My Friend LeeLoo

mood: devastated | drinking: who cares?

the_leeloo

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 petfinder.com. 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.
loo

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.
-Lo

loo_yodes
(LeeLoo & her old pal Yoda)

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

Granny Dates

mood: mild | drinking: h2o

looandreilly

There will be a big update coming soon, but for now I have only a few tidbits to offer. Tantalizing tidbits…

Up first, the good news that came this week: Our latest cinépoem, “Homogeneous” has been accepted into the Sacramento International Film Festival. It will be showing on the big screen on Monday, April 19th at 7pm. You can check it out live at the 24th Street Theater, 2491 24th Street in Sacramento.

And in other cinépoem news, my video partner Michelle and I are hard at work on the next release, an ambitious 8-part cinépoem titled, “The Tyranny of the Mirror.” We’ve recorded all the vocals and have shot 3 of the 8 vignettes so far. We’ll probably continue shooting throughout the next few months–our longest shoot ever, by far. But it takes some time to put this stuff together. It will be well worth the wait, I promise.

If you’re wondering what “Granny Dates” has to do with any of this, well, it doesn’t.

Granny Dates are outings that LeeLoo enjoys with her best fur pal Reilly, who is also an elderly lady of 12 years. The two old bags like to get together at the beach, act all excited about seeing each other for about 3 seconds and then proceed to completely ignore each other for an hour.

That’s how LeeLoo shows her love, I guess. She’s due for another big Granny Date tomorrow, and who knows if the world will survive all that excitement.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sitting over here on the couch watching the last of the Olympics. Oh yeah, and writing that “big update” I promised you.

-Lo, back to work.

In Dog Years

mood: content | drinking: tea

leeloo_12years

It’s true, what they say about dogs being man’s best friend.

My parents bought me a puppy when I was five years old. We lived out in the country and they wanted me to learn the responsibility of pet ownership. Mitzi the Beagle became a good friend of mine, accompanying me on most of my childhood adventures.

Mizti was joined later by Biskit, a blonde Cocker Spaniel, who had a natural mohawk and the sweetest temperament. They were better friends to me than I was to them. I went off to college and left their care to my mother, leaving them behind as if they were teddy bears I had outgrown.

I channel some of my guilt over my unfaithfulness into my love of LeeLoo, my current best friend of 7 years.

Although, let’s be honest, LeeLoo is easy to love for her sake alone.

Boy and I decided we wanted a dog 2 years after moving to San Francisco. (And after trying, unsucessfully, to cultivate warm fuzzy feelings for a tank of tropical fish.) We did our breed research and settled on Boxers–a medium-sized short-haired dog with a good temperament.

Then we scoured websites like Petfinder.com for a friendly face and a good backstory. We noticed LeeLoo’s giant underbite right away, and added her to our list of potential candidates.

Early one Saturday, we drove the 50 miles south to San Jose. LeeLoo was there, with Bay Area Boxer Rescue. She was 5 years old and had been abandoned by her family in LA: sent first to the pound, then to the LA Boxer Rescue. No one wanted her. So they sent her up north to try her luck, and that’s where we found her.

LeeLoo was the first dog we looked at, but after spending nearly 2 hours with her, we couldn’t leave her behind. When we left for home, she was in the backseat.

I quickly learned that being a dog owner in the country doesn’t mean squat when it comes to living with a dog in a metropolitan area. LeeLoo, Boy and I had a lot to learn about each other. We learned quickly with the help of a dog trainer named Dennis and logged a lot of hours of together just roaming the streets, sidewalks and park trails of San Francisco.

LeeLoo soon proved herself to be a loyal, loving and hilarious companion. After 7 years together, we know each other well.

She’s traveled with us on countless roadtrips all over California, up to Portland (where she met her famous Internet boyfriend, Henry D. Monster), down to Phoenix and all points in between. We’ve explored the beach, climbed the mountains; I’ve brushed snow from her paws and pulled out a few cactus needles, too.

She’s always waiting at the door when I get home and no matter how bad my day was, she manages to make me smile.

LeeLoo is part of our family, and today she turns 12 years old. That’s something like 84 in dog years, but as I told her this morning (while handing her a piece of birthday bacon), she doesn’t look a day over 65.

Boxers don’t often live into their teens, and many of them go before their time due to cancer. We’ve been lucky so far, and we’re hoping LeeLoo has many good years left to her. (If 7 naps a day on the couch can add years to your life, she’s going to be spry well into her second decade.)

Here’s to you, LeeLoo. We’re going to celebrate by going to the beach later, with a stop for some cheese on the way.

-Lo, who believes that dogs know a lot more than you might think.

Practice Child

Mood: relaxed | Drinking: not so much

leeloo_nap

A new poem for you, started in June but not finished until last week…

Practice Child

After yelling at my dog,
I decide I will be a terrible mother.

The dog doesn’t want much.
Head pat. Butt scratch. Kibble
and bits.

A child wants more,
takes all. I am afraid
of my overwhelming lack.

I have stored up just enough patience
for paw prints on couch cushions
for plastic bags of fresh poop
for long walks on the beach
followed by a car ride fragrant
with ocean-flavored dog.

But I know nothing of strollers and Similac
of the wonders of flushable diapers
and the dangers of Bisphenol-A.

I am attached to my own independence,
to the ability to spontaneously dash out for dinner
or read away an entire afternoon.

What’s more, canines don’t ask complicated questions
about why God sits back and lets bad things happen.
They don’t fall into a tantrum frenzy upon discovering
that all the blue popsicles have already been eaten.

See? Already the dog has forgiven me,
pushed her wrinkled fawn head
into my chest, snuffled my cheek
with foul-breathed devotion.

Surely, at the very least,
a child would make me pay
for the therapy.

-Lo, who will take some credit for being a pretty good auntie.

The Cone of Shame

sadconehead
Mood: Tired
Drinking: Whatever I can reach…

As Ms. LeeLoo here can attest, there are few things more pitiful than a pooch wearing the dreaded Cone of Shame.

The Loo had some dog drama a week or so ago and some stitching up was required. Now she must wander about wearing the Cone, so as to provoke pity from everyone she meets and obligate them to ply her with treats and luvin’.

Well, really, she has to wear the “E-Collar”, as the vet calls it, to prevent her from lick-lick-licking at her stitches and making them all wonky. But LeeLoo is beginning to think this all could come in handy as she learns that sometimes people feeling sorry for you is a really good thing.

I have been playing Florence Nightingale to LeeLoo’s wounded soldier, and have not had time for much of anything other than answering the call every time the Loo needs a hot compress! Clean sheets! More jello! Another backrub! Change the channel! Read me a story! Hold my paw! Help me down the stairs! Serve me some tasty dinner! Sit closer in case I think of something else I might need you to do!

Now that she’s a week or so into the healing stage, the old girl is feeling much better and workin’ the sympathy angle for all she’s worth. But the first few days she was really a sight to behold, all hopped up on painkillers with her tongue going all flopsy out the side of her mouth.

The main consequence of all of this is that I’m oh-so-sleepy and fallen behind on my list of things to do. Although I can blame some of that on the Olympics and their late-night coverage of the events I actually want to see .

Nonetheless, a few things have happened. I met the lovely Caitlin of Caitlin Bellah Photography for a photo shoot this weekend at an abandoned hospital out on Angel Island, the results of which will be seen here on this website in future months.

Meanwhile, there’s a cinepoem waiting to be edited and new poems cropping up when I least expect them, so I’ll be back on track soon. Just let me get a few snoozes in and I’ll be right with you…

-Lo, who has never been known to snore.

Another Day Another Dollar

powells
Mood: Clickety-Clackety
Drinking: Water

With all the recent excitement involving the wee new nephew, I’ve neglected to mention the trip to Portland.

In the calm before the holiday/baby storm, Boy and I packed the LeeLoo and a few choice bags into a rental car and hit the road northward to rainier climes.

Boy’s parents lived in Oregon before returning to California a few years ago, so I’ve been to the Pacific Northwest before, just not for long. Boy’s sister now lives there with her husband, a Greek Orthodox priest, and their two children. She’s been there for two years, at least, and our visit was long overdue.

Not to mention our adorable friend C who, as many northern Californians seem to do, recently made the Portland move. I also have another Portland friend who I hadn’t seen in 8 years.

And then there was LeeLoo’s Internets Boyfriend and his fine ladies. (They are so fine, they deserve a post of their own, so I’ll save the dog tale for later, if that’s ok with you…)

So. Obviously. Lots of reasons to visit Portland.

I’m not sure what I expected. Rain, yes, you always expect the rain up there. Big green trees, yes, that too. But so many San Franciscans seem to migrate northward with stories of more affordable housing and a city that is just as wonderful as our foggy town.

So I was expecting, I don’t know, some sort of San Francisco-like mecca. Rain-weathered Victorians and fog-shrouded hills. A bit of mist and magic, perhaps.

And while I found Portland and its people to be perfectly pleasant, if a bit too cold (the weather, not the people), I don’t think I’ll be giving up my San Francisco residency in exchange for a cheaper mortgage anytime soon.

The magic just wasn’t there for me, not like it is here. That’s the biggest reason why not. It was a bit too crunchy for me, as well. (Somehow there seem to actually be more hippies in Portland than San Francisco.) Also, San Francisco summers are about as cold as I like it. Chill the air below 40 and add a few bucketloads of rain and I’m staying far away.

Speaking of the rain, I totally showed my tourist stripes whilst knocking about downtown Portland with Boy and Sister-in-Law. We stepped onto the street and I popped open my plaid umbrella to keep the rain off my head and, oh look! I’m the only one standing in the rain with an umbrella.

In San Francisco, you can tell the tourists by their summertime shorts. In Portland, you pick them out by their umbrellas.

The one thing that makes me blink and think twice, though? Powell’s Books. It’s every bit as magical as you’ve heard. Which is saying something. Because you know those certain places that get you all worked into a lather — you hear so much and you’ve waited so long and you’re so excited to finally see it for yourself and then you get there and it’s oh, so disappointing.

Not Powell’s.

There is nothing there to disappoint. A city block full of lovely books. All easily shelved and cleverly organized. The book jockeys are sweet and helpful. And the lady in the science fiction room needed no explanation as to who Sergei Lukyanenko was.

And even better than the two heaping bags of books Boy and I walked out of there with? Powell’s bought a few of my books!

Oh yes, you can now find The Secrets of Falling at Powell’s Books. At Burnside. In the Blue Room. Small Press section. Poetry shelf. Go down to the W’s and look, there I am.

Lo, who’s still reading her way through those two bags full.

Mistletoe and Miscellany

poinsettaMood: List-Checking-Off-ish
Drinking: Daily Dose of Water

No matter how much you plan, how many vows you make, cookies you bake, lights you string, fa la la… No matter what, this season always gets to you with its busy-ness. With its sometimes sincere but often forced cheerfulness. Its overwhelming red and greenness. Its sugar overdoses and last minute gift panic.

I’m not panicking, though. I’m roadtripping.

Boy and I are packing the LeeLoo up and driving north to Portland to visit his sister, a few friends, and LeeLoo’s Internet Boyfriend, Henry D. Monster.

LeeLoo’s excited only because she saw some tasty treats and one of her babies go into a duffle bag, so she knows she’s going along. She has no idea what’s in store for her. She and the Monster have not yet met in real life, but now that they’re taking their relationship offline (i.e. out of me and Henry’s mom’s myspace photo exchanges and fake dog-messages and into the dogs’ actual lives), well, much cuteness and butt-sniffing shall be had! There will be photos. Count on it.

I’ve got other plans to avoid holiday panic — I’m boycotting the company Secret Santa thingie, for one.

Even better, my sister’s baby is due between Christmas and New Year’s, and even though he hasn’t even taken his first breath, he’s already got more presents than Boy does. I can’t stop buying adorable wee t-shirts that say stuff like “I do my own stunts.”

My parents’ plane touches down in CA soon, and since holidays with the entire Witmer family don’t happen often anymore, it’s quite exciting to think about the full house and long chats by the fire that we’ll soon be having. Actually, nervous energy getting spread around the maternity ward waiting room is probably more like it.

And in the midst of all the holidays and hullaballoo, I’ve still got some training to do. I’m up to 9 miles now, and my half marathon date creeps steadily closer. I’m still fundraising for Team in Training/The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. You’ve got another week or so to sponsor me, if you want.

There are also a few poetry readings in the works for early next year. Dates to be determined. I’ll let you know when I know.

-Lo, who misses sword-sized icicles.

Doggone

hairyeyeballMood: Dirty
Drinking: Daquiri

Two dogs too many.

That’s what I have.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been dogsitting McKinna, my sister’s extremely huge, panda-headed hound. (The one on the right.)

She’s very sweet and adorable, as you can see. But, and I know I’ve said this before — it bears repeating — DUMB AS A BOX OF VERY DULL ROCKS.

The good thing is that she’s too thick to know how strong she is, so she flops around like a tiny puppy, knocking over anything (or anyone) in her way, and then gets her feelings really hurt when you tell her to knock it off. If her wee brain was a bit larger and she knew that she’s got the muscles of the Incredible Hulk, well, I’d be in a world of hurtin’. There’d be no listening when I tell her to “Leave! Me! Alone!”

She’d just be all, “Oh, yeah, tiny lady? WHO’S GONNA MAKE ME?!” And then she’d want to arm wrassle and when I’d try to run away, she’d pin me to the rug with her four ginormous puppy paws (the size of Christmas hams, they are) and lick my face right off.

Her mum and pop are coming back tomorrow, and I’m sure the Loon and I will miss balancing our tea cups on top of her outlandishly large noggin and saying things like, “Pffft! She’s sooooo immature!” (I just know that’s what LeeLoo’s thinking when she sits demurely on the couch watching all the shenanigans. She’s very adept at the eye roll and put-upon sigh.)

I, for one, will not miss the roughhousing, though. McKinna is a man’s dog, and I am clearly not man enough for her. She’s gonna go home and tell all her friends that her aunt is “so boring” and “a total stick in the mud” and “like, such a crabby beyotch! I hate going to her house.”

At least she’s learned a new trick. Now in addition to “sit” and “high five”, my large fur niece will return home knowing exactly how to “fuck off!”

-Lo, who really does love that damn dog.

Reading Accomplished

reading3Mood: Well Done
Drinking: Sweet Tea

Thanks to everybody who came out for the reading last night, especially those of you who had to stand in the back because of the lack of chairs. I hope we made it worthwhile.

I didn’t know any of the other poets who read, but it’s always fun to hear other people’s work.

I’m still recovering from the bug that has whupped my ass for the past 8 days, and midway through my reading, I realized I sounded like Nasal Hazel, all twangy and honky. For those of you who haven’t heard me read before — I usually sound quite a bit less like a stuffed goose.

Things at home are beginning to settle down after the vacation/sicktime upheaval. Although there is an extra 4-legged beastie in the house, and she just might be 4 legs too many.

My sister and peeps are on vacation, and since they kindly babysat the Loon while Boy and I were away, it’s our turn to sit for McKinna, the giant-headed christmas-ham-pawed panda-faced freakshow of a creature that my sister calls Dog.

McKinna is sweet as pie but dumb as a stick and I think I’m going to be happy to see her backside leaving through the front door this weekend. Two dogs make life more interesting than I need it to be right now. I’m ready to get back to status quo.

Speaking of normal and getting it back, Shel and I are FINALLY getting around editing Abattoir this week. We’ve been more than a little bit busy with other things, but I know you’ve all been waiting a good long time for a new cinepoem, and I promise you’ll have one soon.

Then after Abattoir comes Kiss & Fly and then Apres un Reve, and we’ll soon be shooting even more. Back to normal, indeed…

-Lo, who thinks that naptime should be normal. Every day.