Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Saturday, May 13, 2017
Monday, May 1, 2017
Twenty years ago, I walked into dog rescue quite literally by accident. While home from France for the winter holidays, I went with my bestie Carey to the Connecticut Humane Society to help search for her first dog. Initially reluctant to join her, I thought seeing all the undeservingly homeless dogs would break my heart. Which, predictably, it did. The surprise plot twist was that I found myself walking out the door holding the leash of my own adoptee. Somehow, I was not deterred by the fact that I lived in another country, nor was I concerned that my mom had allergies significant enough to prevent any dog of the fluffly variety from setting foot (well, paw) in their house. I left the shelter that day with Tucker, a 12-year-old golden cocker spaniel with a heart of gold. Over the next several years, we formed an unbreakable bond, from which I developed a boundless love for the breed.
The second cocker I adopted was Ladybug. She was sweet and wiggly, and hailed from southern California. Where Tubby (Tucker’s nickname, for obvious reasons) had been shy and cowered in the presence of strangers, Ladybug loved absolutely everybody. She immediately snuggled her way onto my parents’ couch, and into the heart of everyone who crossed paths with her. Two years old when we met, she brought us a decade of joy, and inspired in me a love of all things ladybug-themed. When Bug developed renal failure and subsequently died, I was inconsolable. The day we buried her, I returned to our house in Fairfield with our surviving dog, Jellybean. As I sat hugging her and crying in the kitchen, I noticed a little ladybug crawling across the counter. Although I’m not a big believer in signs, I found it incredibly touching and comforting.
Three years later, beloved puppy mill survivor Jellybean was found to have a brain tumor. I panicked and opted for aggressive treatment. Despite our best efforts, she declined rapidly, and just a few short months later we said goodbye. Bean and Bug were the absolute best of friends, at least one part of them touching at all times. On the tearful drive home from the vet after bidding farewell to JB, I tried unsuccessfully to convince myself that she and Bug were reunited at a great bacon buffet in the sky. Then I walked into our house in Easton to find dozens of ladybugs crawling up the windows of the living room. I could hardly believe my eyes. Was it possible that Ladybug had come to take Jellybean home? I had no idea what to think, but it was at the very least an amazing coincidence.
Ladybugs have continued to make cameos in my life, each time around the passing of a dog. Last summer, our hospice foster Lady left us, and again that day I found ladybugs in our house. I tried to debunk the connection, reasoning that when Lady died, it was summer, which is ladybug season. However, when senior rescue Daisy Mae left us last week, it was January. Low and behold, just after hearing that it was her time, we found a ladybug on the counter. The ladybug phenomenon is not limited to this house, or even this town. At the time my sister’s cocker Leo was dying, they were living in Portland, Oregon. Two days before he passed, she and I were on the phone when she found a ladybug crawling up her refrigerator. 48 hours later, I went outside in Mystic, Connecticut and found a ladybug on my car windshield – and I knew Leo was gone. At this point, it has happened too many times, in too many places, during too many seasons to be sheer coincidence. I’m not sure what I believe happens when we die. If there is a heaven, though, our dogs are there – with Ladybug first in line to welcome everyone.
Monday, January 23, 2017
How can you be turning three today? You were only just a newborn! A fragile, tiny, five-pound newborn who fit in your Daddy's hand. Exquisitely perfect and delicate, we were terrified to hurt you those first few weeks. Ok, who are we kidding, I'm still afraid to hurt you. Only now, I'm more afraid of someone else hurting you. And maybe afraid for the someone else who does, too. I have taken to saying that if I ever spend the night in jail as an adult, it will likely be over my reaction to something that happens to you on the playground. Other parents laugh when I say that, perhaps they don't realize that I'm not joking...
In this past year, you've grown into an inquisitive, agile, impy little force of nature. You are still the sweetest child, sensitive to the feelings of everyone around you both human and animal, and eager to meet the needs of everyone from your Grandma (bringing her a hug and a frozen coffee yogurt immediately upon arrival) to your doggies. You are musical, and delight in dancing to your favorite songs - unless Mommy harshes your mellow by trying to sing along. You've shed some of that gorgeous baby chub, and are now a brave and agile explorer, running, climbing, and splashing, your canine bodyguards never far behind.
Your smile can light up a room, and your very presence completes my life. Thank you, little T, for the magic you have brought to us. I'm very proud of who you are, and can't wait to see who you become. I love you more than I could ever put into words.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
One sunny day last fall, T and I zipped down to pick up Lili early from school. Our eventual destination was the Bronx Zoo, which has discounted admission fees on Wednesdays and is a blast for both kids. We'd secured written permission for her to be dismissed just after lunch, and anticipated quick turnaround time at her elementary school since it's small and well-organized.
As we turned down Pound Ridge Road, I saw emergency vehicles blocking the school's entrance, lights flashing. My heart immediately began pounding. I pulled up next to one of the firetrucks and rolled down my window, only to find myself mealy-mouthed and unable to speak. After a moment, I composed myself and told the fireman that I was there to pick up a student for early dismissal. He pointed to where I could park my car, and told me to "be quick."
My mind raced. What the hell was going on?! It wasn't likely to be an injury or accident, because that would not require entrances and exits to be blocked off. As I hustled in carrying T, we passed EMTs and policemen standing in groups in front. We went to the window, I signed the book and asked the anxious-looking clerk if I could pick up Lilia Gomez who was in Mrs. Crupi's class. She said that she wasn't sure they could release her yet because they were about to start a code-red drill.
A drill. Thank God. Hugely relieved, I pointed out fire trucks to T while we waited for the front office staff to sort out releasing Lili. She eventually appeared, and as we walked outside, the kids hand in hand, I noticed that she did not seem remotely concerned by the mass of emergency personnel swarming her school. Once in the car, I asked if she was excited to be getting out of school early to go on an adventure to the zoo. "Well," she said, "I'm excited, but a little disappointed because we're having a lockdown and I'm going to miss it. They're really fun."
I was shocked. Fun. She thinks lockdowns are Fun. Fun, in my opinion, is not synonymous with Lockdown. One one level I found this heartbreaking, but also curious, so I initiated the following conversation:
K: What happens when your school has lockdowns?
L: It's really cool. We turn out the lights, crouch down away from the windows, and hide. No one can make any noise.
K: What are you hiding from?
L: Animals, usually.
L: Yes. You know, sometimes a wild animal accidentally gets into the school, so we have to hide from them so they don't know we are here and hurt us.
K: A wild animal, like a deer?
L: Yes. I hope we have another lockdown soon, since I'm missing this one.
I recounted stories of wayward deer jumping into a Greenwich Chinese restaurant and the seal tank at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, and our conversation shifted away from emergency preparedness drills. The exchange stayed on my mind long after my car pulled away from the school, though. The kids enjoyed the zoo that afternoon, thinking of nothing but amazing animals (and the occasional snack). My mind was still on the lockdown, and Lili's comments related thereto.
Late that night, I lay awake thinking things over. I marveled at Lili's naiveté, and complete trust in the somewhat nonsensical explanation she'd been given for why her class had to play regularly scheduled lockdown "games." I thought of the massacre at Sandy Hook, and the families - some of them known to us - whose children lost their lives, or (at best) their innocence. I remembered the time, some years back, when I had been to a gun range and fired a gun. How easy and inexpensive it was to rent or buy one, just flash a driver's license, fork over a little cash, and pick a target. No test, no training. Just pay, point and shoot. There were women's and even kid's themed gun models. Would you like a Hello Kitty AR-15 for your daughter? Pink-handled pistol for your purse?
Lili was in first grade when the Sandy Hook School massacre happened, the same age as many of the precious children lost. T is about to start preschool, out of the my ever-vigilant sight, under someone else's supervision. I believe that our schools are safe, I do. But I'm scared for our country, even our community. How will we change in the next four years, without a president fighting for better gun control? What will we tell our children about the vitriolic, venom-spewing man leading our country? If we preach a gospel of peace and love at home, will that be enough to balance out the increased outbreaks of violence and hate? When we encourage our children to trust the good guys with guns, our policemen, will they believe us? Should they?
Sadly, I don't know. This is not meant to be a political commentary. These are just the thoughts running around in my head, and sadly I don't expect to find answers to them any time soon. For today, I will remember twenty children killed in the place where they should have been the safest, and the six adults who died trying their hardest to protect those little lives. I will hug my baby boy tighter. I will be grateful for all that I have, without forgetting all that was lost.