In Sickness and In Health

Fiona Apple and Janet

I wanted to share this story because it’s important. And it’s sad, but also beautiful and inspiring. It’s about the loss of our beloved dogs, which is something we all eventually face, but it’s especially relevant because it addresses the choice to honor your friend by putting their care and final days ahead of everything else. No matter who you are, no matter what.

I lost two of my best friends this year, Henry and Nicholas. Lots of things were put on hold, set aside, canceled. The days and nights of bawling and praying and bargaining and pleading “please eat just a little!”. And the precious moments that you can give them that have always been special, but are now even more delicate. It’s something you have to go through for them. And with them. It’s part of the deal, part of the package. And it’s an honor.

Quote from Fiona's letter

Well said, Fiona. Janet is a 14-year-old pit bull rescued by Fiona Apple as a puppy from a dogfighting situation in LA, and she is her best friend. She’s also dying, so Fiona decided to postpone the South American portion of her tour, and wrote the most eloquent letter (she’s Fiona Apple, after all) to explain her decision. It’s a beautiful and honest tribute, and it gives me added strength when I remember the crummy individuals and situations I’ve encountered during those trying but necessary times. So, you go, Fiona.

fiona_letter

The transcript:

It’s 6pm on Friday,and I’m writing to a few thousand friends I have not met yet.
I am writing to ask them to change our plans and meet a little while later.
Here’s the thing.
I have a dog Janet, and she’s been ill for almost two years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then, an adult officially–and she was my child.

She is a pitbull, and was found in Echo Park, with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face. She was the one the dogfighters use to puff up the confidence of the contenders. She’s almost 14 and I’ve never seen her start a fight, or bite, or even growl, so I can understand why they chose her for that awful role. She’s a pacifist.

Janet has been the most consistent relationship of my adult life, and that is just a fact.
We’ve lived in numerous houses, and jumped a few makeshift families, but it’s always really been the two of us.
She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.
She was under the piano when I wrote songs, barked any time I tried to record anything, and she was in the studio with me all the time we recorded the last album.
The last time I came back from tour, she was spry as ever, and she’s used to me being gone for a few weeks every 6 or 7 years.
She has Addison’s Disease, which makes it dangerous for her to travel since she needs regular injections of Cortisol, because she reacts to stress and to excitement without the physiological tools which keep most of us from literally panicking to death.
Despite all of this, she’s effortlessly joyful and playful, and only stopped acting like a puppy about 3 years ago.
She’s my best friend and my mother and my daughter, my benefactor, and she’s the one who taught me what love is.
I can’t come to South America. Not now.
When I got back from the last leg of the US tour, there was a big, big difference.
She doesn’t even want to go for walks anymore.
I know that she’s not sad about aging or dying. Animals have a survival instinct, but a sense of mortality and vanity, they do not. That’s why they are so much more present than people.
But I know that she is coming close to point where she will stop being a dog, and instead, be part of everything. She’ll be in the wind, and in the soil, and the snow, and in me, wherever I go.
I just can’t leave her now, please understand.
If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out.
Sometimes it takes me 20 minutes to pick which socks to wear to bed.
But this decision is instant.
These are the choices we make, which define us.
I will not be the woman who puts her career ahead of love and friendship.
I am the woman who stays home and bakes Tilapia for my dearest, oldest friend.
And helps her be comfortable, and comforted, and safe, and important.
Many of us these days, we dread the death of a loved one. It is the ugly truth of Life, that keeps us feeling terrified and alone.
I wish we could also appreciate the time that lies right beside the end of time.
I know that I will feel the most overwhelming knowledge of her, and of her life and of my love for her, in the last moments.
I need to do my damnedest to be there for that.
Because it will be the most beautiful, the most intense, the most enriching experience of life I’ve ever known.
When she dies.
So I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and reveling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel.
And I am asking for your blessing. I’ll be seeing you.
Love, Fiona

The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs

The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs

A few months ago I did a post about covers from The New Yorker magazine that feature dogs, spawned by a 1966 cover I bought to frame. Well, I’m psychic—or maybe psychotic—because a few weeks ago I stumbled upon this new release, The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs. The book features articles from past issues, cartoons, and also lots of covers interspersed here and there. Malcolm Gladwell even wrote the foreword, which is equally weird since I loosely tied him into my post as well (yes, I know he writes for the magazine, but I wouldn’t expect him to be the go-to author to write a foreword for a book about dogs). Eerie.

So of course I bought the book, and I’m really glad I did. It’s one of those books that you can pick up, read something short or long, have a laugh, or just flip through. It’s also one of those books that makes a really great gift, especially for the holidays since it’s already red (so just add ribbon, because even when you wrap a book everyone knows what it is). Some of the contributors include Roald Dahl, Maira Kalman, Arthur Miller, John Updike, and E.B. White.

Here is a detail from a 1938 cover, and below a more recent cover by artist Mark Ulriksen.

1938 cover & Ulriksen cover

In addition to essays, there are other interesting spreads mixing things up like this one with a poem titled The Unruly Thoughts of the Dog Trainer’s Lover by Elizabeth Macklin. Opposite the finished poem are the author’s notes and scribbles.

Spread from the book featuring a poem by Elizabeth Macklin

There are also fun little details here and there, like these section openers:

Bad Dogs and Good Dogs section openers

And of course, cartoons are everywhere. Here are a few laughs to wrap things up:

New Yorker Cartoon

New Yorker Cartoon

New Yorker Cartoon

All content from the book The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs, copyright 2012 Random House, Inc.

Capitán : Argentina’s Hachikō

Capitan standing watch in the cemetery

The story of Japan’s Hachikō is one of the most touching tales about the eternal bond between man and dog around (if you’re not familiar with the story, you can read my post here). It’s also the most popular post I’ve featured here on Dogs Make Everything Better, having been viewed by thousands of people the world over. So I thought I’d share this incredible story that I’d read about a few months ago because it’s very similar. But unlike the tale of Hachikō and Professor Ueno that took place many decades ago, this story is taking place right now.

It’s 2005 in the small town of Villa Carlos Paz, Argentina and a man named Miguel Guzman adopts a German Shepherd mix dog named Capitán as a gift for his son Damian. When Mr. Guzman suddenly passes away the following year the family notices that when they returned from the funeral service, Capitán had disappeared. But soon they saw him again.

“We searched for him, but he had vanished,” widow Veronica Guzman told the newspaper La Voz. “We thought he must have got run over and died. The following Sunday we went to the cemetery, and Damian recognized his pet. Capitán came up to us, barking and wailing as if he were crying.”

Capitan at the cemetery

But get this: the truly amazing thing is that Capitán had never been to the cemetery, or the gravesite. According to cemetery director Hector Baccega: “He turned up here one day, all on his own, and started wandering all around the cemetery until he eventually found the tomb of his master. During the day he sometimes has a walk around the cemetery, but always rushes back to the grave. And every day, at six o’clock sharp, he lies down on top of the grave, stays there all night.” Mr. Baccega added that the cemetery staff now care for and feed Capitán as he maintains his steadfast vigil.

Damian Guzman says that the family has tried several times to bring Capitán back home, but each time he disappears and returns to the cemetery. “I think he’s going to be there until he dies, too. He’s looking after my dad,” he said.

Incredible.

All photos La Voz.

Can Anyone Offer Caesar a New Home?

I wanted to share this post on my blog because when I read about it yesterday and saw the picture, it really got me. I realize there are so many dogs everywhere that need homes, but this poor guy’s two sisters were adopted and taken away so now he’s there without them. Just too heartbreaking to ignore, leaving him there in Athens in a shelter. If there’s anyone in the UK that’s interested, there’s a group that will cover transportation costs from Greece. And what’s better than having your very own Caesar from Athens!

Click here to see the original post that I saw, with Caesar shown at the end.

on the road with Animalcouriers

We were very sad to leave Caesar behind at the Filozoikos Shelter in Athens.

Conrad from the UK-based Friends of Animals — Nea Filadelfia group that supports them says that if anyone in the UK is interested in adopting him, the transport costs will be covered.

Please email Kiki at kyka@otenet.gr if you can offer Caesar a permanent home.

The lovely people taking care of him at the shelter say: “Caesar is a shy boy, but he really loves dogs and loves to play with them. 2.5 years with a chain is a very very long period.”

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Sally by the Sea

Sally enjoying the sea breeze

My favorite time to visit the beach is in the fall, when the weather is still pretty nice and the summertime crowds are gone. Water wings, folding chairs and suntan lotion are out; quiet fishermen, the odd jogger or dog walker is in! This is Sally’s favorite time also, she thinks it’s always best when the shore birds outnumber the sunbathers. Another benefit of a crisp fall day at the beach is the constant breeze, with Sally’s ears at full sail.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here and across the sea!

North Carolina's Crystal Coast

A Girl’s Best Friend

Sami Stoner of Ohio running a cross country race with her dog Chloe

A few years ago, Sami Stoner was just a regular 8th grade school girl in Ohio who loved to run cross country but things started to change when she began having trouble with her vision. After many tests it was confirmed that she had a rare eye disease and she would never recover. While still able to see somewhat, she describes everything as blurry colors and shadows, and was therefore designated as legally blind. Although she’s able to make use of certain aids to help her read and study, her love of running appeared to have to end because of the danger involved. Or did it?

Through the help of a specially trained golden retriever named Chloe from the Pilot Dogs organization, Sami was able to resume her love of running cross country for her high school team, having just run her last senior year race last month. As you might expect, she and Chloe have developed an incredible bond that continues off the racecourse as well. ESPN featured this inspirational 10-minute story recently on their site, and you can watch it here. And yes, once again you’ll need a kleenex.

For Veterans Day

Image

In honor of Veterans Day here in America, I wanted to share some information about a great group called American Dog Rescue. One of the projects this foundation is involved with is helping to airlift soldiers’ adopted dogs from Afghanistan to reunite them back here in the US. These were stray dogs that crossed paths with the troops while they were serving there and bonding with them, supplying them with love and support during the hardship of war and long separation from home. There’s a great short video from NBC Nightly News here, filmed about a year ago at JFK as a group of soldiers were reunited with their canine pals when they arrived for a new life in America. Get a kleenex!

American Dog Rescue supports many other great projects, and another veteran-related one is Paws4Vets which works to pair dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD and other traumas, also for veterans from many other countries. A big salute to American Dog Rescue, Paws4Vets and of course our wonderful veterans and the dogs that make each day brighter for them. We are forever in your debt.

If you’d like more information on American Dog Rescue and Paws4Vets, please click here.

Photo courtesy of American Dog Rescue