Monday, October 28, 2013

A Thank You from Stella, or, Our Dog Was a Terrorist

One of the first things Stella did when she entered our lives was bite Ray's father in the nuts.

Not enough to hurt him, or break the skin. Just enough to be hilarious. They were running together in a grass backyard in Jackson, NJ, and Papa turned on her fast, as if catching a spiral. She blocked the play with a mouth to the jewels. It was an indicator that we needed to get our new creature to school, and that whatever horrific starvation and mistreatment Stella had endured, she was totes over it. Because dogs who are not over it do not gently jostle genitals for fun--they destroy them with purpose.

In spite of all our crying, photo posting, crying, and also crying, Stella passed in happiness on Sunday because of the selfless gifts of (mostly) strangers. Some monetarily, some morale. It made for a loving crossover in the comfort of her home, wrapped in her blankie, cradled by three sets of hands while Gillian Welch sang "I'll Fly Away." The song ended with Stella's last breath--a blessing of divine theatrics--and our girl stepped into space to literal applause.

To all: Thank you for giving her peace and dignity. Thank you for caring about weepy strangers on the other side of a computer screen. Now, we have to come clean.

You were told about Stella's compassionate soul and sweet disposition. But we left out how she was an evil, garbage-fiending genius with mutant superpaws. And how she betrayed The United States of America. And that time she ate an innocent dreamcatcher off a wall. We didn't want anyone to know her sordid past. Things are different now. Friends of The Ninga (named for the sound of her tags jingling) should know them. And laugh at them.

Stella was stone deaf, but could hear laughter.

Ningconvenient Truths

-- The Dreamcatcher. Given to us by a dear friend, it hung on the wall behind the bed. It was made out of good leather, and subtly decorated. Stella slept under the dreamcatcher with mom and dad every night for nearly two years. Then, one Wednesday afternoon, she waited until she was alone, climbed onto the bed, stood on her hind legs with her front paws on the wall, and yanked the ornament down by its decorative leather tassels. Somewhere, a Native American cried without knowing why. No one knew what had happened until she started shitting feathers. The motive of this senseless crime remains unknown.

-- We bought a "wolf proof" garbage can with a lifetime guarantee. It was wall mounted with giant screws into the bones of the apartment, had two different locks, and was an impenetrable rectangle of slick steel. In 14 days there were two deep holes in the wall, the lid had been pulled from the can like a skull from a spine, and we were used to seeing a broken kitchen trash can chillin' in the bathtub.

-- Stella's inbreeding gave her the deafness, cow coloring, and health complications. It also gave her a dewclaw and exceptionally long, almost prehensile, feet. The mutation allowed her to curl her paw into your palm during snuggles, as well as wreck havoc on kitchens, closets, cabinets, and pantries. Anything with a horizontal grip was fair game. Low mounted knobs? easy. The fridge? There's a reason we only kept condiments on the bottom shelf. The peanut butter wasn't safe in the pantry, and it wasn't safe in its jar. Both front paws could grip the lid, and it only took a few minutes to go from "Chunky" to "That expensive organic nutty shit all over your dog's muzzle."

-- For three weeks we fundraised to build care packages for troops in Iraq, then spent another week buying all the goodies and boxing them for a trip overseas. Four large boxes total, stuffed with magazines, books, jerky, granola, roasted nuts, drink powder. It took Stella around 2-3 hours (after the dog walker left, before we got home) to open the bedroom and bedroom closet door, drag out and open all four boxes, and sort through what she wanted. She discarded the beef jerky and ate 3 pounds of cinnamon raisin granola--you know, the only thing in the box that could kill her. It made her poo smell like a candle.

We had a brief discussion with the vet about whether stealing charity food from American heros was an act of terrorism. Stella was acquitted, but remains on a Bush-era watch list of unpatriotic dogs.

-- Mom's first adult tetanus booster came as a result of Stella's extremist vaccination advocacy. She could have left a note, maybe, saying it was time. Instead, she waited for mom to strap on the rollerblades and take her for a roll. She remained docile throughout the 15-minute jaunt. And then, just as she reached the home stretch of Main Street in full view of an emptying NJ Transit commuter train, she bolted. Maybe there was a rabbit. Maybe there wasn't. But she did use all 50lbs. of pit muscle to suddenly sprint as if compelled by god for 50 meters, towing mom behind. Dad said Mom's scream had a doppler effect as he watched his new dog and old ladyfriend roll into, and then out of, sight. The next day, Mom was all good on tetnus shots until age 34. Also rollerblading.

Stella was so devoted to Dad she stored her bones in his hats and boxing gloves. She sat next to mommy for nearly every IV and injection for 6 years, and whimpered when they brought the needles out. There are so many stories.

Today, I so regret never letting her throttle any of the swans in sweet Cranford Park. It would have been epic, and she would have smiled so wide. We ended up moving anyway.

I'll fly away...
We love you baby girl.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goodbye, Stella for Star

Friends, and strangers, who have offered our Stella help for no reason other than extraordinary kindness, thank you. Our hearts are broken, and yet held in place by so many good people. We have set up the PayPal below for any contributions to Stella's goodbye. To have the resources to keep her medicated, free of pain, surrounded by love, and respectfully handled after she "crosses" means the world to us. We feel such deep shame for promising her a good life, then falling short at the very end.

We have been encouraged to use PayPal because the service fee is nominal and funds arrive quickly, allowing an emergency fund to be in place already in case her decline occurs even faster. Please contact either Ray or I if you have any questions or concerns.

We understand these are brutal times for everyone--we truly appreciate the individual offers made to pay for everything in full, but couldn't sleep knowing we'd taken that much money out of the pockets of friends. Please do not feel any obligation. No donation is too small. If you are able to help Stella in her farewell, please know that funds will only go towards her medications, humane euthanasia (if it  comes to that) via the most wonderful vet, and cremation. If we happen to have an excess we will either return any unused funds, or, if you are comfortable, roll them into the penny jar for rescuing the next deaf/abused pittie, in honor of Stella. There's not much more I can offer the world anymore than written words and raising pups no one else wants. We would be honored to continue Stella's legacy in that way. Please specify your wishes and we will honor them. Do not feel uncomfortable being honest.

Our account for Stella is here:

If you've never heard Stella's story, "The Ninga" was rescued from a kill shelter one hour before she was scheduled to be euthanized. A "throwaway mama," she had been found in a parking lot in Queens tied to a light pole. She was malnourished, freezing, had one eye infected shut, and had very recently been separated from a litter of puppies. There were obvious indications of abuse. After being rescued, Stella was bounced from foster to foster for nearly a year, but no one wanted an adult pit bull with zero training and a disability. We met her after the rescue contacted us directly asking if we "would please consider saving" her. She was the color of old newspaper when we took her home. She has been my only companion during these long days of recovery when Ray is at work 10-14 hours, and comfort for Ray when I have been ill.

One time she got into the garbage--a "wolf proof" stainless steel tub with a latch lock on it--and pulled a discarded pint of Chinese sweet and sour sauce onto the ground. She took the lid off, ate some, rolled around in the rest, then glued herself to the kitchen floor when the corn syrup started to clot and then harden. It took three washes to get the sticky our of her fur. She was stained fluorescent pink for the next 9 days.

That's our girl.

**One Last Thing**

With Stellabella in our hearts we gently ask people to please consider adoption and deaf, blind, or other special needs pets. Abandoned or surrendered pets are already labeled "trash." Special needs animals are seen as "broken" trash. Our experience with Stella indicates that she knowingly traded hearing and opted for heightened empathy, an ability to connect with anyone, and the kind of maniacal intelligence that allows a 2-year-old dog to figure out how to open the refrigerator. Twice:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Brutal, Manic, Terrifying Criticism (Can anyone really hate trumpets?)

I've written a little about criticism here in the past. I've experienced kidney punch criticism about my writing, looks, folk singing, and social views. I've definitely cried about it, and have even been paid to flip the table and provide criticism. But this clip documents a critical "Perfect Storm," a cloud of hot air, negative feedback, rage, and bizarre neurosis whirling like typhoon from the mouth of one sad NYU film student. He is explosive. Hypnotic. A mix between John Simon, Ann Coulter, and The Penguin.

If you missed this one, it features a man driven to literal madness by the thoughtless practicing of a trumpet player in a public alcove. It's hilariously heartbreaking, because even as you choose which man to side with, there's no getting around how broken the critic has to feel inside in order to unleash that kind of seething spittle.

For those of you slammed and critiqued in the past: see? It happens to everyone! To aspiring critics: this. is. not. how. to. do. it.

At the end of the day, aren't we all looking for some acknowledgement that we stood near Bob Dylan that one time?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Of Sausage and Unborn Children

We moved recently. That meant, among other things, coming to terms with how vile I am, based on the ruthless dog hair and urban dust netherworld I apparently allowed to flourish under the bed for three years. It also unearthed a long-since forgotten tin box, with bits of writings dating as far back as 2005 written on scraps of paper of all sizes. Some of it is really bad. Like, burn it bad. Some bits I love for their imperfections and clumsiness.

This was one of them.

Untitled, 2010

I've been up and down the sheets
Made and unmade those beds of roses
and worn the thorns as buttons
while sticking thin fishbone pins into voodoo lovers

I've tied every love letter ever with twine
And set them on fire in a secret place
it took three days to reach on foot

One time I held two stagehands hostage until
they turned the spotlights on me
So I could perform the rain dance to call
wet love down from the skies

But now I want one bed
One bed and two pillows
One bed and two pillows for two bodies
A place to cook you dinner
and a Cajun who can teach me to season sausage

I want to hear my children
laugh from inside your daydreams

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've been away a long time.

Too long.

There are several fascinating reasons why. There are even more totally mundane reason why.

Who cares why? I'm back. Me and the pooch are in this together with you.

I missed your words.

The Prodigal Blogger