Sunday, December 26, 2021
Wednesday, December 22, 2021
Saturday, December 18, 2021
Thursday, December 16, 2021
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Today, very, very suddenly, we lost Scout, our dog of about 11 years.
I am definitely still processing what happened, and I expect the waves of ugly crying will keep hitting me, but in some ways, right now, anyway, I'm taking enormous comfort in that she suffered so little.
Just last night, she was doing exactly her usual routine. She hung around while we were working in the kitchen and whenever we looked her way, she came in for a hug and then was looking for treats. The night before she was playing with me in the yard while I grilled dinner, doing her favorite thing - which is picking up a leaf and throwing it in the air so we would cheer for her.
This morning, she suddenly seemed not to be doing well after 9:45 or 10:00, and Jamie asked me to come down from my office and see. I've learned not to rush dogs to the vet for every cough or twitch, but after watching her for a bit, I joined Jamie in her concern - but believed the issue was pain related to her legs or hips. We had dropped her off at the vet by 10:50, and couldn't go in due to COVID restrictions. Shortly, they told us that Scout had several tumors on her spleen, and one had burst - leading to the pain and discomfort. At about 1:40, we spoke with the vet. She would require major surgery, which might not go well. And she was suffering kidney failure.
We've done the "heroic efforts" route before, but I now believe the best thing - and hardest thing to do emotionally - is to not let your pet spend their final days, weeks, months or years in bewilderment and discomfort. Had a few details been different today, we would have approved the surgery, we would be worrying about Scout recuperating at home. But the cascade of what was coming meant a life in which I knew Scout would need surgeries and other treatments, and we'd likely lose her at any point over the next months, during which she would be unhappy.
I knew she'd gone for a long walk yesterday, seen friends (socially distanced) over the weekend that she hadn't seen in a year, had seen our families in recent weeks... and we'd had so many adventures this year (I slept downstairs with her during the freeze), we wanted her final days to be her good days. Her last mealtimes included grilled chicken, hamburger, and whatever else were eating. She was living a good dog life. It was the life we wanted for her every day, not just when she was ill or we were worried about her.
It's hard to explain - because all dogs are motivated by love and food, but Scout's entire personality was built around love. She just wanted to be nearby, and available for hugs and not to cause a fuss. She hardly ever barked, and mostly regarded people with cautious curiosity, and eventually deciding "okay, we're friends". She flatly did not understand negative reinforcement - and I kicked myself every time I would get snippy at her for doing something that she shouldn't, because now there were bruised feelings and much apologizing that had to occur before she felt safe and secure again.
The thing she absolutely understood and gave was love and kindness.
|Scout and me among the firewheels|
Maybe ten or more times a day as I puttered around the house, she'd slide up to me and walk between my legs so I'd lean down and give her pets for a while. Sure, we went on lots and lots of walks, and she knew the neighborhood well, and would tell you which path she wanted to go on.
But she never figured out "fetch". In fact, some wire got crossed when Jamie tried to teach her how to play with Lucy, who was a retriever and never needed a lesson. Scout wasn't interested in chasing a ball so much as picking one up and tossing it around, or pointing out "yes, here is the ball, I have found it". Eventually, one of us saying "ball" became the only time she would bark. Happily and enthusiastically, because we cheered her for it. And she forgot the word was ever tied to her toy.*
We adopted Scout in the year after we lost Melbotis. Lucy needed a pal, I generally believe in a two-dog house, and so we went to the ASPCA and walked around for maybe ten minutes when I saw her sitting at the end of her kennel. I squatted down, and she popped up and came over to say hi. Cautious optimism in all things with this dog. In a room full of dogs banging off their cage doors, she was extremely gentle and sweet, and I figured: this dog will be good for Jamie.
But, really, she was good for me. Mel was brilliant by dog standards, and Lucy was full of personality and demanded attention. Scout just needed love. And treats. And to play. She learned our routines and insisted upon them - up to and including 10:00 PM walks in the summer, once the sun was down. Which kept me moving. But it's hard to say all the ways in which living with something that doesn't understand anger or raised voices makes you better, yourself.
When we lost Lucy about three years ago, we figured Scout would be lost without her. Lucy was the big sister and Scout followed her around. But we quickly found out Scout was okay - she just turned up the attention she'd always given us, and seemed pleased not to have to compete, kind of coming into her own. And, not knowing how long we had with her, that was okay.
I'll miss her gentle, polite spirit and earnest expressions. I'm going to miss her delight at seeing me, and running right into my shins whenever I opened the door as she sought pets. And how happy she would be when she'd slide between the coffee table and the love seat to get pets from Jamie while I rubbed her ears and face from the sofa. I'll miss her prancing in the yard when we'd go out to spend time with her, or playing tag with her. And, of course, the long neighborhood walks when she'd insist on one direction or another. And in the last year when her hearing started to go, burying my face in the fur at her shoulders and telling her she's a good dog, making sure she could hear.
It's not easy. It never is. I can't tell you how much I'll miss her.
*our first dog, Melbotis, however, thought "toy" meant anything he particularly liked, including Jamie, as it turned out when one day I said "go get a toy" and he wandered over to Jamie.
Friday, January 3, 2020
Friday, July 12, 2019
2019 was the year I finally started watching Brooklyn 99, and like everyone else who watched the show, I became a big fan of Cheddar, the pet Corgi of Captain Raymond Holt and the lynchpin of more than one episode.
Sadly, a pup doesn't live forever, and Cheddar performer, Stewart, has merged with the Infinite.
Pouring one out for you, buddy.
Monday, June 25, 2018
Wednesday, April 11, 2018
Happy National Pet Day from The Signal Watch. This is your blogger with his two dogs, Scout (left) and Lucy (right).
Despite the fact they wanted to go out at 3:30 in the morning again last night, I love these two dogs dearly. They're older now, and it's both a heart breaking and lovely time in their lives - they are as sweet-natured as they've ever been, but you also see the sun is setting. They can't talk about it, and they want to still be the same dogs they've always been, and they just get up every day and keep trying. You just need to have more patience, help them when you can and love them as much as they love you.
I wouldn't trade these two knuckleheads for all the tea in China.
Thursday, October 6, 2016
Let's not screw around.
Why I wanted to watch this movie: it really, honestly features dozens of live big cats with minimal training, just sort of being big cats. And by big cats, I mean lions, tigers, panthers, jaguars, pumas... all in one film, all intermingled with actors trying to perform scenes both engaging with the animals and around the animals. The animals even get a screen-writing credit because, hey, animals gonna do what animals are gonna do - and that clearly drove the story.
It's not a freakshow, but it is absolutely nerve wracking to watch as every bit of your well-honed DNA of thousands of generations of ancestors starts screaming out at you that this is a very, very bad scene, even as the movie is insisting "we should learn to love the big cats and live in harmony with them."
Thanks to, I think, a Hollywood lifestyle bit I was watching about Tippi Hedren back around 2001, I'd been aware of the movie, but good luck finding it back then. Or much information about it. Just the casual mention of "oh, she has a lion sanctuary and this one time she made a feature film with dozens of wild big cats called 'Roar', so, anyway, she's Melanie Griffith's mom..."
It also features Speed director Jan de Bont as a cinematographer, and, apparently he was one of the 70 people injured working on the movie. And, in fact, de Bont was gravely injured when a lion took his scalp clean off his head.
Monday, April 11, 2016
Here at The Signal Watch, we have a Super Affinity for pets. We've got our own two little geniuses at home making our lives more colorful every day.
Back in the Silver Age, National Comics introduced a dog named Krypto to the Superman mythos. Supposedly sent in advance of a baby Kal-El in a test rocket, Krypto arrived on Earth around when Superboy was making a name for himself in Smallville. The comics made their usual bends in logic and soon Krypto was appearing in both Superboy and the adventures of grown-up Superman.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Sam is not our cat. He belonged to Jamie's Dad. But, as Jamie's dad travels quite a bit, Sam became our "rent-a-cat". After Jeff the Cat passed, we went from cat-sitting by shoving him in the guest room to letting him roam free.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
I had no burning desire to watch Lassie Come Home (1943) to see the gripping tale of a dog coming home. But I was aware of the ascendency of Lassie in Hollywood via this movie, a career that would span into the 1990's before kind of fading, so far as I know. I was also curious about the movie as it stars a young and precocious Elizabeth Taylor (that's Liz there on the right) and Roddy McDowell as a kid (our man there on the left).
The movie also features Edmund Gwenn of both Miracle on 34th Street and Them! fame and, Signal Watch favorite Elsa Lanchester of Bride of Frankenstein as Roddy McDowell's mother.
I don't know that I grew up with Lassie, but I watched reruns of an American show from the 1950's on Nickelodeon, and everyone knew Collies were "Lassie Dogs" back in the 80's. In the 1990's I made my pre-Jamie girlfriend go see an American movie called Lassie that starred Helen Slater.
In my ever-expanding fascination with how much more frank kids' movies used to be back in the day versus now, this sweet movie about a dog and boy who love each other very much and are separated thanks to the economic forces of Depression-era Britain would probably, mostly, make it for kids today if you didn't have some coarse behavior and hobos beating up Edmund Gwenn and killing his own little dog (spoilers).
The movie was shot in color, and it's a beautiful look at the countryside of California doubling as England and Scotland.
It occurs to me that during this same window where Lassie was making a name for her/himself at the movies, Rin Tin Tin was literally being used as a training dog for GI's as part of the war effort. Meanwhile, Lassie was providing a bit of escapism for the kids back home and in England, I suppose. And, of course, the movie released during war time mentions that the author served with Britain in World War I and was just killed in WWII. That's a hell of a thing, but I guess it was no secret America was at war.
I don't think kids of today could tolerate the measured pace of the movie, but you never know. The story is largely episodic as Lassie meets folks along the way returning home, so it moves at a decent clip. You could have worse introductions to the character.
In the 1990's I was working at a mall record store and whichever dog was the official Lassie at the time came through for a photo-op sort of thing, and I've always regretted not paying the $20 and getting my picture with that dog. But, you know, it was a Lassie photo or eating, so I guess I made the right decision.
Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Certainly I was curious as to what became of the media empire that I knew once existed and, today, there's not a kid out there who knows what the words "Rin Tin Tin" mean.
And, hey, it's about dogs. I'm a fan.
Susan Orlean is perhaps most famous for the book she wrote, The Orchid Thief, which was turned into a Meryl Streep movie which I confess that I have never seen (Adaptation). In Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, Orlean traces more than a century of history, from the ramshackle, lonely and unpredictable childhood of Lee Duncan, the man who would find a litter of German Shepard puppies in a kennel within an evacuated German base in WWI France, straight through to the modern era of DVD's and memorabilia collection. And, of course, the tangled existence of a very real dog who became a screen legend, only to become a fictional character with his passing, and becoming the sort of property that people wind up suing one another over until the value of the property has fallen through the bottom.
Orlean weaves her own story into the book, not one that's particularly remarkable as these things go, but it gives the reader context when it comes to her research, what sparked her interest, how the misty memories of both the dog on the television in the 1950's series The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin and her relationship with an knowable grandfather echoed back to her as she tried to bring the past into the present, with things both on the screen and real. And, it's an honest approach as Orlean necessarily frames her experience hunting down the folks who are still alive from Lee Duncan's family, those associated with the show and a Texas woman who has been breeding heirs of Rin Tin Tin in Texas, and who was smart enough to run out and trademark Rin Tin Tin when Hollywood had not.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
Sunday, August 9, 2015
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
|face down in the Spidey blanket|
This is Sam. He is Jamie's dad's cat, and he's staying with us for a few days.
Sam got a little sleepy today.
And, yes, I sleep under a Spider-Man blanket when it is cold out.
And the Spider-Man song is The Dug's joke, not mine.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
|If you think he's thinking "I didn't do it", you are right.|
Jeffrey George Taylor The Cat, better known as "Jeff the Cat", passed today.
He will not be remembered fondly by many. He had... personality. But Jeff was my little buddy, and I am going to miss him very much.
We didn't get along the first few years he lived with us, and I was, frankly, ready to get rid of him at the drop of a hat. Oddly, during that time, he saved my life.
I had an old oscillating fan, and one day I was working away on my computer in the era before laptops, and Jeff was circling my feet as cats do. Suddenly, he bolted out of the room, and I thought that was a bit peculiar so I turned around and the fan was a pillar of oscillating flame. I don't know if I would have died, exactly, but we would have certainly had a lot more property damage and many more problems if Jeff hadn't alerted me to the fire.
Still, we didn't really get along. But at some point when we lived in Phoenix, Jeff started hanging out with me in the mornings while I was showering and getting ready. And then started hanging out with me in the evenings after Jamie went to bed. And soon I had a little yellow shadow wherever I went.
I will never know why he picked me over Jamie. For years, she was far nicer to that cat than myself. But for the past decade, he's been my constant sidekick. And made it really hard to organize comics by walking all over them, chewing on comic bags, knocking over action figures and generally letting me know that if I was sitting on the floor, I was really supposed to be playing with him.
I am not sure I'll know when to wake up without him coming to get me. Or how I'll know when it's time to go to bed without him giving me a pointed look around midnight each evening. Or how to read a book or magazine without him rubbing his face against the edges and suggesting "hey, if you want to just stare at something, I'm your huckleberry". Or how one watches TV or movies without a cat making himself at home on your chest or on your leg. I assume I might now float away without the extra few pounds of cat to weigh me down.
We were with him when he went, and he went quietly and peacefully. 15 years is a good, long time, and for some time, as he's gotten older, my biggest concern was that he not live poorly if we could help it. We owed him, and I didn't want for him to have a single bad day.
We'll miss you, little buddy. You were loved very much.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Monday, December 24, 2012
|Lucy has her Alamo Bowl pick|
Christmas Eve is the birthday of my favorite runt, Lucy the Little Black Lab.
Today Lucy turns 8 years old. She was born in a backyard in Mesa, Arizona and was adopted/ purchased in February of the 2005.
As my brother says "she's very smart about things that she wants to do", which many people mistake for being a dumb dog. Nope. As inbred and tiny as she may be, she's all Lab with all the stubbornness that comes with the breed and all the need for attention that comes with that, too.
Most evenings I spend my time on the sofa with Lucy leaning against my side. Oh, certainly, she can be a real pain, but in the end I know she wants a few things in the world: walkies, cookies and love. Most days we can provide two out of three.
Happy Birthday, Little Lu.