Posts Tagged 'love'

Lucky Dog: A Lesson on Living, Loving and Loss

My brother put his 18-year-old dog to sleep yesterday.

My sadness today is profound, almost overwhelming, and I am trying to figure out why.

Obviously, the dog himself, a terribly sweet, ridiculously cute cocker-beagle mix, is the primary reason. He was my brother’s dog –  there’s no denying that – but he was really my first pet as well, my roommate and companion for the eight-plus years I lived with my brother after college.

When I came home from my first real job, he would greet me with that wagging stub of a tail and the butt jerking uncontrollably from side to side. I would lie on the floor, and he would pin me down, licking my face til I could stand it no longer.

I took him for walks every day. I taught him roll over – a trick we had to retire several years ago when it became too demanding for his aging frame – and play dead – which he did pretty well, except for that dang wagging tail, which couldn’t help but anticipate the forthcoming treat.

Lucky gave my life joy and meaning, structure and responsibility.

However, I moved out on my own five years ago, and while I saw Lucky at least once a week and would occasionally watch him when my brother left town, I was no longer much of a caretaker for the dog.

It was my brother who really had to put up with Lucky’s growing eccentricities – like the way he would whimper for hours on end and his increasingly picky appetite (a sure sign of sickness as this was a dog, after all, that would once eat the grossest things the New York City streets had to offer) – and who near the end had to give him the daily injections of IV fluid and clean up all the household accidents as his kidneys started failing more rapidly.

So while some of my connection to Lucky might have been lost over the years, I’m sure some of my sadness also stems from how intensely I feel my brother’s loss. I was there with my brother as he made the correct but horribly final and painful decision to give Lucky a peaceful end, and as he held the dog’s body in his lap one last time. And at least some of my pain and sadness must stem from knowing how badly my brother is hurting right now.

And I think there is something else that is making me sad. Something a bit more esoteric, a bit more selfish, and yet just as deeply felt: Lucky’s death in a certain way marks the passage of an era for me. I first met that dog when my brother, who had adopted Lucky a few months earlier, picked me up at the San Francisco airport when I moved there after college, armed with nothing more than a suitcase full of clothing and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. It was such an exciting time. My life and all its wonderful possibilities seemed ahead of me.

And for the next decade and then some, from one coast to another, from one job to another, Lucky was a part of that growing-up experience. It’s been fascinating to see all the people who’ve been part of my life the past 14 years – high school and college friends who came to visit, new friends, co-workers and colleagues, family members I got to know for the first time – who met Lucky and felt compelled to express their own connection to him on Facebook.

All those people who have been in and out of my life, and all those days, it seems to have flown by in an instant, and I wonder sometimes if I’ve made the right decisions in my life, if I’ve taken full advantage of the opportunities given me, and whether i am happy with where I’ve ended up.

Yes, I am married with a great wife, have my own awesome dog and am expecting a baby daughter in the fall, and I know that challenging and exciting moments are ahead of me. But that special post-college time – when my life and its direction seemed a complete mystery, even to me – feels like it now has passed forever along with Lucky.

Yesterday, my brother, his girlfriend, her sister and I took Lucky to the park where he had spent so many happy moments. It was such a beautiful day, with a bright sun and mostly cloudless sky giving off the gentle warmth of early spring. Lucky seemed very happy, taking in the familiar smells, feeling the soft grass beneath his paws, enjoying all the extra attention he was getting (though I’m sure all of the petting was a bit uncomfortable on his sore body, he took it like a champ, there for others until the end.)

Keenly aware of how easily we can take time, and loved ones, for granted, I told myself repeatedly to appreciate these moments, absorb them fully, take it all in, the beauty of the day, the pain of the impending loss. We would never have it back. Not the dog, not the day, not the emotions. None of it.

Now, as I sit here less than 24 hours later trying to recapture those moments, the memories are already fading. Pictures are blurred, hazy, insufficient.

And if that isn’t a reason for profound sadness, I’m not sure what is.

2009 MOFT of the Year: Mrs. Deadman (of course!)

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, but it’s that time of year when I must bestow the coveted My One Favorite Thing award of 2009. Last year, you may recall, Cottonelle Wet Wipes Toilet Paper won the 2008 MOFT, just edging out Barack Obama.

This year, there are so many worthy candidates. Certainly Obama was in the running again, as his January inauguration provided one of the more stirring moments of the year. But while infinitely better than what we had at this time last year, the Prez has been just a bit disappointing to me, so he’ll have to settle with his consolation Nobel.

Other early notable contenders for the 2009 MOFT included Reddi-Wip, the Oster Electric Wine Opener, Scramble (a perennial favorite), Phil Ivey, the St. Louis Cardinals, Dexter, our housekeeper Gloria, and Ingrid Michaelson. Meanwhile, a number of late dark-horse candidates in recent months have emerged, including the Wii (finally got one and it rocks), Modern Family, fantasy football, and even in the last couple of days, this hilarious, mind-fu** of a video.

But in the end, to be honest, it really was no contest. By far, My One Favorite Thing of 2009 is my brand shiny new wife! (She may in fact be even better than the Wet Wipes!)

For those of you don’t know, I married the now Mrs. Deadman on Halloween in Saratoga Springs, NY. It was quite a lovely and fun event if I do say so myself, with almost all of our closest family and friends in attendance.

While I so far am very glad I took the plunge, overcoming the commitment phobia that’s plagued me my entire life, i do have a couple regrets from that weekend. One is the DJ, who sucked so hard I am surprised there was any air left in the reception hall (she will certainly be a top contender if I get around to doing My One Least Favorite Thing of 2009 sometime next week).

Another thing I regret was not taking the time sometime during the night to give this little speech about my new wife. It was something I planned on doing, just like the Mrs. and I both planned on taking a brief moment to thank a bunch of people, but we wanted to try and spread out the speeches and toasts and let people eat and have fun, and then it just never seemed like the right time.

It really is amazing how crazy weddings are when you’re one of the key participants. The night just flies by, and you really feel like you have no control over anything. (Apparently, it wasn’t just the wedding night that didn’t go exactly as planned – Sorry Genghis!). No matter how many people warn you to try and appreciate the moment and be truly present, it’s basically impossible. You feel more like a character in a movie than a real live human being making perhaps the most important decision of your life.

But the truth is, we just should have done what we had planned. It was our wedding and our party, and we just should have found time to thank the people who helped make it all happen, and I should have delivered my little ode to Mrs. Deadman (which to be fair I had thrown together very quickly the week before.)

I guess instead, I will have to settle with posting it here and hoping people read it. So without further ado, here it is:

I just want to say a few words about my beautiful, brand-spanking new wife. Keri and I had our first date 2 years, 2 months, and 2 weeks ago from this very day. And I knew very early on, I had stumbled upon something special.

In fact, I remember one day, no more than a couple of months into our relationship, getting ready with Keri to go out and I found myself just staring at her for a few moments before eventually blurting out ‘How in the world did I get so lucky to have found you?”

“No seriously,” I asked, “how in the world have you stayed single long enough so that I could find you?!?”

I mean, here was this incredibly smart, extremely sexy and cool girl. Sensitive and sweet – with just enough spice and even a touch of the occasional vinegar to keep things interesting. Pretty and funny – not only appreciating my own sense of humor, which is tough enough, but also constantly making me laugh. And it all came bundled in this one little enticing skinny package!

So of course i thought there had to be a catch.

Now it turns out there was no catch, but as I said, this was very early on, so my question might have been a bit naive.

Because the truth is, it’s just that relationships are hard, very hard – and I think people in general – and especially as we get older – are too quick to throw our hands up in the air and throw in the towel when things get a little tough and the inevitable concerns arise. It’s so easy to just give up and move on.

But I think it’s OK when two people in a relationship sometimes have differences of opinions, competing philosophies. It’s healthy. Would be boring otherwise. It’s when we accept and maybe even embrace the differences that we grow as people and couples.

And there is no doubt I have learned so much from Keri over the past two years, especially about how to live a good life and be a better person. And honestly, it would have been impossible to move on because even during tougher times, there were certain things about Keri that stuck with me.

Like how genuinely scared and concerned she looked when she came to visit me in the ER after I had a little heart scare, tears welling in her eyes as I was hooked up with all these wires (probably worrying what the hell she was getting into).

Or like how she is with our dog, Oliver, the love and affection she showers on him – and this was most certainly not a dog person when we first met.

Or how she makes me laugh by breaking out into one of her silly godawful dances, such as the infamous one-legged south-facing boogie (which perhaps if you’re lucky enough, she’ll share with you tonight).

Or how warm she is with all of my family and friends, who will invariably come up to me after meeting her and warn me, “Don’t you dare F this up, Darren!!”

It was just always so easy to envision Keri as my wife because she is exactly what i’ve always pictured when I thought about my life in this stage.

And the more I think about my original question – “How in the world did you stay single long enough so that I could find you? – the more I wonder if the answer is not just that relationships are hard, but that perhaps, this is the only way it could have possibly been.

That it, and us, and today were always going to be. Had to be.

And I am just so happy and thankful right now, so excited about our future … and I love you very, very much!

To ask or not to ask, these are the questions …

I certainly hope this Hamlet-inspired edition of the question column pleaseth the millions and not be caviare to the general … remember to check out this post on dagblog.com, where we’re building a nice little community and getting some great answers on these columns and a lot of other interesting discussions, too …

1. Something is rotten in the state of [Dagblog] …

Let’s just say you knew someone who always had fairly bad body odor. Would you tell them and how would you approach the subject? (No, Genghis this isn’t about you; I enjoy your particular scent. But I once had this problem with a dormmate in college, and I feel bad that we never said anything to the poor chap.)

2. A dream itself is but a shadow …

So the other day I found this video tape of a high school video I made for an English class extra credit assignment I did with a couple of friends. While watching it, I felt like I remembered events from that day of filming, but how much of my ‘memory’ do you think was real and how much was me thinking I remembered the day because I was watching the video? In other words, do you think we have our entire lives stored in our memory banks, there for retrieval if we could only find a trigger?

3. O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain …

Do you think Sarah Palin runs in 2012? If so, how far does she make it – early primaries, late primaries, nomination, White House?

4. When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions …

What was the saddest moment in your life (Mine: Visiting my grandfather in the hospital after his stroke … That was my first true understanding of death and dying)?

5. To be honest as this world goes is to be one man picked out of ten thousand …

Have you ever cheated? At what? Have you ever been caught?

6. Doubt that the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt I love …

Is romantic love anything more than chemicals and hormones in your brain firing through a certain mechanism that gives you pleasure? If it is, what else is it? If it isn’t, does the fact that you feel that way make romantic love any less meaningful? What about other forms of love (child-parent, friend, etc.?) … are those, too, purely biological and chemical emotions?

7. We go to gain a little patch of ground, that hath in it no profit but the name …

If you had the means, do you think this is a good time to buy a house?

8. Neither a borrower nor a lender be …

OK, we know there is blame to go around on all sides, but if you had to give a percentage to it: How much blame for our current economic mess lies with the people who took on too much debt and signed ridiculous mortgages without reading (or caring about) the fine print and how much lies with the banks that made the loans?

9. This above all: to thine own self be true …

When you were a young child, what did you want to be when you grew up? If you’re not that now, why not?

10. The rest is silence …

Which option do you think best describes what happens after you die: a) Nada/You become fertilizer b) Heaven/hell/purgatory (some sort of traditional unearthly afterlife) c) Reincarnation d) Other (please explain)?


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