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My Friend LeeLoo

mood: devastated | drinking: who cares?


I woke up this morning to a world that’s just not right.

There was no LeeLoo snoring at the foot of my bed, and she wasn’t curled up like a peanut on the couch, either. There are empty patches on the floor in the bedroom and the living room, where her dog beds are supposed to be. The dining room is strangely bare of bits of kibble. The house is so quiet. The clock ticks so loud. And LeeLoo is just… gone.

It’s been nearly 8 years since Boy and I saw her picture on A side profile of a small fawn boxer, sitting quietly with her lower jaw jutting about 2 inches out below her top lip. “That one,” I said. “We definitely have to go see that one.”

I remember walking up to the foster home in San Jose where she was staying and seeing her through the fence. She trotted right up to us, smaller than I had imagined. “I know who you are,” I said. Two hours later, she was riding home with us.

LeeLoo has been a part of our family through some of the best years of our lives, and some of the most difficult times, too. She’s been such a faithful friend to me. Boy travels a lot for his work, but I was never alone when he was out of town. I had LeeLoo. Our routine would just change slightly while he was gone. Instead of hopping onto the foot of the bed in the middle of the night, the Loo would pop right up onto the bed and curl up on Bruce’s pillow, within arm’s reach, every single time.

Boy is out of town for work again, but there was no LeeLoo on his pillow last night.

She was elderly for a boxer lady. We adopted her when she was 5, and she would have celebrated her 13th birthday this December. Pretty impressive, since boxers usually fall prey to cancer at a much younger age.

But LeeLoo has been healthy and happy for a long time, and at her senior checkup just a couple of months ago, the vet passed her with flying colors and said he thought she’d be around for quite awhile.

So I was making plans, having visions of LeeLoo and the Bean. She loved kids and babies, with those small deliciously lickable faces. I had imagined LeeLoo when we brought Bean home from the hospital, all excited at this new fun adventure we all were embarking on. It’s fairly heartbreaking to realize that Bean will never get to know her.

Everything took a turn for the worst 2 weeks ago when LeeLoo suffered a seizure on a Tuesday night. It took her about an hour to recover from it, and Boy was on the phone with the emergency vet while I sat by her bed and stroked her. She seemed to perk up off and on over the last two weeks, but now that I look back on it, she never really returned to “normal”.

After a battery of tests that revealed nothing, no tumors, no anomalies in her bloodwork, nothing but a mild heart arrhythmia, the vet was stymied and said that only further (invasive) testing would help us determine the cause for sure. But Boy and I didn’t want to put LeeLoo through all of that. She seemed comfortable, she hadn’t had any more seizures. She was just more tired than normal, so we were all taking it easy.

At 34 weeks of pregnancy, my walking pace is so slow that a grandpa on a walker with arthritis could pass me by, so LeeLoo and I were well suited for taking short, slow walks together.

That’s what we did on Sunday, with Boy, in Golden Gate Park. I took these pictures of her, I guess out of some sort of unconscious intuition that they might be her last. loo3

We had a fun walk. She was slow, and tired, but so was I. So we took plenty of time to smell odd-looking blades of grass and meander slowly through the park paths.

Sunday night I helped her climb up on our bed and she slept there, snoring quietly between us, until 6 a.m. I had to help her down the stairs to the back yard, since she was pretty wobbly. But I never thought, yesterday morning, that it would be our last morning with her.

Boy left for his out-of-town job, I headed to work and dropped LeeLoo off at our friends’, Trini & Kim’s house. They also have a senior lady dog, Reilly, and she and LeeLoo have been good friends for years now.

At 12:30 Kim called to tell me that LeeLoo had vomited blood and passed out. They were on their way to the vet. I left work and met them there.

All I had to say to the receptionist was, “LeeLoo?” And they rushed me to a back room marked “Staff Only”.

And there was my little furry lady, my best friend, my LeeLoo, weak and limp on a shiny silver table, wheezing for every breath with an oxygen mask over her muzzle and an IV of fluids in her right front leg. She rolled her eyes and looked up at me and I just kept telling her it would be okay.

But it wasn’t ok. As far as the vet could tell, she had suffered another seizure that had damaged the area in her brain that controls respiration and blood pressure. Her legs were no longer working, her breath was not coming easy, and her blood pressure was nearly zero. They think perhaps she’s had a small tumor, slowly growing on her brain for months, and all the x-rays never detected it.

“If I were you and she were my dog,” the vet said, “I would let her go.”

I had to call Boy and tell him. I know it was very difficult for him not to be there. I got to spend several minutes with her, saying goodbye and telling her that she was the best dog in the whole word. Not a hyperbole. To me, she was.

And then Kim and Trini came in and we all sat around her and petted her and loved her until her breath went away.

The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was leave her lying there, so still, wrapped in her red blanket. I kept saying goodbye and then sitting back down and then trying to leave again.

I know she wasn’t there anymore, but it was the last time I’d ever see her, all the little bits of her that are so familiar to me. The scar on her hip where the Doberman bit her 6 years ago, the little lumps and bumps she’s grown as she got older. The soft flaps of her ears and the way she would sigh whenever I rubbed them. Her little chiclet teeth and her one-of-a-kind underbite. The way her long pink tongue would stick out and get all crispy when she slept. Her little footpads that smelled of corn chips. That little butterfinger tail nub that would wag so hard, her body would turn in a U-shape when you walked through the door.

I can’t believe she’s gone.

The house is so quiet, the clock ticks so loud.

I can’t stop crying.

Someday, I know, the ache will dull. Bean will be here, and Bruce and I will take her to meet a new dog, a dog who will ride home with us and become a part of our family and teach us new memories.

But that doesn’t change the fact that now there is no LeeLoo in the world. And we’re all worse off because of it.

I told LeeLoo, when I was alone with her yesterday, before the vet came with the needle, that she didn’t have to fight for breath anymore. That her pain would go away and she’d go meet her old friend Yoda, and they would both be young and healthy and happy, and they could go to the beach and chase birds for hours.

I don’t know what happens to our fur friends when they leave us, but I hope that someday, we will meet them again.

LeeLoo, I miss you. So much, my little friend. You changed my life. I love you.

(LeeLoo & her old pal Yoda)

(LeeLoo and her “internet boyfriend” from Portland, Henry D. Monster, who is hopefully feeding her bacon cupcakes right about now.)

What They Left Out of the Manuals

mood: snarky | drinking: water, water, water


I hate flip flops.

This is not a style statement or matter of footwear etiquette or anything like that. This is pure and simple personal loathing.

What did these innocent and sparkly summer sandals ever do to me, you want to know? I’ll tell you.

For the last three + months, they have become a permanent part of my anatomy. And I’m sick of them. I want to take them off my feet and burn them in a blazing, melty fire.

I feel just as strongly about sparking the demise of these rubber thongs as I did about burning my nappy blue P.E. culottes when I graduated from the Baptist high school. (And that was a threat I gleefully carried through on.)

‘Round about April, my feet and ankles started puffing up like puffer fish. Cankles had nothing on me. But the swelling was sporadic. It only happened when I sat for long periods (like at work). So I could still squeeze my tootsies into my boots, my Mary Janes, my favorite Tzubos.

And then May came along and the only time I ever see my ankles anymore is when I first wake up, stretch my legs up in the air and say, “Oh, there you are!”

By the time I’m at the sink brushing away the morning breath, my feet have begun to resemble rising bread dough waiting to be popped into the oven.

Before you hurl your wive’s tales and remedies at me, let me say that my ob/gyn knows all about the fat feet, and I’m fine. I don’t have pre-eclampsia or some other hysterical pregnancy problem. I’m just one of those lucky bitches whose feet feel like increasing their circumference for months at a time.

Which brings us back to the flip flops. They’re all I can wear anymore, and I can’t stand it. Even though I’ve purchased myself a few new pairs of the bright and shiny variety. Even though I make sure I maintain my pedicure so my toes don’t have to be embarrassed. Every time I walk down the hall and hear the “flip…flop…flip…” that accompanies my steps, I start looking around for some sort of flame and accelerant.

But this is just one of the things they don’t tell you about until it’s too late.

Everyone has a different childbearing experience, it’s true. So what happens to me probably won’t happen to you. All the same, it would have been great if someone had warned me that…

1. I’d become a shit driver. Call it pregnancy brain or whatever you want, but I noticed recently that whenever we both headed toward the car, Boy would take the keys. Usually we mix it up a bit, so finally I asked, “Do you want me to drive?”

“Hell, no!” he replied. “Haven’t you noticed, ever since you got pregnant, you’re a crazy driver?!”

I hadn’t noticed, actually. But after he said that I realized it was true. Just last week I reversed in the middle of a street to grab a parking spot that was opening up, completely oblivious (until horns started blaring) to the fact that there was a whole line of cars behind me and no room to reverse.

2. My ribs would feel like an alien chest burster was punching its way out. The feeling hasn’t remained constant [insert phew], but there were a few weeks there when I was sure that either my spleen was being slowly pancaked up against my ribs or I might be re-enacting the scene from Alien at the dinner table.

The doctor said it was probably just my rib cage stretching to accomodate my growing uterus. And I was all, “Wait, my RIB CAGE has to get bigger, too?”

3. I would begin to make sound effects for every movement. It’s true. Getting out of a chair? “Euf!” Getting into the car? “Wuf!” Rolling over in bed? “Hurk-eh-uh-hunf!”

And you don’t even want to know what I sound like once I’ve reached the top of a flight of stairs. Boy and I went on a (very slow, shuffling, octagenarian-style) walk the other day and I looked at him and said, “Remember when I could run 13 miles?”

Good times.

Perhaps they don’t tell you all of this ahead of time because if you knew, you’d never conceive. But, as everyone and their brother keeps telling me, “It will all be worth in when you hold that baby in your arms.”

And although it irks me that the people who love to say this the most are people who’ve never popped out a kid, I know it’s true.

So until then, I’ll just keep shuffling along, planning the fiery demise of my footwear and dreaming of the day when my old ankles come back to stay.

-Lo, who doesn’t even want to hear about how your feet went up a shoe size after you gave birth. Don’t give me nightmares!

Pictures That Talk

mood: here | drinking: drinks


I’ve written about my friend Dieter before (here). In February of 2008, he suffered a massive stroke that left him struggling to regain his speech and the full use of his right arm and hand.

As an artist who had, his whole life, expressed himself through words and music, Dieter suddenly found himself locked inside his own head, unable to communicate his thoughts, fears, feelings. He had to learn how to say his wife’s name, his son’s names.

Since 2008, Dieter’s journey has been long and difficult. It is likely he will never fully regain the use of his right hand, or ever be able to speak or sing again the way he used to.

But he has found new ways to communicate. Ever the artist, Dieter has turned to photography to express not only his own story (the picture above is a self-portrait), but the stories of others who don’t have voices. (See a sampling of Dieter’s photos here and details of his “Pictures that Talk” tour here.)

This week, Dieter emailed me a link to a video he’s created, and I want to share it here with you. He’s found the beauty inside the heartache, and it’s breath-taking to watch…

The Stroke of Silence

-Lo, who is always amazed at the human heart’s capacity for hope.

Cloud Cover

mood: overcast | drinking: the usual


The thermometers might be boiling on the east coast today, but out west in fog city it’s been cool and misty since the 4th.

We long ago gave up on seeing the official independence day fireworks in San Francisco. There’s always too much cloud cover. You end up staring in the general direction of the Bay Bridge, watching the fog turn a pale shade of green and asking your neighbor, “Was that a firework?”

This year was no exception. The 3rd was bright, sunny and warm, but by 4pm on the 4th, the sun had bid us adieu.

I don’t mind the fog, really, I don’t. I much prefer mist to triple-digit temperatures. But when the fog is more in your head than your atmosphere, that’s when trouble starts. And I am decidedly cloudy these days.

It’s normal, they say, these dips in demeanor. Hormonal changes and all of that. In this case, I think I’ll blame our “Preparing for Childbirth Class.”

Last night was part one, and we worked our way through “early” and “active” labor. Tonight is “transition”, which, by all accounts, is the real fun part. Including movies of babies’ heads crowning and all that.

I have always been a bit in awe of the whole childbirth process. It seems so primitive and raw, and miraculous too. I remember when my sister went through it and I saw her, right after, in the recovery room. She was exhausted and sweaty and utterly content. It was amazing.

And now it’s my turn. Or will be my turn, shortly, and I am, today, feeling overwhelmed by it all. I can chalk that up to some general lack of sleep, I’m sure. But this whole “getting the baby out” thing is becoming more and more real, day by day.

I’m not going to be one of those women who walks into the hospital with a 7-page birth plan. People keep asking me, “What are you going to do, what’s your plan?” And after I refrain from saying, “Wow, that’s so none of your business!” I explain that my plan is very simple: Let’s get this baby out in the safest way possible and make sure she’s healthy and I am, too. That’s it. That’s the extent of my plan.

Boy, however, is taking copious notes at the birth class and asking lots of questions, because we’re realizing that he has a big job too. He gets to calm me down and keep me sane and focus and tell me that I can make it. That’s no small task. So. Yay for him. Somehow we’re going to get this done, together. The two of us. Just like always.

So. I’m giving myself a pass on the cloudy feelings. I’ve got a lot going on. Another month of work, plus a huge cinepoem to finish and get festival-ready, plus finishing up all the arrangements that need to be made before the Bean arrives.

And if, from time to time, I have days when I’m not feeling all that sunny about all of this, well, that’s just how it is.

-Lo, who fears her posts get more meandering and incoherent as the days go by.