shadow. The love of your goddamn life. I’d give anything to go back there and do it all again. All this pain and heartache is worth it … though in times like these, it can be so, so easy to lose sight of that.

    I wish this was a happier letter, but it is what it is. I miss you so fucking much, my little bear. You may be gone, but I keep you alive every single day.

    P.S. It kinda sorta breaks my heart that I don’t have any new photos to add to these posts; instead I just have to keep repurposing old ones.

    2016-07-14 - Ralphie's Adoption Day

    ###

    Previous years: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2011 | 2008

    Book Review: Listen to Me, Hannah Pittard (2016)

    Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

    Nope, no thanks, not for me.

    two out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. This review contains clearly marked spoilers.)

    Mark and Maggie’s annual drive east to visit family has gotten off to a rocky start. By the time they’re on the road, it’s late, a storm is brewing, and they are no longer speaking to one another. Adding to the stress, Maggie — recently mugged at gunpoint — is lately not herself, and Mark is at a loss about what to make of the stranger he calls his wife. Forced to stop for the night at a remote inn, completely without power, Maggie’s paranoia reaches an all-time and terrifying high. But when Mark finds himself threatened in a dark parking lot, it’s Maggie who takes control.

    (Synopsis via Goodreads.)

    Surely I can’t be the only one envisioning a Roaring Rampage of Revenge after reading this description? Picture it: months after being mugged at gunpoint and knocked unconscious in an alley, Maggie once again finds herself in a perilous position. Only this time’s she’s ready. Prepared. Expecting it, even, thanks to the PTSD and anxiety and depression. And she fights back. Kicks some serious ass. Maybe comes to her husband Mark’s rescue. Mark, the same guy who’s spent the better part of a year tiptoeing around her, walking on eggshells, maybe even scoffed at her paranoia, once or twice, when he thought she wasn’t looking. Bonus points if he’s entertained fantasies about how he would have protected HIS WOMAN, if only he had been there when it happened. But now that he is, he’s paralyzed with fear, unable to protect himself, let alone his wife. Yeah. That’s what I’d expected, going into Listen to Me.

    As it turns out, this is the most misleading yet still dead accurate book description I’ve seen in a while. Maybe ever. Certainly in recent memory.

    Here are three reasons why I disliked Listen to Me, from least to most spoilery:

    (More below the fold…)

    Stacking the Shelves: May 2016

    Saturday, May 28th, 2016

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    2016-05-10 - Birthday Books (& Rennie) - 0007 [flickr]

    2016-05-09 - Cookie Dough Cake - 0003 [flickr]

    First things first: My birthday was earlier this month. (Yay me!) Shane made me a chocolate cake with almond buttercream frosting AND BITS OF COOKIE DOUGH STUFFED INSIDE (genius!) and I got a big stack o’ comics and vegan thin mints and a Supernatural messenger bag that I’m maybe probably most definitely too old for.

    (The Orphan Black TP is still on my wishlist, in case anyone wants to send me a late gift. Just saying.)

    2016-05-10 - Brain Freeze Journal - 0002 [flickr]

    I requested yet another journal from Blogging for Books; I’m pretty sure I have enough to cover the next decade at this point! Even though I’m kind of over the teeny tiny sizes, I just had to have the Brain Freeze Journal. It looks so much like a Neapolitan ice cream sammie I salivate a little every time I look at it!

    2016-05-23 - Long May She Wave - 0009 [flickr]

    True story: I put in for a copy of Long May She Wave (also from Blogging for Books) mostly on accounta I was wondering just what the heck it was. A book of American ephemera? Tear-out postcards? A stationary set? As it turns out, it’s a cross between two and three: a faux book housing 100 individual postcards: 50 unique designs, with two of each so you can send a card/keep a card, if you’d like. Kind of neat, eh?

    2016-05-03 - Places No One Knows - 0002 [flickr]

    Thanks go to Natalie C. Parker for this ARC of Places No One Knows! I also won an ebook of Beware the Wild in her twitter giveaway!

    2016-05-03 - Life Without Nico - 0001 [flickr]

    For review through Goodreads: the children’s book Life Without Nico by Andrea Maturana and Francisco Javier Olea. This is the first GR giveaway I’ve won in, like, a year! That’s okay, though; since I started with NetGalley and Edelweiss, I’ve been entering fewer drawings for physical books, so that’s probably (mostly) why.

     
    For review on Edelweiss:

  •  
    For review on NetGalley:

  • American Girls by Alison Umminger
  •  

    (I’m still working through last month’s stack, so it was a slow month, galley-wise!)

    Some anniversaries just suck ass.

    Friday, May 6th, 2016

    It was three years ago today that we had to start saying our goodbyes to Ralphie. He was in renal failure and, after several days in the hospital, wasn’t showing any signs of improvement … we were able to give him a few awesome last days, at least, filled with treats and tummy rubs and afternoons sunbathing at the park. He was tired but happy, and basked in the attention we lavished on him. He died at home, three days later, on my 35th birthday.

    Two days later we found out that Kaylee was sick too; also from renal failure, in a crazy-making coincidence. She passed away a few weeks later, on May 21st. It was a surprise – she had a stroke and lapsed into a coma – but also not, because though we were treating her, or trying to anyway, it was a struggle. I wish Kaylee’s last days had been as wonderful as Ralphie’s; she deserved that much, and more (so much more!). I try not to think of them too much.

    It was two years later, to the very day, that we learned of Peedee’s relapse; that the cancer had stopped responding to the chemo and the best we could hope for was two good months, three if we were super-lucky. He lived six months and two days, almost all of them healthy (relatively speaking) and happy and spoiled rotten. God, how I miss his goofy smile and stupid pink tongue and soft, pink fur. His bark and excitability and spirit. His intellect and empathy. I could use his shoulder for a good cry right now, I tell you what.

    I’ve been missing Kaylee and Ralphie and Peedee so, so much this week and month. I wish I could strike May from the calendar and never think of it again. But I can’t so instead I’m gonna watch this Heinz commercial on repeat because it makes me grin like a weirdo every time it plays on the tv. Also, standing in the receiving line of a wiener dog stampede is how I’d like to go out. (Though none of these guys is nearly as cute as my Ralphie Bear.) Someone make this happen please.

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    Book Review: Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth, Guinnevere Shuster (2016)

    Wednesday, May 4th, 2016

    Epic Photos for an Awesome Cause

    five out of five stars

    (Full disclosure: I received a free ebook for review through NetGalley.)

    Every year, approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter U.S. shelters; of these, 3.9 million are dogs. Roughly 35% are adopted, while another 26% are reunited with their families. The remaining 26% are killed, usually for lack of homes.* This translates to a staggering 1.2 million dogs (not to mention 1.4 million cats) per year.**

    Given the overwhelming scope of the problem, animal shelters and welfare groups have gotten pretty darn creative in their rescue efforts – aimed at both placing animals in homes, as well as preventing them from entering the system to begin with. For example, some groups offer grants to low-income pet owners who are facing unexpected veterinary bills. Others provide free or low-cost checkups and spay/neuter services to those in need.

    Nonprofits that focus on humans have gotten into the act as well. With an increasing awareness of the link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence comes programs that cater to both human and nonhuman victims. For instance, domestic violence shelters are starting to open their doors to the companion animals of their human clients, as a sizable percentage survivors refuse to leave their furry friends behind.

    (I volunteer as a foster home for one of two such groups in the Kansas City area, and it’s extremely rewarding. In particular, I find it easier to foster dogs who already have homes. Don’t get me wrong, I still fall in love with them, but at least I know I have to give them back. Otherwise I’m likely to adopt myself out of fostering in no time flat. Anyway, I cannot recommend it enough.)

    (More below the fold…)