In Loving Memory of Lucy – One Year Later

Tomorrow is my birthday. One year ago today we had to have our baby girl put down, which makes this a hard time to really celebrate. I posted the entry below last year and I wanted to post it one more time, to remember her.

Lucy age 9 - right after we got her

My husband had always wanted a dog. When we first started dating I’d been heartbroken to learn that he’d had one for about a week, before his at the time wife convinced him to return it to the pound. I’d never been a dog person, but the sadness and regret that he carried made me really want to make that up to him. I knew I couldn’t erase the hurt of that puppy he still regretted getting rid of, but I really wanted to try.

Months later I ran across a “Free to a Good Home” ad in the Washington Post. The couple who placed the ad was giving away a 7-year old Beagle/Shepard/Rottweiler mix. My first thought was, “I’ve gotta see that.” I couldn’t imagine how you could mix those breeds together and come up with something functional. I arranged a night to meet Lucy when Tom would be out of the house so that I could not only meet the dog but see how she got on with my stepson and our cat.  When I opened the door later I was met by a fifty pound bundle of nerves with a Rottweiler body, a Beagle face, and wiry German Shepard fur. Her tail was stumpy like a Rottweiler, but her legs were sort of short and skinny compared to a standard of the breed. She kind of looked like a doggie low-rider.

Despite her fear the very first thing she did was lay in front of me and flip onto her back to have her belly scratched. I was in love right away, and I told the man we’d take her.

Telling Tom about Lucy was a little scary. His response was full of fear, and what-ifs. I promised we would do everything we could not to have to return her.

Five years later, we are finally saying Goodbye.

From day one, life with Lucy was the best kind of challenge. Her first few weeks were tough. She was confused and scared, whimpering a lot – waiting for her owner to come back for her, I imagine. I felt terrible for her. Being unceremoniously dropped off without any clear understanding from a home she’d known for such a long time at such an old age seemed a little like dropping off my grandmother on someone’s front porch with her favorite slippers and a tin of peanut butter fudge and telling her she now had a new family before hopping into my car and driving away.

We very quickly found out she was nocturnal – always going up and down the stairs for water during the night. And she peed on the floor a LOT. After trying to break out of her crate during a storm we found out she had severe anxiety problems (her previous owners had given us some pills for “stressful situations” but hadn’t really explained in detail).  She was poorly trained, she wouldn’t stay, or sit, or anything. Telling her to sit resulted in her bottom bouncing off the floor for the briefest second before returning to standing. She kept trying to make friends with our cat, Charlotte, who would simply hiss and swat at her every time. Her former family had taught her not to jump up but Tom trained her right out of that, so next thing you knew she was jumping on everybody. She followed us (especially me) room to room as if we were rock stars and she was a groupie.  It was like having a very unruly four-legged 2-year old.

Weeks after we got her the first health-crisis came. She developed a case of canine vestibular disorder and was unable to walk due to a (THANKFULLY) temporary inner ear imbalance. We used the same vet her former owners had, and discovered that she was actually 9, not 7. So we’d thought we were adopting an old dog, turned out it was a VERY old dog. With a liver problem. And separation anxiety. And a bladder problem. And a fear of water, men with beards, little nervous dogs, and storms, doorbells, fireworks, parties. Who didn’t listen to a damn thing you told her to do.

Every time severe weather hit Tom and I drew straws to see who had to try to leave work early to stay with her. We’d give her Valium, pet her, and try to convince her she was safe until the storm passed. Often this involved sitting in the downstairs half-bathroom for hours because the tiny room made her feel more secure. We went through four crates, because she would try to escape when she was frightened, and a scared dog has an amazing tolerance for pain. A few years later when her hearing started to go it was actually kind of a blessing because the storms didn’t scare her anymore. While we wish her previous family had been more forthcoming, we would never have wanted her any other way.

Oh, and it turned out I was allergic to her. After several sinus infections I got a good nasal spray. and a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The nasal spray caused nosebleeds, but it was totally worth it.

Lucy loved long walks, and rolling on her back in the grass. We’d often walk with her to the shopping center near our home and sit outside on nice days, drinking coffee and feeding her treats so she wouldn’t bark at the bearded men or other dogs that went past. She loved to chase balls, play ‘tag’, run, jump, and all the other things dogs do. In fact, she loved chasing so much that she once chased a deer out of our yard and for several blocks before returning home.  She was picky about treats. If she didn’t want one, she’d take it just to be polite, then hide it someplace later. If we gave her a bone to chew on she’d move it from one corner of the house to another in an effort to hide it. She craved attention, and anyone who scratched her ears or rubbed her belly was a friend for life. If you hit just the right spot she’d do this little kicking thing with her back leg. When she needed a place to lie down she’d paw at the carpeting as if somehow that would fluff it up just right before she lay down. She loved to sit at my feet while I watched TV or worked on my computer. Her exuberance seemed boundless, even as she aged.

I was lucky enough to have a pet-friendly job and she would often come to work with me and sleep in front of my desk while I worked. She liked to lick the carpet in my office. Don’t ask me why, but she did.

I’m sure everyone likes to say their pet is the best, but Lucy was truly a wonderful, amazing, special dog. I don’t have enough describing words in my vocabulary to explain how much she meant to me…to all of us.

As our family grew she was supremely patient with our little boys, even when she had severe arthritis of the spine and our 2-year old son liked to tackle her, pull her tail, and poke her in the eye. Even when our 6-month old stuck his finger in her mouth while she was trying to eat a treat. Inevitably, as our attention was pulled in other directions, we weren’t able to give her the kind of attention we used to. She made her displeasure known by waiting until our backs were turned and leaving a puddle on the floor. The walks grew less frequent, although when the weather was nice she’d play in the yard with my husband and the boys. On the rare occasions that I was able to get someone else to watch the kids, I would make a point of taking her for a walk down the wooded path behind our house. Just the two of us.

Everyone always said she was in really great shape for her age. As each year passed, I think it was easy to believe she’d be with us forever. Sure, she started to stiffen up a little. Moved a little more slowly…stopped jumping up. She was fine though, we thought. We got a good glucosamine supplement, and helped her up if she slipped and fell. The vet prescribed a painkiller to keep her comfortable. Everything was fine. Yeah, she didn’t follow us from room to room as much, but she was just tired of being bothered by the little ones…

A few weeks ago she had a seizure, and that was where things started go downhill. After practically spending the kids’ college fund on tests to find out what had caused it, we were forced to face the bottom line: she was old. Her arthritis was terrible, her kidneys were shutting down, her liver showed signs of infection, and she had benign tumors all over her body including some on her spleen. She got even more fussy about eating, and her weight went down. I started making her food from scratch because she seemed to like that the best, but it got harder to do once I was recovering from childbirth. 🙁

Stairs became more problematic. One day she slipped and tumbled all the way down from the top floor to the main level of our house. When we had to leave her, the howls of protest could be heard from outside the house and even across the street. She started falling down a lot, as her back legs no longer truly had the strength to hold her for very long. Often, she would just suddenly plop to the floor as if she had suddenly decided that she was standing in a good place for a nap. But we knew, it was really because she couldn’t stand any longer. Even our toddler had learned to be gentle with her, and would even try to help her up when she fell. He was completely nonplussed when her weight often pulled him down with her.

We had hoped she would hang in there until springtime, so she could enjoy the outdoors again. I started praying a lot for God to please let me know when it was time to let her go. We didn’t want her to suffer, nor did we want to put her down while she still had some ability to enjoy her life. Today He answered.

This morning, February 8th, I woke at 4 am to discover she was having another seizure. We tried to do what we could to help her, tried medicine the vet had given us, but after the whole thing was over it was clear that she would not “bounce back” as she had from the first one. Just a day after the worst snowstorm this area has seen in ages, when nobody was supposed to be on the roads but the snowplows, we bundled her into the car with our infant son (Blessedly, my mother was in town and was able to stay with the 2-year old). She was unable to walk on her own, confused and disoriented, and very clearly in pain.

While we waited for news from the vet, Tom and I traded stories and memories from her younger days. Neither of us said it, but we knew in our hearts she wasn’t going home with us. Hard as it was to face it, today was the day. Tom and I held the baby and each other, stroking her, scratching her belly, telling her how much we loved her, how much we would miss her as the vet gave her an overdose of barbiturates that stopped her heart and her breathing.

I am thankful for so many things: That she came into our lives, that she always seemed so happy to be with us, that she was so perfect with our children. That hours before she passed, a friend offered to take her down the street for a walk. Even though it wasn’t Tom or I who took her, I am so very glad she got to have one last walk before she died, because she loved them so much. I’m grateful that Tom came home early from his Superbowl weekend with his buddies, despite the weather. If he had stayed as long as originally planned, he wouldn’t have been there when it was her time to go.

I hope with all my heart that she knew how much we loved her.

Lucy, thank you for the five wonderful years that you gave us. You will be the standard to which we hold all other dogs, and we will always love you.

“Lord, please let me be half the man my dog thinks I am.”

And To All A Good Night

While most people think of Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch at Christmas, his poem A Prayer for a Child is very special to me, particularly at this time of year. I think Peace on Earth is always a worthwhile thing to pray for, don’t you?

From here on earth,
From my small place
I ask of You
Way out in space:
Please tell all men
In every land
What You and I
Both understand . . .

Please tell all men
That Peace is Good.
That’s all
That need be understood
In every world
In Your great sky.

(We understand.
Both You and I.)

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!!

Holy #%*t! My Zipper is Down.


Been feeling overwhelmed, so I decided to post something lighter today, that I wrote awhile ago and saved for just such an I’m-too-busy-to-blog kind of occasion:

So. I am one of those annoying people who FREAKS when they meet someone famous. They don’t have to be mega famous like the President or Madonna, just someone I respect and admire and do not know personally.

My friend Katie has a saying: “Donald Trump poops too”. Apparently reminding herself that all beings great and small go to the bathroom helps her keep things in perspective when she’s about to encounter somebody famous.

I think it’s a great philosophy.

I have been fortunate enough to meet a reasonably sized handful of well known individuals whom I admire, and with a couple of exceptions I handled them okay. A couple, not so much. When I managed to make my mouth open I walked away going “What the fuck was that, I sounded so stupid!” The times that I didn’t, I think were because I was too drunk to know better. So instead I hugged them, because I am very outgoing when I’m drunk.

Perhaps I should be drunk more often.

Anyhoo, I have mentioned before in previous posts about how much I love JR Ward. I mean, I love many authors (not in the creepy way, mind you), but reading JR Ward’s dark, sexy, and humorous style of storytelling was what opened my eyes and made me want to write my own novel. In my ignorance, I had previously thought that romance novels all involved flowery language and horseback-riding women in very large dresses. It never occurred to me, for example, that a bisexual Dom vampire could be the hero of a love story.

But he can, and that is AWESOME.

So, I decided a few months ago to take a trip to meet JR Ward (she doesn’t fly so we adoring masses come to her). The trip, sadly, was a total clusterfuck. I had to bring my youngest and flying with a 10 month old is no picnic. The airline rescheduled me several times, ultimately putting me on a flight that didn’t leave until AFTER her Lover Mine book signing. Then we bitched and complained until they agree to put me on a flight leaving, oh, RIGHT NOW which resulted in a mad dash to the airport with a migraine in my head and a screaming child in the backseat, only to be told they wouldn’t let me check in because it was too close to departure time. We wound up having to buy another ticket on another airline and pay for an extra hotel night, thus turning a reasonably priced trip into a ridiculously expensive trip.


So, the dust finally settles, and I’m in line at the signing, AND MY ZIPPER IS DOWN. I had chosen to wear a pair of pants that a friend had given to me because “They don’t fit anymore.” Mmmhmm…or maybe she didn’t want them because of the faulty zipper?

So I check and recheck, and I tug at my shirt because I do NOT want to be the sicko fan who approached JR Ward with a gaping hole in their pants. Of course by the time it is my turn to meet her, the freakazoid deer in headlights is back, so when she very graciously smiles at me and says “Hi”, which is generally the thing to say when you meet somebody, I’m stuck in place, too damn worried about that stupid zipper to move, and everyone is staring at me expectantly. Probably thinking “Move, you idiot!”.

I wind up propelling myself forward, and I think I managed to mumble a hello or maybe a thank you. I don’t remember. I spent the whole rest of her Q&A time checking and rechecking my zipper, to the point where I’m reasonably certain her security guard was keeping an eye out to make sure I didn’t do anything freaky. “Better watch that one, she keeps messing with her pants.”

Luckily my mom lived nearby, and had come with to hang onto the baby for me, or someone might have called child services.

So the whole thing was fun, Ms. Ward was gorgeous, charismatic and SO entertaining with her creative use of salty verbiage. Totally worth the trip, and if I can I will do it again in a heartbeat, presuming her security folks don’t have me on a watch list.

And next time, maybe I’ll just wear sweat pants. Or a skirt. Definitely something zipper-less. Which one, do you suppose, would be safer?

(Author note, updated July 4, 2012. I wrote this post before selling King of Darkness. I think perhaps even before I finished writing it. I have since become better at acting normal when I meet authors who are well-known, and I have also since met…JR Ward’s assistant. LOL. She appeared at RT 2012 and as both a good and bad thing, I was too busy promoting a book of my own to be able to wait in line to meet her.  A lot has changed! But it’s kinda cool to read back and remember.)

Keep Yourself Alive

December 1 is World AIDS day. While I am no means an expert on the topic, I do know a little something, and it’s my blog so I can say what I want to:

When I was a teenager I started to do volunteer work at a local AIDS task force office, in the small city where I went to high school. Mostly, I handed out condoms at drag shows, which was a lot of fun. I also answered phones from frightened individuals wanting to know about symptoms and helped to organize candlelight vigils for those who had passed, and that part was not so much fun. I saw people who had once been healthy and vibrant practically vanish in front of my eyes. It remains to this day one of the hardest and best times of my life, and it made a huge impact that has stuck with me in the mphmph years since.

Several years after leaving home I had the immense pleasure of meeting Rebekka Armstrong, a gorgeous and vibrant former Playboy model who has been HIV-positive since the age of sixteen. She spends a great deal of time touring the world, visiting college campuses and talking to young people, because guess what? Kids these days, they don’t care very much anymore.

See, things have changed a lot from the landscape that existed when I was growing up. Medical advances mean that infection is not quite so scary, no longer an immediate/automatic death-sentence, and people can continue to live full and productive lives for a long time if they take good care of themselves. That’s good news. No, it’s GREAT news. But the flip side, is that a growing number of young people are getting infected because they think “No biggie, I’ll just take the same drugs that Magic Johnson takes.” Seriously, Rebekkah said that was one of the biggest comments she heard.

So, this casual attitude has resulted in a strong uptick in infections, largely among a) young adults and b) older heterosexual women who figure they are old enough not to need birth control and hence do not use condoms during sex. In the US alone there were 54,000 new infections reported. That seems, to me, like quite a lot.

And yes, you can take the same drugs that Magic Johnson takes probably, but you probably don’t have the budget and resources that he has. As I understand it, these drugs are very pricey. As much as thousands a month if you do not have insurance. THOUSANDS. And you are looking at being on medication for the rest of your life. And there’s the fact that the strain of HIV one person carries can be compromised by the strain of HIV that another person carries, so it’s not like you suddenly have license to stop worrying about safe sex (Not to mention that a man was recently imprisoned for using his body as a weapon; he had unprotected sex with several women while knowing he was HIV positive, and those women got together and turned him in).

So HIV infection may no longer be a death-sentence, but it seems to me that it is pretty much still something of a life-sentence. We have come along way in the world of medicine, but safety should still be respected. Your health and your body should be respected. Thinking that it can’t happen to you is a dangerous place to be, in my opinion.

And finally, it bears repeating that one can carry the virus without showing symptoms for some time, and that symptoms can mimic other illnesses to a certain degree so it is important not to assume and not to self-diagnose (this was my number one advice to callers back in the day, and I think it still holds true). So get tested – most places will do it for free (and anonymously!) at the health department, so bring a good book to read while you wait, and get it over with. I’ve done it many times, and aside from the wait-and-see part, it’s not so bad.

Oh, and if you’re breaking into a cold sweat the first time they motion you into that little room, it may be a good time to consider whether you are being as careful as you could be. I know it was for me.

Okay, I’m all done preaching everybody. Stay safe.

One mom’s thoughts on bullying and teen suicide

I’ve been chewing on this post for awhile, mostly because I wasn’t sure I had anything to add on the subject that hasn’t already been said. Somehow, though, saying nothing seemed worse.

I just finished reading INFAMOUS by Suzanne Brockmann, which is a fun and gripping romance about a history professor who meets and falls in love with the descendant of a man she has written a biography about. It was a good story, and I was disappointed to notice some negative reviews for it on Amazon, based in whole or in part on Brockmann’s tendency to promote her social/political views including those of gay equality.

Personally, I applaud her.

As the mother of a gay son she is using her voice and her platform to educate, to make the world a better place…to help ensure that her child is afforded the same rights and treatment as everyone else. Which he deserves, because we are all human, and that is the bottom line.

Like a lot of people, I’ve had Tyler Clementi and the heart-breaking stories of other bullied young people who came before him on my mind quite a bit. In every way imaginable his story hurts my heart. As a person who was bullied in school herself, as a person who has been close to depression and suicide, to the gay community, who remembers just how clueless and awkward we are as teenagers, who has been an educator of young people, as a mom, etc.

Most of all as a mom, because no matter what else occurs in my life I am a mom first and foremost. Am I the mom of a gay son? Not that I know of, although my youngest is not even old enough to tell which hand he’s gonna write with so it’s hard to say. And it IS, believe you me, the same kind of a thing. Plenty of science can attest to sexual orientation being a trait that develops in utero just as surely and uniquely as a fingerprint.

It is a blessing, and a part of what makes us all who we are.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that you think such science is BS, that homosexuality is a “choice”, or whatever. I urge you to rethink this and do a little research. Regardless, should we not be teaching our children that teasing, ridicule, pranks, etc are unacceptable for any reason? I spend more time than my kids care to think about, hammering them over the head with the whole “treat others the way you want to be treated” speech. I may not be the most devout of churchgoing individuals, but I sure as hell try to give my kids that message.

Some friends of Tyler Clementi’s roommate have argued that he would have played the same prank (catching what should have been private, intimate moments on video) had Tyler been with a female instead of a male.

Umm… point being?

What was done was unacceptable, period. Gay, straight, or otherwise, we would be hard-pressed to find an individual who does not have some aspect of themselves that causes them shame and insecurity. NONE of us would want our privacy violated in such a way, or heaven forbid have those insecurities caught on video.

I sure as hell wouldn’t.

As a mom, I would be horrified to find that my child had ridiculed another or violated their rights. Or that such a thing had been done to them. Sure, kids and teens can be seriously lacking in the empathy department, but that is why it is a lesson that parents and teachers need to teach and re-teach until it is ingrained. When parents blow off or downplay bullying as “just teasing” or harmless, it tacitly condones such behavior to their children, and such actions can have far-reaching implications that we may never envision.

So please, parents, make sure your children understand the importance of treating their fellow humans the way they would want to be treated. The way YOU would want THEM to be treated.

You may think they already know it, but it doesn’t pay to assume. The way we turn this around is by promoting acceptance, and you don’t have to agree with a person’s lifestyle to treat them respectfully as equals.

No way should a sweet 18-year old kid have to suffer the kind of ridicule that makes them feel so desperate that they think they have to end their life by jumping off of a bridge. An 11-year old should not be so shaken from taunts at school that he bequeaths his Pokemon cards to his sibling and then hangs himself.

It is horribly, obscenely, disgustingly wrong.

I just want my kids to be healthy and happy. And I hope I am successful in teaching them to be good and decent human beings. The rest is gravy. Who they love is inconsequential so long as the happy part applies.

If you or someone you know is being bullied, or is depressed enough to be thinking about finding a permanent way out, please know this:

It REALLY does get better. That may sound like crap, but many of us have been in that dark place, and no matter how all-consuming it feels, it is NOT permanent.

I know what it’s like to hate yourself so much you think the world would be better off without you, or to have the day in and day out pain of merely showing your face in school feel like too much to handle. Or to be so fucking mad at those bullies that you think maybe you’ll show them – you’ll end it all and the blood will be on their hands, and then maybe they’ll learn.

All I ask, is that you hang on until tomorrow. Then tomorrow, see if you can do it again. Get help, wherever you can. A school counselor, a parent, a friend’s parent, a hotline, whatever. If you’re in college, just about every campus has a GLBT organization. If you’re not in college or your campus doesn’t have such a group, find the nearest campus that does. Call Oprah if you have to. People out there care, and know what you’re dealing with. I swear to you.

I cannot count the ways that I am grateful to still be here on this earth. I’m not sure I would have said that a decade or two ago. So things do indeed turn around.

And here are some places you may find help:

The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention resource for GLBT youth. 866-488-7386

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 800-273-TALK (8255)

The GLBT National Help Center – they have a national hotline as well as listings to help you find a resource close to you. 888-843-4564