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I got the call last night. My dog, my Golden Retriever who I had raised from a pup, the best dog ever in the whole wide world, had to be put down on Wednesday. He was living with my ex because we hadn’t been able to bring him with us when we drove down from Alaska. And then he’d developed cancer and sending him down didn’t seem safe.

I got to see him a month ago. J and S were driving across country on their move from Alaska and stopped by on their way through so I could see Amy. She spent the night, and so did the dog, so that they could just go rent a hotel room (they came in a motorhome and camped most of the way, so having the dog hadn’t been an issue). The next day was warm and sunny and we all went to the park. Toklat got to have a good sniff around and be petted by kids. He wasn’t up to a real romp, but he was all doggie smiles and happy.

I will treasure that I got that last warm, sunny morning with him. I don’t know if there will ever be another dog to match. He was so well trained that when we had horses we could take him along on rides and he would heel to the horse, never accosting other hikers or horses or even dogs. He never got on the furniture, never jumped on people, never made a nuisance of himself except for a persistent desire to be petted ceaselessly by anyone gullible enough to fall for his pathetic sighs. He was always happy, always gentle.

I miss him. I feel worse in some ways that he was far away from me when he died. He was devoted to me when he was young. I was his mom. And I wasn’t there for him.

People say we should get a puppy. I don’t know if I’m ready for that. I don’t know if I can be fair to a puppy, not compare it to Toklat the Wonder Dog.

The cancer got so bad that he couldn’t drink anything. Not even the special, sweet doggie shakes they made to tempt him with. It was time for him to go. And I know he’s in doggy heaven, chasing his tail (and catching it, and continuing to circle until he falls over, just like he always did), but I’m gonna miss him for a long time.
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Yesterday evening we drove 2 hours each way to attend the memorial service of a woman we had never met. She was the mother of one of our dearest friends, Eric, and we went to be there for him and his wife Kat as they went through one of the toughest things a person must face: losing a parent. We had not initially intended to go down – my nascent understanding of Ohio geography does not extend very far south, and I didn’t realize that Mansfield was within “striking distance.” Then another couple we know called [livejournal.com profile] theferrett and asked him if he wanted to attend, as they were driving down and could give him a ride. He called me in a mild panic – he had never been to a funeral and was terrified of “screwing it up.” I assured him that he would be fine, then hung up feeling sad – I hated to not be there for our friends, but I had class. Before an hour had passed I realized that class had to be a secondary priority for this night, and made arrangements to go along (mostly consisting of racing home to be there on time).

It was the right choice. Kat said she had almost called just to hear Ferrett’s voice and that she needed a hug from me. It meant a lot to them that we were there. And it meant a lot to us, too. Friendship grows deeper when you share more than just the casual, good times. There is bonding in grief.

During the service I heard a lot about a woman who I regret never getting to know. The well-filled church spoke of her connections to the community and how many lives she had touched, as did the baskets full of cards from well-wishers. As the minister said, there was grief, but it was clean grief, grief for a light too soon gone, and not for unresolved issues that had to be buried. Her dying, a 16-month process, had been one that filled those around her with inspiration. She had met the most terrifying challenge of life and met it well.

I’m wrong, actually, when I say that I never met Eric’s mom. I’ve met her through the kindness and wry humor of her son, and I will know it more through the children whom he and Kat seek to adopt. He spoke of the gifts his mother gave him: a love of books, a kindly outlook, a positive attitude. I know that when he holds his babies in his arms he will remember her, when he selects favorite stories to read to them that the echo of her voice, her cadence, her turn of phrase, will color his own reading. He will pass on that legacy of love and laughter to his children, and they to theirs.

And thus will she live on, and the world will be a better place that she was here.
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Mr. Rogers died of stomach cancer early this morning. In a world filled with cynicism and a belief that only flashiness will attract the attention of small children, Fred Rogers led a quiet counter-revolution with a message of kindness, gentleness, and respect. Only two groups of people really appreciated Mr. Rogers: pre-schoolers, and their moms. My children adored Mr. Rogers and his simple songs filled with the message that they were special, loved the way he talked right to them through the screen. I learned how crayons and tricycles are made, and how much half an hour of quiet repose could counteract the frantic pace of a day.

Fred Rogers was as decent a man as he portrayed himself to be. I remember seeing a set of out-takes from one episode in which he was supposed to set up a tent, a simple act for which the tent refused to cooperate. Despite numerous failures, he never lost his good humor, never resorted to frustrated force, and certainly never explicated. Surrender was accompanied with a smile, a laugh, and a good-natured shrug. Being a good guy wasn't Mr. Rogers' schtick - it was who he really was. As Ferrett once told me, the attempt to dig up dirt on him resulted in the shocking news that when his son went off to college, Fred didn't write him for the first two weeks. Even his reaction to those who poked fun of him displays the depth of his character: I was fotunate enough to hear one of his last interviews, wherein he said that he always considered Eddie Murphy's take-off on the show to be "funny and affectionate."

This isn't the loss of creative genius that Jim Henson's death was, certainly. Mr. Rogers' amazing puppeting style was never going to break into the big screen. But there is honor in choosing to do something and doing it well for some 30 years.

Children across the country will still watch Mr. Rogers age and grow young, week by week, as his vast catalog of reruns are played over and over. That is a legacy of which to be proud, left by a man who genuinely loved and cared for the people he touched.
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Scrappy, Ferrett's..uh..ferret, is dying. He appears to have suffered a stroke that has partially paralyzed his left side. His attempts to walk around end in stumbling falls that leave him tangled in awkward positions, unable to right himself. He looks perplexed and distressed and…resigned. Trying again is inevitable—he's a ferret, after all—but each time there is a period when he just lies there, regathering himself.

I have never really been fond of this creature. He is smelly and he bites. Even the better-socialized ferrets I have met are not particularly appealing to me. He was a pet who "came with the package" when we got married, and my tolerance has not always been entirely gracious.

But my heart goes out to the little guy, and to the big guy who is holding him now, comforting him while his own heart breaks. It doesn't help that Scrappy has outlived expectations by at least two-and-a-half years. Ferrett knows that tomorrow he will have to call the vet and do the right thing for a beloved friend who can no longer cope with this world.

His little light will go out. And despite it being the way the world works, the circle of life and all that, I find myself shedding a tear for him, as well as for Ferrett, who will miss his companionship. I'm sorry for your loss, dear.


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September 2012

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