Kidneys of Steel

I keep putting off writing this post. It's a beautiful day, where I am, in a bright room with a breeze, and yet here I sit, sad for no reason. My normal coping method is to lean into it, to hunker down and find a way to enjoy the bluer moods. Don't feel like smiling? Then don't. The only problem is that I work in a public place and it's 50% of my job to be welcoming and helpful. If I were the boss of me, today I'd have sent me home.

Peewee died ten days ago, and I have to figure that's at least part of the sadness. I keep thinking I've cried all my tears when, whoops, here come some more. 

He almost made it to nine years old, which is a good, long life for an English bulldog. I read an interesting article a few years ago that talked about how bad the breeding has gotten for many English bulldogs, and as an example they used Uga, the mascot for the University of Georgia Bulldogs. There have been a string of white, male bulldogs named Uga who trot out onto the field while people cheer, and then hop back into their crates and die. At young ages, like two and three. Yay for over-bred dogs. Peewee had congestive heart failure for the last two years of his life -- not a disease bulldogs are known for, surprisingly -- and I threw thousands of pills down his throat to keep him alive and snoring in Jackson's bed at night. (If you live north of L.A. and need a good veterinary cardiologist -- and I sincerely hope you never do -- I recommend Dr. Nick Russell without reservation). With Dr. Russell's guidance, my willingness to max out a credit card, and Peewee's kidneys of steel, we gave him two extra years of life. Our regular vet said she was amazed at how well we took care of him, when most other dogs would have been long dead by that point. Most people have a $500 limit for what they'll spend to save a pet's life, I'm told. I respect your $500 limit, but we exceeded that to a laughable degree. Did we love our dog more than you loved yours? I don't know. Ours was a pain in the ass. He barked at strangers, and at people he'd known for years. He produced impenetrable walls of gas from his butt. He also had the softest ears, and the biggest, brownest eyes, and when he liked you he'd sit on your feet. And he had just as much of a spark as you or me.

Suspicious pecker.

Suspicious pecker.

Remember Cookie? She's dead, too. I stopped writing about her a long time ago, though occasionally people would e-mail and ask what had happened to her. 

Sick for eight days straight.

Sick for eight days straight.

They say there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, but you don't have to be abusive to be a bad owner, all you have to be is dumb. Cesar Milan would have wept to see how lost I was with Cookie. Me trying to tell her what to do was a joke. She'd listen to Jack all day long, but I was mildew to her; I was a mushroom.

Cookie and Alice.

And yet Cookie was a cuddler. She was the neediest, lap-sitting-est bulldog on earth, and everyone loved her. I took her to three different trainers, and they all said, What a wonderful dog! She's so sweet! She sits, she's gentle with children. Enjoy her! But she had no respect for me whatsoever. I did not deserve to control her leash, and she made sure I knew it. She was constantly nipping at my hands -- "correcting" me, I'm told -- leaving bruises but never drawing blood. I had no idea why until I read that you're never supposed to hold a puppy over your head, because they'll take that to mean they're superior to you. I don't know if it's true, but I know that I hoisted Cookie up into Jackson's bunk bed every night so she could sleep with him, and I can imagine, every night, Cookie looking down on me and thinking, Yup, I'm the Alpha Bitch. Sleep tight, Beta.

The struggle I continually lost.

The struggle I continually lost.

In the morning I'd take her down and then put on her leash so she could go out to pee and she'd nip and yank and drag me up the stairs and then I'd cry because I didn't know how to grow a spine and dominate her -- be the pack leader! -- like I guess I was supposed to. I called Marcel, the breeder we'd gotten her from, and asked him what he thought I should do. Like any good breeder, Marcel is involved in rescue work and he said he knew the perfect home for her, if I wanted to let her go. There was no judgment on his end, so I let her go. The people in her new home named her Roxy, and they had a little girl who loved her until Cookie/Roxy died of bone cancer two years later. So thanks, Universe, for sparing us that, at least. We'd already done the cancer thing with Katie anyway. Katie Potatie. I think I have a few tears left for her, too.

Tortoises smell delicious.

Tortoises smell delicious.

I might as well come clean about Peanut, while we're at it! Remember our tortoise? We had some good times.

I wish I had video of this.

I wish I had video of this.

Peanut was entertaining as hell but she must have hated us because as soon as we moved to a new house in March of 2012, she R-U-N-N O-F-T. It was, again, my fault. I took her outside to our new brick patio and said, Look at all this space you have now, Peanut! Thinking our fence was tight and secure; thinking, She can't move that fast and I'll only be gone a minute. I went inside to get her some lettuce, and when I came back she had vanished. I was frantic. I hoped she might be hiding under a hedge or something -- I thought she'd be back when she got hungry enough, but now it's been four years so maybe she's not hungry anymore.

BEFORE YOU WRITE THAT ANGRY E-MAIL: about a year after she'd disappeared I saw a post on a neighborhood message board asking if anyone had lost a tortoise. I immediately e-mailed and said, Yes! I have lost a tortoise! and asked them to send me a photo of the tortoise they'd found, and I will bet you my last bottle of Wolfgang Puck Caesar Dressing that it was Peanut. Her shell looked a little dry, but she had all the same markings, I couldn't believe it. Somehow she'd made it out of our neighborhood and ACROSS A BUSY STREET and into a new yard. But someone else had already claimed her! The lady who posted the "lost tortoise" announcement apologized to me, but I guess the other people said Peanut was theirs so she let them have her. I forget what they called her, something fancy. Maybe she has a little velvet bed now, and her own princess phone. I almost mounted a protest to get her back, but I let Peanut go, not wanting to break someone else's heart.


So now we have this little bit.

Jackson named her Cassidy, but we call her Cassie. She's teeny and she sleeps with him every night.

She's indoor-only -- I will not have her carried off by coyotes, thank you very much -- and she likes everybody.

I think we really lucked out this time. I mean, she's going to live forever, right? 

Day Twenty-seven

In tortoise news today, we've been seeing a lot of Peanut as she migrates around the house looking for the right nook to hibernate in for the winter. She's refusing all food, no matter how tasty (romaine, bananas) or exotic (Japanese pear, raw hamburger). That worried me for a few days, because I think tortoises should be more like bears and gorge themselves before curling up in someone's Ugg boot for three or four months. This year, though, she's having trouble finding just the right spot for her nap. Like Goldilocks, or the Buddha, it seems she's trying to find the middle way. In front of the warm refrigerator vent is too public; the patch of sun on Jackson's carpet too transient; and even though that spot underneath Peewee's dog bed fulfills her requirements for dark, warm, and private, inevitably one finds a dog's ass pressing down upon one's shell, sometimes accompanied by an unnecessary amount of scooting and barking.

Checking In With Peanut

Eden M. Kennedy: How's it going? I see you have your head wedged beneath the refrigerator again.

Peanut: It's what I do. At first it was just a way to get some warm air up under my shell, but now I think it's become something that defines me.

EMK: Your trademark position.

Peanut: Exactly.

EMK: So, the warmth is what initially attracted you . . .

Peanut: It's the quality of the warmth that attracted me. The sun, it's so harsh sometimes.

EMK: What about the foot traffic in the kitchen? For a tortoise on a tile surface, that has to be an issue.

Peanut: I get hockey-pucked once in awhile, it's true. But my instincts are pretty sharp, I just suck everything into my shell and . . . you know.

EMK: Pray?

Peanut: Sure, I pray. There's got to more than this, right? Something out there, shaping reality. Providing for us. How else would bananas and romaine lettuce just fall from the sky? Miracles happen every day, if you know where to look.

EMK: How do you feel about being one of two females in a house with four males?

Peanut: The hamster's a male?

EMK: That's what they told us when we bought him at PetCo.

Peanut: Damn, I wish I'd known that before I bought him all those drinks the other night.

EMK: Wait, what?

Peanut: It explains the beard, though.

EMK: Is there some neighborhood animals-only nightclub I don't know about?

Peanut: Oh, sure. It's back by the garage where that nice couple put up the bird feeder.

EMK: So you're a lesbian tortoise?

Peanut: Does that shock you?

EMK: Uh, no. Well, yes, I guess it does, but the fact that you were trying to pick up a hamster shocks me more.

Peanut: It was supposed to be ladies' night. Ladies ONLY. He must have tucked it in to get past the raccoons at the door. They're normally pretty shrewd.

EMK: Wow.

Peanut: I know, right?

EMK: Well, thanks for your time, Peanut. Do you have anything else you'd like to say to your fans?

Peanut: This Thursday night, half-price Jell-O shots until 9:00 p.m.!