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requiem for a best friend.

“The heart of a dog is a bottomless thing.” – Tilda Swinton

Abby died right before I got married. She was my dog, and a lifeline that got me through the hardest times I’d ever experienced. Just a few weeks out from the biggest event of my life, her health began to rapidly deteriorate. Within days, she died in my arms.

She deserves a post of her own, but her’s is a story for another day. Suffice it to say that Abby was there when important people in my life, those who were supposed to love and protect me, harmed and abandoned me instead. When no one else would choose me, Abby did. It wasn’t a true substitute for what I needed, but it saved me nonetheless.

When she died, I vowed not to instantly replace her. How on earth could I replace her? The context and history of my time with her was unrepeatable. My vow lasted about a week, before Emily and I decided to get a new dog to start our life together. The space Abby left behind, at that point in my life and in the midst of so much change, was simply too large.

We looked into breeds, decided on a Maltese, found a breeder, and picked out Chloe. She’s still with us so far. She is a ninja past her prime, an eater of shit, a cuddle-slut and an all-around lovable asshole. Chloe was too young to leave her mother when we picked her out, so we’d visit her in the mean time to bond and whatnot.

Just after our wedding, but before leaving for the honeymoon, we visited Chloe for the last time before she was ready to come home. The visits were a little chaotic, because the space housed a multitude of dogs. The woman who bred Malteses would get puppies from other breeders to sell, so her place was a wonderland of adorable canines.

As I wandered amongst the pups, I noticed a soft coat wheaten, already tall for her age, terrorizing a small bundle of jet black fur. This tiny little thing, who looked as much like a mythical woodland creature as a dog, was not at all interested in the larger puppy’s desire to play. She was terrified, trying to find somewhere safe to hide.

Feeling sorry for this vulnerable little mogwai, I picked her up and got her out of what she imagined was harm’s way. She immediately snuggled into the crook of my neck. In that moment, a few weeks after losing a dog who had so clearly chosen me, here was a dog who immediately made her affection clear. I knew right away we were leaving there with a dog we hadn’t planned on. I’d saved her from a scary moment, and this was the first step in which she would save me in return.

Her name was Donkey. We didn’t even give her the name. It was already her nickname at the breeder, thanks to a three-year-old boy who would visit the puppies with his mother.

On one visit, the mother pointed at our future dog and asked, “What do you think of this puppy?” To which he proclaimed, “That’s not a puppy, that’s a Donkey!”

It became her name for the rest of her life, and it so clearly fit her. From the fact that she sort of looked like an actual Donkey, to the way her temperament often mimicked Eeyore, she was named well. Anyone who knew her well would agree. On the other hand, when new people would vocalize their dislike or confusion about the name, it took significant restraint to keep myself from saying, “Hey, guess what, you don’t get a fucking vote.”

She also loved pillows, like she thought she was a human. Sometimes, that resulted in her sleeping in the weirdest positions imaginable.

It’s not hyperbolic to say that Donkey was the perfect dog for me. She was as good a friend as anyone could ask for. She was loyal and tender, nurturing and playful, timid and sweet. She was also the best cuddler I have ever met, human, dog, or otherwise.

In my struggle with mental illness, small things can tip the balance between getting through the day and a catastrophic crash and burn. Donkey so often tipped that balance in my favor. She was a totem of wellness. I was able to show her affection and receive her affection in return in entirely uncomplicated and straightforward ways. That often loosened the perpetual knot in my chest just a bit. She made the darkness a little easier to bear.

Like many dogs, she was always there. Her affection never waned, her desire to be near us was constant. Yet, as a lover of many dogs over the years, I can honestly say there was something different about Donkey. I’ve never known a dog like her, and I can’t imagine I ever will again.

I know every dog owner would say this about their dog, but Donkey was genuinely special.

People who didn’t like dogs somehow liked Donkey anyway. People normally indifferent to dogs were fascinated by her and called her their favorite of all the dogs they knew. Our friend Brian — who lived with us for years in Seattle — says she is the first dog he ever loved.

Even at our vet, Donkey was an A-list celebrity. From the doctors to the techs, everyone at our vet is great. They are attentive and thoughtful, and take great care of Chloe, but Donkey elicited a special kind of devotion. When we got to the vet with Donkey it was like Norm walked into Cheers. Waiting in the exam room for the vet, techs would come in to visit just because they heard Donkey was around.

The day we had to put her down, when Donkey was taken upstairs to get her IV catheter put in, the techs made a message on her gauze to say goodbye.

Donkey was loved by so many, even though her attitude toward strangers, and even acquaintances, was reserved at best. Gaining Donkey’s affection was a mark of true approval, but ever afterward she would love you effusively. The few people she came to view as part of her pack received a genuine gift, because it was a position that was never earned lightly.

As a pet owner, you always know this day will come, when the story ends for good. Fuck, as a lover of anyone or anything you know this day will come. Still, there’s that small part of us that doesn’t believe it. It’s hard to imagine life without a person or animal that makes up such a big part of our world. Although we knew this day was coming, even knew it was coming relatively soon, I still find it impossible to wrap my brain around the fact that I’ll never see her again.

She was the best. She was the heart of our family, and the hole she leaves behind is larger even than I imagined. We miss you, Donkey. Love you, forever.

Donkey of House Small; first of her name, carrier of toys, maker of weird noises; she of boundless energy for games and an endless appetite for cuddling.
The end
The end

roused to mediocrity is back! probably. [five things 5.4.19]

It has been a long time coming, but Roused to Mediocrity has returned.

I’ve miss it too much to let it stay dead. I’m not myself when I’m not nerding out about the things I love. I miss using this medium to tell my friends about the cool shit I’m into right now. I miss diving more deeply into the things that moved me to parse out what impacted me. I’m not entirely sure why I’ve been hiding my passion for things the last few years, but I have been, and it’s stupid, and I need to stop.

Part of my life, part of me has been missing, and while RtM might not account for all of it, I need to be writing again, and this is as good a place as any to start.

I’ve shied away from jumping back in for fear I won’t do it consistently enough, but fuck it. Let’s do this.

What better way to get back into the swing of things than a good old fashioned ‘Five Things’ post. So here they are, five random things I’ve loved recently.

On with the show!


1.  Avengers: Endgame

Epic is overused these days, but it’s the only word that accurately describes last week’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to long-awaited onscreen battles.

Game of Thrones and the MCU have captured a huge portion of the pop culture consciousness for about a decade (eight and eleven years respectively), and last week included two massive battles royale that were meant to offer some semblance of closure for two devoted fanbases — along with the larger public who’ve been pulled onto the bandwagon.

Within the worlds of each story, both battles had the fate of all (or half of all) life hanging in the balance. Each had wildly overpowered villains. And each had a remarkably high degree of difficulty for the creators.

The difference between the two, in my experience, is that one was a mess, and the other stuck the landing.

Endgame had the same magic that the first Avengers film had in terms of the good kind of fan service — seeing it opening weekend at a 1am showing was not without more than its fair share of roaring cheers. And it offered satisfying conclusions for character arcs that have spanned more than a decade.

The notes all landed in terms of humor, action, acting, and poignancy. These characters we’ve grown to love were given their due at the end of a long road, and some of the more significant moments in the film were — on the other side of the coin from the cheers mentioned above — not without more than their fair share of sniffling throughout the audience.

The theater is often my favorite place to be, heightening the magic and power of cinema. Seeing Endgame with a theater full of strangers all invested enough to start a three hour movie at 1 a.m. was a genuinely communal experience. The quality of the film is the reason that experience was a beautiful one.

Bravo to everyone involved for taking a tough pitch and hitting it out of the park.


2. Russian Doll

I watched all of Russian Doll twice in a week. The first time because I started an episode to try it out and watched all of it in a day. The second time because I was so taken by it the first time that I got Emily to watch an episode, and we promptly watched the whole thing in an evening.

I love it so much. It’s funny and smart, and manages to be sardonic enough that any tenderness and hopefulness doesn’t feel like bullshit.

Everyone in it is great, especially Natasha Lyonne as our hilarious, irreverent, self-destructive, lovable asshole of a protagonist.

Most importantly, the show is my favorite narrative interaction with mental illness — and how much we all need each other — in a long time.

I should write more about this show, and maybe I will, but for now, suffice it to say that I really loved Russian Doll.

P.S. It also includes what will undoubtedly be my favorite line of dialogue from TV all year. I won’t write what it is, because I think it’s spoilery, but feel free to ask via message or IRL.


3. Love by Toni Morrison

I’m pretty sure there has never been a writer superior to Toni Morrison. She has peers, but no betters.

Her style is full of quiet power, never relying on overly flowery or ornate language, but instead delivering perfect prose in which every word is a gift.

She shines light through the stories of ordinary but marginalized people, Black Americans struggling for joy, belonging, or respect; for love, sex, or security; for revenge or power; for a way out or a way in; for hope or release; and in the process she reveals the beauty and darkness in every human life.

To quote Oprah — something I can assure you I never thought I would do in the life of this blog — “Toni Morrison’s work shows us through pain all the myriad ways we can come to love.”

Love is a difficult book to put down; not because of some narrative tension where we need to see what happens next, but because it’s such a gift to live with Morrison’s words. Her characters are so full of humanity, each feels like a full, living person, slowly revealing their inner world. The conclusion is moving and beautiful for all its tragedy, and it moved me to tears.

In related news, this:


4. Bob’s Burgers

Nine seasons in, and Bob’s Burgers is better than ever. At a point when too many shows begin teetering into poor quality, getting more desperate to keep an audience as characters grow stale, Bob’s Burgers just keeps improving. I’d say I don’t get the sense that Bob is planning to strap on any water skis for a daring jump over some sharks, but since that would be an amazing episode of Bob’s Burgers, it would be stupid to rule it out. Yet, the metaphor stands, Bob’s Burgers appears to be in no danger of jumping the shark any time soon.

I get that these characters check all my boxes. Droll weirdos who genuinely love and support each other in spite of all the pot shots is definitely my jam, but those elements alone don’t automatically make me enjoy a show or movie or whatever. More often than not it’s poorly executed, as if the characters were written by aliens who have only a vague approximation of human interaction. Aliens who believe that as long as a line is delivered in a certain tone of voice, with certain musical cues, it’s the same thing as writing genuinely funny and believable moments.

Bob’s Burgers gets it all right, and for my money, the Belchers are the best family on television.


5. Borderlands 3 

Okay, so this is over a month old, but I wasn’t writing a month ago. Borderlands 3 is officially happening. It has a release date and everything (Sep. 3)!

If you know, you know.

The end