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]

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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Thanks for the memories.

Friday, March 18th, 2016

2015-08-31 - Going to the Drive-In - 0022 [flickr]

When I was sixteen, a work friend of my father’s got us tickets to see The Rolling Stones. He worked for Coke (or was it Pepsi?), and I think they were sponsoring the concert? Anyway, they were primo seats – my friend Heather and I were able to muscle our way up to the fifth row – and we even carpooled with him. (To Syracuse, maybe?) My parents went too, but they hung out with the other adults. It was pretty flippin’ awesome, all around. I still have the concert tee, all these years later.

My mom was really big on thank you cards, and this was an instance where I actually agreed with her policy. Of my own accord, I wrote him a thank you note, attached it to a pricey box of chocolates (not vegan, sadly), and tasked my father with its delivery. Apparently the Coke guy was so impressed that he shared it with his class (I think he taught a class, anyway; or was it his employees, maybe? I forget!) as an example of how to behave in the business world.

After Ralphie and Kaylee died, I thought about bringing a basket of home-made (vegan!) cookies to the staff and doctors at Blue Pearl, where we were regulars for most of May. Everyone was so kind to us, and I wanted to show them that it didn’t go unappreciated. (Especially that one vet tech who helped us carry Kaylee’s body to the car and then hugged me and let me cry on her shoulder. If you know me at all, you know just how damn out of character that is. I must have been a hot mess.) But between the grief and the heat, I never quite got around to it, and I still kind of regret it to this day.

2015-10-25 - Going to the Drive-In - 0038 [flickr]

These anecdotes bring us to Peedee. The Summer of Peedee, to be exact, in which the I-70 and Twin drive-ins played a prominent role. Maybe this letter is a little silly or sentimental, but it’s coming from the right place. As in, straight from my heart.

After Peedee relapsed, we started taking him to the drive-in with us…partially because we wanted to try new things with him, but also because we didn’t want to leave him home alone. (And I don’t think we did, not even once!) I was so nervous, since we’d tried it when he was younger and it was an epic failure. I thought for sure he’d make a scene and we’d be asked to leave. But he was okay and, perhaps more importantly, they were okay with him. The I-70 and Twin are really very dog-friendly; not only do they allow dogs, but they keep the ticket windows stocked with dog treats and sometimes host dog-themed events during the day.

I’ve learned not to take this for granted, particularly in light of the drive-in that opened in St. Joseph a few years back – and explicitly disallowed dogs. (They only lasted a season or two. You do the maths.)

Anyway, to get the point: they helped us create some really special memories with Peedee, and I’m forever indebted to them for that. And it certainly can’t hurt to tell them as much.

2015-07-21 - Going to the Drive-In - 0061 [flickr]

The 2016 season opens tonight, and though Peedee won’t be there with me in person, you can bet his spirit will do a little happy dance in my heart.

(More below the fold…)

I’ll always Gotcha, Peedee. (aka, “The Peedee Post”)

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

X-Mas 2015 - In Memoriam (Peedee)

Oh, Peedee. I can’t believe it’s been thirteen years since we met. I wish I could say that I remember it like it was yesterday, but I’m getting on in years and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. Plus, there’s the hazy cloud of grief that’s been hanging over my head … since your death, and those of Ralphie and Kaylee. Some days it makes it impossible to think. Like swimming through dark molasses, half blind and sluggishly slow.

So no, not like yesterday. But clear enough. I still remember the moment a volunteer (your foster mom?) placed you in my lap. You were so silly and squirmy and full of crazy puppy energy. We went to the adoption event looking for a slightly older companion for Ralphie. But the second I wrapped my arms around you, I knew you were coming home with us.

It still hurts my heart, all these years later, to think that we ever considered giving you back. Ralphie got sick of your antics about a week in, remember? And us being the young and (somewhat) inexperienced dog people we were, we kind of panicked. But things got better. So, so much better. You and Ralphie ended up besties.

2003-08-15 - Peedee&Ralphie-16 [1024x768]

(Ralphie and Peedee and Rennie – I’ll always think of you guys as the original three. Even though there was less time separating Kaylee and Jayne’s adoption from Rennie’s than between, say, you and Ralphie or you and Rennie, you three stick together like glue in my mind. Maybe it’s because you three all got on so well. Kaylee mostly fit in, except that Ralphie all but ignored her. Like he thought two friends was enough and refused to acknowledge the later adoptees. And then the same thing happened with Mags and Finnick: Mags integrated rather quickly, while Finnick is still fighting to, much like Jayne. Three and five and seven, that’s how you all appear in my mind. You all reference each other, in a weird way, and maybe that makes each loss hurt all the more.)

The sense of shame and regret lingers, though, especially now that you’re gone. To think that we almost never got to know you – it’s too much to bear. Even with the cancer. I’d go through it all a million times over; you’re worth that, and so much more.

It’s been nearly four months since we lost you, and it’s hasn’t gotten much easier. Take this post, for example: I meant to write it months ago, but kept dragging my heels. It all feels so final, you know? Talking about it. Admitting that you’re really, truly gone. That those last six months went by just as quickly as I feared they would.

I’ve been holding a lot in, so this is bound to be long and rambly. Then again, you always were the best listener. Humor your old mom, okay?

(More below the fold…)

This Week in Pictures: Telling Peedee’s Story to Its End

Sunday, February 14th, 2016

2011-06-30 - Peedee hearts HDM - 0007

Oh, man. I’ve been putting off writing this post for so long that I’m not quite sure where to start. I guess the beginning is as good a place as any?

Many of you know that my oldest furkid, Peedee, passed away right before Thanksgiving due to complications from cancer. He was first diagnosed in March 2014; a few weeks later, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor, along with a sizable portion of one lung. Nine months later, the cancer returned and he started chemo. It worked swimmingly until it didn’t. (That was always the case: we got bad news when we were expecting good, and good when we expected bad.) On May 20th – the two-year anniversary of Kaylee’s death, as it just so happened – the oncologist gave him 2-3 months to live. Probably closer to two. She was doubtful that he’d still be around to celebrate his 13th birthday at the end of August.

We immediately put him on CBD oil. I would have done it a year+ sooner, if only I’d known that you can buy it online, legally (or semi-legally) in all 50 states. It’s not quite as potent as the stuff you can get in medical or recreational marijuana states, but I still think it helped. Scratch that: I’m positive it helped. He outlasted the oncologist’s best-case scenario by three months, and had a really good quality of life right up until the last few days. In any case, it was better than doing nothing; just sitting back and watching him die. This topic deserves its own series of posts, but suffice it to say: this ordeal only strengthened my stance on legalization. It’s like my main beef with Hillary Clinton at this point. But I digress.

About the same time that Peedee was waging his 20-month battle with cancer, I discovered Cane’s Bucket List on facebook. Cane was a 6-year-old pibble whose people planned a whole “bucket list journey” for him after he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Simple goals like “pictures in front of the Dallas skyline” and “paw print art projects” soon gave way to some really amazing experiences when Cane checked off item #14, “be featured on NBC DFW.” Not only did he get to sit on Santa’s lap – Cane’s caregivers threw him his own damn Christmas party. Talk about shiny!

I wanted to do something similar for Peedee, but … by this time, he was old and a little fussy and set in his ways. Also, the phobia he’d developed of the car – thanks in no small part to all those unpleasant vet appointments – didn’t really help. So I came up with a slightly less ambitious bucket list (called the Peedee-Do List) and resolved to share pictures of our progress each week. Enter: This Week in Pictures. (I still don’t love the series title, but it’ll have to do.)

Our last post was on November 3rd. Peedee was still doing reasonably well then, but symptoms of his illness (labored breathing, a decline in endurance) had begun popping up and just couldn’t be ignored. I knew Peedee didn’t have much time left, and I wanted to spend as much of it as I could spoiling him. So I put the bucket list blogging on hold.

This week, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back on those old posts. It’s a bittersweet thing. We created so many happy memories together, but now they’re all I have of him. I wish I could go back and do it all over again. All the stress and worry and anticipatory grief? I’d relive it in a never-ending cycle, just to see him again.

After Peedee died, I was lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself. When Peedee relapsed, he became the center of our lives. Everything we did, we did with him in mind. Fostering, doctor’s appointments, traveling: we put it all on hold. Peedee went everywhere with us…and if he couldn’t come, we didn’t go. I don’t think I ever left him home alone, not once. Now that he’s gone, I’m adrift. Unmoored. Directionless.

It took months before I was able to go through those last batches of pictures. Nearly three, apparently, before I could bring myself to write this last This Week in Pictures post. Even if it’s really just for me, I feel like I have to. Tell the story to its end, that is. (Yes, I totally lifted that title from a book in my TBR pile.)

Peedee was a devoted friend, a loving older (and younger) brother, and a crazy smart dog with a big, mushy heart to match. If I needed comforting, I could always count on Peedee to give it, and generously. He felt timeless, as though he’d always been with me, and always would be. And he will, in a way: in pictures and memories and blog posts like this one. He lives in my heart, and in the tubes, and in the stars. In bubbles in a glass of champagne.

On his last night, we told him stories.

(More below the fold…)

Dear Kaylee,

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

2014-05-21 - Kaylee Mosaic 01

I can’t believe you’ve been gone a year now. 365 days. 8760 hours. 525600 minutes. 31536000 seconds. So many fleeting moments. I try to make the most of them; I do. In your memory. And Ralphie’s. Yet somehow it rarely seems to be enough.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of you. For a while – a long while – that’s all I did: think of you, the moments we shared together, your life before and after us. Your silly wiggle butt and how quickly you slipped away from me. Those first few months, it seemed I couldn’t do anything but think of you. Grieve. As time has passed and the pain lessened, your absence dominates my mind less and less. I’m scared that, one day – a time far from now in a galaxy far, far away – the day will come that I don’t think of you. Twenty four hours will pass without you flitting through my thoughts, warming my heart, making your presence known in my soul. Somehow, I don’t think that will happen; there are so many reminders of you scattered throughout our home and my life. Photos and toys and doppleganger dogs and long-lost friends and shiny shindig dresses. But I’m terrified that it will.

If you live on in my heart and in my memories, every little thing forgotten – not matter how tiny or incidental – is a little death of sorts. And I can’t stand to lose any more of you.

We’re all doing okay, considering. Rennie took your death the hardest, but she’s lucky to have found a friend in Mags. Mags is no Kaylee – as I’m fond of teasing her – but she’s pretty great anyway. And her resemblance to you makes me feel a little bit better. You saved her, you know. And Finnick. They owe their lives to you.

Peedee had not one but two cancer scares – can you believe it? That boy, always giving me trouble. He had a tumor and 20% of one lung removed last month and, within a week, he was up and trying to bark at the UPS guy and clear the yard of poo. He’s taken over your dish-licking duties, but he does a pretty poor job compared to you. I think he lacks the determination borne of having once been abandoned and starving. Soft and pampered. Freaking Peedee.

We started fostering in January. So far we’ve only had one dog stay with us – we had to cut it short due to Peedee’s illness – but I’m so, so glad we finally made the leap. Foster Pony was a big guy, a boxer-put bull mix, and all the little dogs were afraid of him. I was not expecting that! I thought that Mags and Rennie at least would be cool. I think you would have been. I know Ralphie would’ve been down. Ralphie wasn’t afraid of anyone.

Every time I looked at Foster Pony, I thought of you. It’s true. You inspired me to foster (and I suspect that invoking your memory made it impossible for Shane to object!), to help other dogs in need the way that Gina rescued you and Jayne. I hope your puppies and grand-puppies each found their own Gina, too.

I wish I had more pictures of you and I together. I should have taken more; I knew this even as I felt the time slip away. Half of what I do have was taken much, much too late – in the hospital, during your illness. Now I’m a little camera-crazy. I hope you’re not offended when the number of photos of Mags and I surpass those of you and I. Just know that I regret it, and probably will until the day I die. It’s not much consolation for you – or Ralphie or Shadow or Ozzy, or to all the dogs childhood me loved and lost before – but I’ll do better from here on out.

Mother’s Day was hard. So was my birthday. But I think today will prove the most difficult. I miss you so much, sweet girl. Rennie and Mags and Peedee and Jayne and Finnick (yes, even Jayne and Finnick!) help fill the Kaylee-sized hole in my heart, but none of them can replace you. You were – are – one of a kind.

I was so, so lucky to have found you. I’d do it all over again, even knowing how much the end would hurt.

With love and peanut butter, your best friend forever.

To Kaylee (today will always belong to you)

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

2008-10-28 - Kaylee as Wonder Woman - 0014

I think I miss Kaylee more today than I have in the past four months combined. Mother’s Day was always her day; a time to honor her and reflect back upon what might have been done to her and her babies. Today doesn’t hurt so much because I have two fewer kids this year, but because one of them was a mom who’s no longer here to celebrate with us.

Wait, that’s not entirely true; Kaylee is in my heart, where I’ll carry her, forever and always. No wonder it feels a little heavier today than usual.

I hope that – somehow, somewhere – one or more of Kaylee’s great-great-grandkids are having a wonderful Mother’s Day: soaking in the sun, enjoying lots of belly rubs, maybe even doing a lawn dance or two. I like to think that they look like her, all lumpy and marshmallow-like, with crazy snaggle teefies (but no dental problems like grandma!) and stubby nubs for tails (but all natural – docking isn’t cool!). I wish I could meet them, someday. Maybe I will. Maybe I already have. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Go find someone you love and give them a hug from me.

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(More below the fold…)

One small seed

Friday, May 9th, 2014

To Ralphie

We give our dead
To the orchards
And the groves.
We give our dead
To life.

Death
Is a great Change –
Is life’s greatest Change.
We honor our beloved dead.
As we mix their essence with the earth,
We remember them,
And within us,
They live.

– Octavia Butler, Parable of the Talents

Saying Goodbye (The Ralphie and Kaylee Post)

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

2008-04-30 - Dogs, After Kaylee's Surgery - 0009 [Gina 4x6]

4/30/08 – The pack (at the time), reunited after Kaylee’s surgery.
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The Power of the Dog

by Rudyard Kipling

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie–
Perfect passsion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart to a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find–it’s your own affair–
But … you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone–wherever it goes–for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept ’em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-term loan is as bad as a long–
So why in–Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

* * * * * * *

2006-09-24 - RevisitingFairport-0049 [modified-square1]

9/24/06 – When Shane and I (with Ralphie, Peedee, and O-Ren in tow) visited our family in New York, we took Ralphie on a special trip (just us three!) to our old haunts in Fairport: old house, hiking trails, community center, Lollypop Farm. I’ll cherish these memories forever.
——————————

The year that Shane, Ralphie, Ozzy, and I relocated from New York to the Midwest (then Kansas, now Missouri), I did some work on a pet loss website. In addition to graphics, I scoured books and the web for public domain poetry and whatnot for use on the site. While the whole project was rather maudlin and depressing, it’s the latter task that took the greatest toll on me. Oftentimes I’d find myself bawling at the computer screen, imagining as the subject of this essay or that poem Ralphie – my first-born, my baby, my little man – placing myself in the author’s shoes, contemplating just how utterly awful my dog kid’s passing would be. Sleepless nights spent crying into his gorgeous red fur, willing him to live forever; arms wrapped in a veritable death grip.

Rudyard Kipling’s “The Power of the Dog” and “Where To Bury A Dog,” by Ben Hur Lampman, were two of my favorites. Even though I’ve since realized that Kipling was a racist asshat, I still adore much of his animal-centric poetry. (As always, the speciesism is taken with a grain of salt. I don’t, for example, consider myself anyone’s “master,” nor would I ever buy a dog, puppy or otherwise.) Even today, I start to tear up over the titles alone – the feelings associated with each are that visceral and powerful.

Regrettably, my love for Ralphie carried with it a long shadow of sadness, colored by unhappiness and anxiety over the grief this love was sure to one day cause. Not any time soon, mind you; this was in 2002, when Ralphie was a wee little pup of four or five. Obsessing over a future hurt still a decade away – this just goes to show how utterly illogical it all was.

In retrospect, I was most likely suffering from depression. I’d just moved to a new state, more than 1,000 miles away from the friends and family I’d known for the first 24 years of my life, accompanied only by a man, a dog, and a cat. I didn’t know a soul aside from our landlords, who were perfectly pleasant people – except for the fact that they exploited nonhuman animals (cows and dogs) for a living. I’ve never suffered from a glut of social skills, and complicating matters was my budding vegetarianism and feminism, which slowly gave rise to a sense of alienation from others. I’d put graduate school on hold because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life (still don’t a decade plus later). Ralphie was my best friend, my responsibility, my reason for being; it’s no surprise that the inevitability of losing him, no matter how far off, exacerbated the depression and anxiety I was already feeling.

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4/9/03 – Ralphie, Peedee, and I taking one of our famous midday naps.
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Things got better when Peedee came into the picture. From the day we started planning our move to Kansas, we knew that we’d adopt a second dog so that Ralphie wouldn’t be alone. We even wrote it into our lease! (Luckily, Karla and Larry were nice enough to allow dogs three through five, even though they were not previously agreed upon.) Peedee took some of the pressure and focus off of Ralphie, allowing me to relax a little. Ditto Rennie, Kaylee, and Jayne, who came later (March 2005 and September 2006, respectively). While my dog kids’ mortality has been and will forever be a source of dread for me, it’s something that I’ve learned not to linger on. Whatever comes, we’ll all face it together.

* * * * * * *

(More below the fold…)

Kaylee 325

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Yup, I’m still here – and yes, I’m still grieving. After sorting, naming, editing, uploading, and captioning all of Ralphie’s photos – no small task, it took me the better part of two days – I quickly got started on Kaylee’s batch. Like ripping a band-aid off, right?: best to do it nice and fast. Compared to those of Ralphie’s mostly joyful last few days, though, Kaylee’s pictures proved terribly depressing. So much so that they landed me in bed for two days straight. It was a few weeks before I was able to force myself to finish the task.

And with that, I bring you a small selection of Kaylee’s final 325 photos – with a few extras from early 2013 to help brighten the mood.


 
——————————
Early 2013

These are just a few of my favorites from earlier in the year, before all this horrible shit went down. This is how I hope to remember Kaylee: happy, grateful, and full of life.
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1/5/13 – Kaylee & Ralphie, sharing a rare snugly moment.

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1/19/13 – Four Dogs, One Bed

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2/23/13 – Soaking in the sun.

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3/4/13 – Dem teefies!

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3/4/13 – The abominable snowdog.

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3/4/13 – Incredibly close (always!), but extremely loud? (Rarely.)

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3/31/13 – This is her snotty, “I can’t believe you’re
paying attention to that little runt Mags!” look.
I can’t lie, I adore it.

2013-04-09 - Kaylee - 0001

4/9/13 – Barreling towards mom.

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4/30/13 – Taken during the first days of Ralphie’s illness, before we knew it was the big bad.
Review forthcoming, natch.

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Ralphie 927

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Now that May 2013 – otherwise known as the worst month of my life – is finally drawing to a close, I suppose it’s time to stop hiding – in alcohol (strawberry daiquiris), food (peanut chews and Daiya & french fry soup), and sitcoms (Modern Family) – and work through the traumatic events of the past month. I have a number of projects planned – to help me process what happened, I guess, and remember both the good and the bad: journaling, photo albums, collages. Tributes in words and images. My mind’s still a little fuzzy – as in, the consistency of a jellyfish – but that’s why I’ve decided to start out small, with photos.

First up: sorting, editing, and uploading the nearly 1300 photos (give or take) Shane and I shot this month. Most of these are of Ralphie,* whose death we had the privilege of planning. And that’s genuine gratitude, not sarcasm, that you hear in my voice: just twelve days later, Kaylee’s end came unexpectedly and with little of the fanfare Ralphie received. My baby girl slipped away in the night without me even knowing it.

I’ll write more – much more – about Ralphie and Kaylee later. In fact, a long, rambling blog post is one of the final steps, I think, before I’ll be able to let go – of the nightmare that was May, of Ralphie and Kaylee – not to mention their bodies, which are currently stacked one one top of the other** in our laundry room chest freezer. We plan to have them cremated, eventually, but I’m not quite ready yet. As perverse as it is, there’s something comforting about having them nearby – even if I dare not touch or even look at their cold, frozen corpses. They’re not here – the things that made them the unique and special creatures I so loved have long since departed – and yet I can still pretend.

For today, I have a selection of my favorite photos from Ralphie’s last week. They looked prettier as photosets on tumblr, but I tried to dress them up as best I could. I wasn’t particularly judicious in paring down photos, so (warning!) the post might take a little time to load.

Next up: Kaylee’s folder, which is painfully slim compared to her older brother’s. I wish we’d been able to give her the same, (semi-) joyful sendoff Ralphie had.

 

* 927 refers to the number of pictures we took during Ralphie’s last three days with us. Ridiculous right?

** How awful is that?


 
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4/30/13 – Ralphie

This was taken when Ralphie first became ill, but before we knew it was the big bad. (For the first few days, we mistook it for a simple tummy ache.) I had just applied their flea and tick treatment – hence the spiky line of fur down his back – and we were all gathered outside on the blanket, sunbathing and (in my case) reading. Ralphie lasted a good hour or two before going back in the house, which was unusual – in his later years he only wanted to be outdoors when he had business there (walking, digging, hunting critters).

Oh, to have those days back…
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5/4/13 – The Grumpy Patient

When Ralphie still wasn’t feeling well come Thursday, we took him back to our regular vet, who did some blood work and promptly referred us to the specialists at BluePearl in North Kansas City, a good 45 minutes away. His phosphorus and creatinine levels indicated that he was in renal failure. He ended up being hospitalized for four days, where the doctors tried to flush out his kidneys with fluids. Naturally we visited every day, sometimes for hours at a time. The staff was pretty chill about that. We only took pictures on this one occasion, though, on accounta we were convinced right up until the end that he’d be fine.
Ralphie is always fine, dammit.

Unfortunately, and even under their care, his kidney function continued to deteriorate, and on Monday we were advised to bring him home to die. We scheduled an in-home euthanasia for Thursday and tried to give our little bugger the best 76 hours of his life.
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You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.*

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.

– Aaron Freeman, “You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.” (via NPR)

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Goodbye, but not forever.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

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But before they could begin, a voice cried out, as loudly as a whisper could cry. It was the ghost of a thin man with an angry, passionate face, and he cried:

“What will happen? When we leave the world of the dead, will we live again? Or will we vanish as our daemons did? Brothers, sisters, we shouldn’t follow this child anywhere till we know what’s going to happen to us!”

Others took up the question: “Yes, tell us where we’re going! Tell us what to expect! We won’t go unless we know what’ll happen to us!”

Lyra turned to Will in despair, but he said, “Tell them the truth. Ask the alethiometer, and tell them what it says.”

“All right,” she said.

She took out the golden instrument. The answer came at once. She put it away and stood up.

“This is what’ll happen,” she said, “and it’s true, perfectly true. When you go out of here, all the particles that make you up will loosen and float apart, just like your daemons did. If you’ve seen people dying, you know what that looks like. But your daemons en’t just nothing now; they’re part of everything. All the atoms that were them, they’ve gone into the air and the wind and the trees and the earth and all the living things. They’ll never vanish. They’re just part of everything. And that’s exactly what’ll happen to you, I swear to you, I promise on my honor. You’ll drift apart, it’s true, but you’ll be out in the open, part of everything alive again.”

No one spoke. Those who had seen how daemons dissolved were remembering it, and those who hadn’t were imagining it, and no one spoke until a young woman came forward. She had died as a martyr centuries before. She looked around and said to the other ghosts:

“When we were alive, they told us that when we died we’d go to Heaven. And they said that Heaven was a place of joy and glory and we would spend eternity in the company of saints and angels praising the Almighty, in a state of bliss. That’s what they said. And that’s what led some of us to give our lives, and others to spend years in solitary prayer, while all the joy of life was going to waste around us and we never knew.

“Because the land of the dead isn’t a place of reward or a place of punishment. It’s a place of nothing. The good come here as well as the wicked, and all of us languish in this gloom forever, with no hope of freedom, or joy, or sleep, or rest, or peace.

“But now this child has come offering us a way out and I’m going to follow her. Even if it means oblivion, friends, I’ll welcome it, because it won’t be nothing. We’ll be alive again in a thousand blades of grass, and a million leaves; we’ll be falling in the raindrops and blowing in the fresh breeze; we’ll be glittering in the dew under the stars and the moon out there in the physical world, which is our true home and always was.

“So I urge you: come with the child out to the sky!”

But her ghost was thrust aside by the ghost of a man who looked like a monk: thin and pale, with dark, zealous eyes even in his death. He crossed himself and murmured a prayer, and then he said:

“This is a bitter message, a sad and cruel joke. Can’t you see the truth? This is not a child. This is an agent of the Evil One himself! The world we lived in was a vale of corruption and tears. Nothing there could satisfy us. But the Almighty has granted us this blessed place for all eternity, this paradise, which to the fallen soul seems bleak and barren, but which the eyes of faith see as it is, overflowing with milk and honey and resounding with the sweet hymns of the angels. This is Heaven, truly! What this evil girl promises is nothing but lies. She wants to lead you to Hell! Go with her at your peril. My companions and I of the true faith will remain here in our blessed paradise, and spend eternity singing the praises of the Almighty, who has given us the judgment to tell the false from the true.”

Once again he crossed himself, and then he and his companions turned away in horror and loathing.

Lyra felt bewildered. Was she wrong? Was she making some great mistake? She looked around: gloom and desolation on every side. But she’d been wrong before about the appearance of things, trusting Mrs. Coulter because of her beautiful smile and her sweet-scented glamour. It was so easy to get things wrong; and without her daemon to guide her, maybe she was wrong about this, too.

But Will was shaking her arm. Then he put his hands to her face and held it roughly.

“You know that’s not true,” he said, “just as well as you can feel this. Take no notice! They can all see he’s lying, too. And they’re depending on us. Come on, let’s make a start.”

She nodded. She had to trust her body and the truth of what her senses told her; she knew Pan would have.

So they set off, and the numberless millions of ghosts began to follow them. Behind them, too far back for the children to see, other inhabitants of the world of the dead had heard what was happening and were coming to join the great march. Tialys and Salmakia flew back to look and were overjoyed to see their own people there, and every other kind of conscious being who had ever been punished by the Authority with exile and death. Among them were beings who didn’t look human at all, beings like the mulefa, whom Mary Malone would have recognized, and stranger ghosts as well. But Will and Lyra had no strength to look back; all they could do was move on after the harpies, and hope.

…..

Will and Lyra exchanged a look. Then he cut a window, and it was the sweetest thing they had ever seen.

The night air filled their lungs, fresh and clean and cool; their eyes took in a canopy of dazzling stars, and the shine of water somewhere below, and here and there groves of great trees, as high as castles, dotting the wide savanna.

Will enlarged the window as wide as he could, moving across the grass to left and right, making it big enough for six, seven, eight to walk through abreast, out of the land of the dead.

The first ghosts trembled with hope, and their excitement passed back like a ripple over the long line behind them, young children and aged parents alike looking up and ahead with delight and wonder as the first stars they had seen for centuries shone through into their poor starved eyes.

The first ghost to leave the world of the dead was Roger. He took a step forward, and turned to look back at Lyra, and laughed in surprise as he found himself turning into the night, the starlight, the air…and then he was gone, leaving behind such a vivid little burst of happiness that Will was reminded of the bubbles in a glass of champagne.

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One year buried, but never without.

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

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It was a year ago today that Shadow, my adopted canine sister and sweet pit bull friend, passed away. I cried for her – for me – often in those first weeks, and even now, it’s hard to type (delete, retype, rinse, repeat) through the tears. The pain has eased considerably with the passage of time, but will never completely disappear. Rather, Shadow has taken her place besides Bucky and Cap, Shannon and Shana, Pokey, Woody, Henry, Hooks I-III, Moe, Larry and Curly, and all the other nonhuman animals I befriended – and whose losses I grieved – during my youth. You may be one year buried, dear Shadow, but I will always carry you in my heart.

One day you’ll be joined by your friend Ralphie, as well as all your other canine cousins: those who you’ve met, and those you’ve yet to meet. When that day comes – and whenever it comes, it will be much, much too soon – please greet him with lots of sloppy kisses. Because as difficult as your passing has been, I’m afraid it’s only been a practice run; the real pain is yet to come. When Ralphie leaves me, he’s going rip my heart in two. Whatever pieces he leaves behind, will be Peedee’s, O-Ren’s, Kaylee’s and (yes, even) Jayne’s to consume. And yet, my heart will forever be a dog’s – some dog’s – to tear.

I miss you something awful, girl. Stay sweet.

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One by one, until there are none.

Sunday, November 16th, 2008

In Maine they tell of an old man walking along the beach with his grandson, who picked up each starfish they passed and threw it back into the sea. “If I left them up here,” the boy said, “they would dry up and die. I’m saving their lives.”

“But,” protested the old man, “the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish. What you are doing won’t make a difference.”

The boy looked at the starfish in his hand, gently threw it into the ocean, and answered: “It makes a difference to this one.”

The quote is from Second Chance Wildlife Sanctuary’s website. SCWS was profiled in Rochester’s Democrat & Chronicle some time last year. I learned of the group when my mom, having read the article, asked me to make a donation to the sanctuary in her name as a Christmas (?) gift. I distinctly remember being moved by SCWS’s founder, Joyce Smith, who was 77 at the time the article ran in the D&C; she had been rescuing and rehabilitating injured and orphaned wildlife from her home for a quarter century.

I just happened to click over to the website today while doing some early holiday shopping. Maybe I’m feeling sentimental, but the story of the starfish had the same impact as when I first read it last year.

I was saddened, too, to see that Ms. Smith passed away on August 22, 2008.

Blub.

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Tagged:

Goodbye, my sweet pit bull girl.

Monday, November 10th, 2008

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Shadow came into our lives in the spring of ’97.

It was June 2nd – late spring, early summer. I was just finishing up my freshman year of college. Busy with school, busy with work, busy with friends. Busy, busy, busy.

Rochester springs are rainy, and the spring of 1997 was no exception. The last days of May saw a week-long rainstorm. Consequently, we spent little time outside that week. When the rain finally let up, my mom went out behind the garage – to do some yardwork, or maybe some spring cleaning. There, under our tree house on stilts, she found a shivering, emaciated little dog. The pup didn’t appear to have any identification – no collar or such – but she clearly wasn’t feral, either. She seemed scared of us, yet she didn’t bolt. My mother brought the skeletal dog a bowl of food and water. Gradually, the rest of the family arrived home from school and work, and we took turns trying to coax the little scrapper out from her cramped hiding place.

By now, it was apparent that the dog was injured. Her skin was raw and marked with gravel, and she didn’t seem able to stand. After what felt like forever, my father was able to get a good enough grip on her. He hoisted her up and into the back of his car, and off to the vet they went.

The veterinarian’s assessment, delivered the next day, was grim: the dog’s right rear leg was “shattered,” and she also had some minor cuts and bruises. Most likely she had been hit by a car: the point of impact, her broken, battered rear leg. Scraped skin and embedded gravel suggested a hard, skidding landing on pavement. She was in rough shape – and at the point of starvation, to boot.

Due to the severity of her injuries – and, even more so, the potential cost of repairing and rehabilitating her damaged leg – the vet recommended we euthanize her. “It’s too much trouble,” he said. “Too much money to spend on some stray.”

Luckily, my parents didn’t agree. I remember receiving a call from them that day at work: Well, Kelly, what do you think we should do? Even though they solicited our advice, I suspect that they’d already made their decision, and just needed an extra nudge from us kids. I think they wanted some reassurance that they weren’t crazy for spending a few grand to patch up a dog they didn’t even know. We were a solidly middle-class family, but two grand isn’t exactly peanuts for six people living on one income.

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"Fruit, like beauty, is fleeting."

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

All I know is that, when I went out into the chicken yards early yesterday morning, I actually staggered, made drunk by the intensity of a floral scent that filled up all of the air in my head, sending my brain into paroxysms of surprised delight. Can you imagine: A chicken yard that smells like a perfume factory? Even though it happens every year, I kept looking around for the source of the scent, almost unable to believe that I could be lucky enough to experience something like this accidentally.

Maybe that was nature’s way of bracing me for what was coming. My favorite bird had died the day before and I had to face the first morning of doing my chores accompanied by her absence. […]

“Broiler” hens are like wild blooms, having a ragged beauty that you sometimes must look closely to perceive and always living less long than you would like. Bred by the poultry industry to have heavy flesh that burdens their organs and stresses their skeletons, they often perish abruptly due to heart attacks, heatstroke, or the enigmatic cause of sudden death known as “flip over syndrome.” The metabolic acceleration that allows the industry to “grow” birds to slaughter weight in only six to eight weeks continues throughout their lives. […]

The New Mosselle was older than two, a great achievement for a “broiler” hen. At first, she had no way of knowing I had a special affection for her, as I tend to dote on all of the “broiler” chickens (by, for example, bringing treats right to them so that they won’t have to compete with with the faster birds). But as she got older, I started whispering, “you’re my favorite” whenever she happened to be close by. On what I had no idea would be her last day, I told her that first thing in the morning and again when I happened to pass her resting by a water bowl at midday. A couple of hours later, when I went out to put straw in the coops, I saw her sleeping in the shade and then looked more closely and realized she was dead. I howled.

That was Monday. Today is Wednesday. My favorite hen is buried with some blueberries and a sprig of honeysuckle underneath the plantain she and her friends so loved to munch. Right up the road, thousands of birds like her are choking in crowded sheds. They will never smell honeysuckle or taste a blueberry.

Go read the whole damn beautiful thing.

And, if you can, consider sending some money pattrice’s way. She cares for hundreds of discarded “food” animals at the Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary, dontchaknow.

(Crossposted to.)

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Tagged:

Farm Sanctuary Mourns Loss of Founding Resident

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2008

There are also a few photos of Opie on Flickr, and on Farm Sanctuary’s website here. So sad, his passing is, but at least he only knew a few hours of human cruelty, followed by 18 years of bliss at Farm Sanctuary. Dog bless, sweet boy.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Farm Sanctuary – info [at] farmsanctuary.org
Date: Wed, Apr 2, 2008 at 5:00 PM
Subject: Farm Sanctuary Mourns Loss of Founding Resident

Farm Sanctuary Mourns Loss of Founding Resident

On a cold day 18 years ago, a tiny calf, no more than a few hours old, was abandoned and left for dead at a stockyard in upstate New York. A dairy industry discard too weak and sickly to even stand, the male Holstein lay helpless in an obscure alleyway, where few signs of life emanated from him—let alone any indication of the magnificent creature he was destined to become.

Saved at the last hour by Gene Baur, then a young activist, the downer calf was named Opie and brought to live at Farm Sanctuary, a seedling operation at the time, which sheltered far fewer animals and was run only by its founders and a handful of volunteers. Here, Opie, who when rescued had a temperature too low to even register on a thermometer, was placed on an IV, given colostrums and bottle-fed ‘round the clock until he was well enough to integrate with the other cattle.

On the happy day he was introduced to his new herd mates, Opie was adopted within moments by the now 21-year-old Maya, also one of the first downer calves ever rescued by Farm Sanctuary. Under the cow’s watchful eye, Opie, like the organization—which kept building more barns, laying more fencing and making its name known throughout the nation—grew, and then grew some more.

Standing more than six feet tall and weighing about a ton and a half in his prime, Opie, who blossomed into the benevolent, paternal leader of our cattle herd, was an awe-inspiring sight to behold. Visitors, most of whom were at first rendered speechless by and, often, a little fearful of the massive steer, were reassured when they approached Opie and learned that he had a heart that matched his size. No one made an impression quite like Opie did.

Gentle, warm and receptive to any and all affection he was offered by admirers, Opie’s dramatic rescue story, seemingly miraculous recovery, radiant personality, and powerful presence helped build the very foundation for our visitor program and proved what a difference our animal ambassadors could make for others of their species. It is impossible to know exactly how many people this magnanimous animal turned vegan, but Opie, once forgotten by a cruel industry, was clearly adored throughout his life by thousands, who were changed for the better from having known him.

Off the farm, Opie’s compelling before and after rescue photos were presented at legislative sessions, distributed widely on Farm Sanctuary activist materials, and picked up by media throughout the nation, leading to such advances as the introduction of the Downed Animal Protection Act in the U.S. Congress in 1992. The face of our No Downers Campaign (http://www.nodowners.org/), Opie and his story continued to help us shed light on the critical need for legislation to prevent the marketing and slaughter of animals too weak and sick to walk on their own and advocate for measures to prevent their suffering long after his rescue.

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Remembering the Non-Human Heroes of 9-11

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

This dog run is named in honor of PAPD K-9 Sirius #17. He was a four year old yellow Labrador Retriever who served as an explosives detector canine for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. Sirius, along with his partner, Police Officer David Lim, were assigned to the World Trade Center in New York, where their primary duty was to check vehicles entering the Complex, clear unattended bags and sweep areas for VIP safety. Sirius, who began work at the World Trade Center on July 4, 2000, was the only police dog to perish during the Sept. 11 attack on the Twin Towers – he died when Tower Two collapsed. His body was recovered on January 22, 2002. Sirius was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross at the British Embassy in Manhattan.

A memorial statue of Sirius stands in the One Chase Manhattan Plaza lobby.

(Via wallyg)

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DawnWatch: Obituary of Compassion in World Farming founder, Peter Roberts, in London’s Daily Telegraph, 4 Dec 2006

Monday, December 4th, 2006

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: DawnWatch – news [at] dawnwatch.com
Date: Dec 4, 2006 1:39 PM
Subject: DawnWatch: Obituary of Compassion in World Farming founder, Peter Roberts, in London’s Daily Telegraph, 4 Dec 2006

Today I share the London Daily Telegraph’s obituary of Peter Roberts, founder of Compassion In World Farming. The piece says he is survived by his wife and three daughters. He also leaves us the gift of the wonderful organization he founded, which was behind the ban on veal and sow gestation grates in the UK and continues to push for change. You can find out more about it at http://www.ciwf.org.uk/.

You can also read more on that site about Peter Roberts, including obituaries from those with whom he worked, and pieces that were printed in other papers. His obituary in the Telegraph presents a nice opportunity for animal friendly letters to the editor. The paper takes letters at: dtletters [at] telegraph.co.uk.

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