Do animals in the wild have fatal accidents? Do they perform acts of negligence that lead to an otherwise healthy creature dying? Are humans the only ones who are capable of conscious willingness to deprive their fellow animals of care?

We humans have failed our world in more ways than I can count. Today, we have failed specifically a needful dog, his last given name of “Beethoven”. He was failed from a pup, and humans again failed him as an old dog.

I’ve fostered dogs and cats off and on for 20 years. There are many sad cases out there, and many happy stories. A local humane society put out a plea for help. They were over-crowded and that only means one thing for these poor, unwanted animals.

Through a rescue group I work with regularly, we arranged for me to foster one of their over-flow dogs. A couple of Saturdays ago, I picked up a sweet but fairly untrained, older Heeler / Husky / Whoknowswhat mix. He had spent at least the last few weeks at two different humane societies in the state. The first was a high-kill shelter, and as far as anyone knew, his only fault was being old. He was a bigger dog than I’ve been fostering lately. Due to Pugsly’s diminutive stature, it’s often advisable to foster like-sized pups. But, the shelter needed help, and he seemed nice, so we all went home.

Beethoven had been with us for almost a week. He was clingy and anxious, but cuddly and friendly. He’d been good with Pugsly and with my neighbor’s dogs. I don’t know why he attacked me and my sweet Pugsly that Thursday night.

He punctured Pugsly through her cheek into her maxillary sinus. She will be okay, and I can’t capture with words how important that is to me. It was pure luck that I’d changed out of my work slacks and into my sturdy blue jeans. There was not a rip anywhere. My leg is badly bruised, with a number of deep teeth marks, and where the teeth had been against my jeans are bad abrasions. But I didn’t lose any flesh.

We were lucky.

It was triggered by something deep in his fractured psyche. One hypothesis is that the shelters who housed him accidentally for poor communications doubled up on his vaccines, causing a physical and mental break. Another idea is that he was broken somewhere a long time ago, and certain smells triggered that uncontrollable and terrifying anxiety.

Whatever it was, he was a victim. He was a dog. He didn’t have menace or ill-will. He was not angry at me because I didn’t give him an extra treat the night before. He acted on instinct or psychosis. We’ll never know, because we humans failed him every step of the way.

I’m sorry, sweet and troubled dog, whoever you were.

Animal control picked him up from my neighbor’s fenced front yard that night.

R.I.P. July 29, 2015



I wrote this the other day about my last grandparent dying.
generational shift r.i.p.

I keep picturing a Tetris game, where you complete a row and it ker-thunks down and that row falls off into a digital void.


The loss of the last of my grandparents feels like that row ker-thunking away. There is no bringing it back, and the game keeps pushing on. If you stop, everything piles up into a chaotic, frantic mess. But the loss of that row is a little scary. It implies that the next row, my parents, are next. Then I’m up.

And the game pushes inexorably on.

Generational shift 06/20/2015 R.I.P.

I was talking with my mom this morning about how lucky I was to have had all of my grandparents not only alive and well up through my adult-hood, but to have been so close with them.

When my maternal grandmother died (age 96) in 2008, I remember my mom saying that the torch had been passed to the next generation. My grandfather had died in 2001 (age 92) so when grandma died, my mom and her brother, my uncle, became the heads of our small family.

My paternal grandfather died in 1998. He was the only one of the four to have had a difficult death. He had worked in (auto) garages his whole life, except for his military service. He had a difficult death caused by a lifetime of smoking. Emphysema is not one of the easier ways to go.

He had permanent grease under his fingernails, which as a child fascinated me. To me it meant that he was a hard worker and had something to show for it. I think I was fascinated by both grandfather’s hands – my memorial speech for my maternal grandfather was about his large, worn, worked hands. My grandparents were blue-collar working people, with the rough, scarred hands to show for the toils.

My grandma who died this morning was an amazing woman. Like the rest of my family, hard working and tough. She had an indomitable spirit, that I often try to channel when I’m having a difficult time.

She was the last of my grandparents to die. She was 95 years old, and even while in hospice, her same stalwart spirit was there.

Her matzoh-ball soup was legendary in our family, and we were all saddened when she was no longer able to make it. In a Jewish family, food is one thing that we congregate around. It is how we communicate. I grew up with grandma’s egg creams, matzoh brei, (often with cottage cheese mixed in), melty butterscotch brownies, a never-ending confusion from grandma as to why I didn’t like gefilte fish, and of course, her delectable matzoh ball soup.

I’ll never have grandma’s matzoh ball soup again, but my Aunt will carry on the traditions of our family and we will now congregate around her hand-hewn oak dining table.