Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sucess Story

Woohoo! Book Promotion 101 workshop alum Kelly McMasters just informed me that her book, WELCOME TO SHIRLEY: A Memoir of an Atomic Town, tops the Oprah Book Club list of Addictive True Stories.

Kelly is the co-director of the KGB Nonfiction Reading Series, and teaches writing at Columbia and mediabistro.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Jenny, The Best Dog

Six months ago, Jenny was going on long mountain walks, splashing around in Cherry Creek and running away after deer. She'd slowed down considerably since the days she'd raced against motorcycles, but she was still way ahead of us on the trail. Then she slowed down even more. By March we had to wait for her to catch up when we went for long walks. By April she refused to go on long walks at all. Arthritis in her hips, the vet said.

We tried various medicines, in various dosages, but Jenny got increasingly feeble. By her 13th birthday in mid-June she couldn't even walk around the block. Nor could she get upstairs to sleep on the floor at the foot of our bed, which she'd done since she was a puppy. After the last vet visit 2 weeks ago, I took Jenny to her favorite park. We'd only walked 5 minutes when she turned around and headed back to the car.

After that she wouldn't walk more than 50 yards from the house, and spent most of her time stretched out on her side on the bare living room floor, panting. Whenever I petted her she emitted the faintest high-pitched whine.

Friday morning I called the vet to ask for an end to Jenny's suffering--and our anguish over her. He said he'd be here at 8:00 a.m. today.

At 7:00 this morning I sat on the front steps, with Jenny stretched out at the bottom because she couldn't make it back into the house. At 7:30 I brought out a cup of tea and yesterday's NY Times Magazine. At 7:45 Darling Husband came out to sit with us. Jenny moved into the shade along the north side of the house and barked for the last time at Snowy, the cat next door, who was walking along the fence. At 8:00 we were more than ready for the vet, but no one showed up.

At 8:15 I called the vet's office. The receptionist said they had us down for an appointment there. She was unswayed by my tears of grief and rage; no way was anyone coming to our house today.

Jenny was always terrified at the vet's; she'd start panting and trembling as soon as we pulled into the parking lot. Which was only as far as she was going to go today, we decided. If the vet wouldn't come to our house, he could at least attend to Jenny in our car. So she'd be calmer for her final trip, I shoved 10mg of Valium down her throat (like a cat, she always spat out pills). When I pulled my hand out, a big chunk of one of her molars came with it.

DH pulled the car around in front, close to the curb. I had to lift Jenny's hind end so she could get onto the floor, and then again so she could get up onto the back seat.

There was quite a crowd at the vets'. My eyes were so blurred with tears that at first I couldn't read the euthanasia form I was given to sign. For a half-hour, DH and I sat with Jenny in the car, petting her and telling her what a good girl she is.

Finally the vet came out. He had the good grace to apologize profusely for the screw-up. Then he and the tech injected Jenny with a sedative, and then something lethal.

I kept my left hand under Jenny's neck, my fingertips buried in the fur at her throat, where I could feel the vibration of her breathing. I stroked her head with my right hand and kept telling her it was okay to let go, that she'd always be my baby.

"This'll only take 4 or 5 minutes," the vet said. But it didn't. It took a good 10 minutes, plus 2 more injections. The reason was most likely circulatory problems--"probably her lungs," which fit in with Jenny's rapid decline and harsh, labored breathing.

The vibrations in her throat grew fainter and fainter, then stopped. In another minute I could feel Jenny was gone. Now my baby can rest without pain.