Tag Archives: Louis

The Dogs Fault

Dogs come and dogs go.

Lou, our beloved, slightly deranged 14-year-old dachshund, will leave us soon. His health is poor; his quality of life declining with each passing day.

But this story is about mostly Toby, my aunt’s 4-year-old maltase mix. That’s 28 in dog years, for those of you contemplating the math. 28 to Lou’s 98. Quite the disparity; quite the gap to mind.

Louis and Toby lived together, as brothers, for three glorious days (or maybe the relationship was closer to great old uncle and weird little nephew). My aunt gave Toby to us because she was recovering from an illness and believed she couldn’t handle the all the work a dog entails. Dogs are, admittedly, a lot of work.

We picked Toby up from her house with Lou in tow to make sure they’d get along.

No fights. Lou remained largely indifferent to Toby, much to Toby’s disappointment.

That night, the texts and emails began.

Hello Cindy! How is Toby? Can you send me pictures? I am sure he will be happy with you because you are young and can take him to the park and for walks and things.  

Hello Cindy! Did he cry in the car on the way to your house? I hope he ate all his food.  

Hello Cindy! Did Toby sleep well last night?  

Hello! You took the dogs out walking together! Did Toby have a good time? 

Hello! Did Toby eat his food this morning? How much did he eat?

Hi! Is Toby still OK? How are his eyes?

Hello Cindy!


Hello Cindy!


Hello, Hello, Hello!

On and on it went. I was inundated. I have never been quite so inundated before, in my life, ever.

Finally, a phone call on the third day: “Auntie, do you want Toby back?”

She came the following afternoon, a stressful trip as I had inadvertently gave her my old house number instead of my new one and she had to stop at more than a few gas stations and ask to use their phones because she doesn’t have cell phone and didn’t have any change in her pocket but then she couldn’t reach me because my cell was acting up and didn’t receive any of her phone calls until, finally and all at once, it did.

But that is another story.

And although Toby seemed to have settled rather nicely into his new life at our place, he was as overjoyed to see my aunt as she was to have him back in her life. Lou, as ever, remained totally unaffected.

End of story.


A month later my mom told me that Toby had taken ill. Addison’s disease. He needed emergency surgery and will be on various medications for the rest of his life in order to manage this otherwise debilitating condition.

“Your poor auntie,” said my mom. “But lucky you. You see?” It was, to her, all a matter of simple fact and she let it die right then and right there.

Not so for me.

You see? See what? What did that mean, you see?

That you shouldn’t give something away unless you are sure you don’t want it back? That fate, it seems, can intervene and undermine even the best of intentions? That Mom Knows Best?

Whatever happened, it’s not the dog’s fault. The dogs are blameless. As far as I know, Toby is doing well (better, at least, then poor Lou), but the medications are expensive and my aunt is not sure how much longer she will be able to afford them.

Still, it’s not his fault. After everything, he is totally without blame, completely without fault and actually there was never a need to exonerate him, ever, was there?

He didn’t do anything.











Leave a comment

Filed under Change, Death, Dogs, Family, Pets, Relationships, Time

Things I Learned Last Week

  1. Dried out grapefruit is still grapefruit, but not great grapefruit.
  2. Semi-identical twins!
  3. Sometimes the weather really is all there is to talk about.
  4. If you put a dinosaur on it, I will buy it.
  5. More lemon water please!
  6. Take care of your cast iron and it will take care of you.
  7. Beware the jerks (but no need to fret over them).
  8. I like asking nicely until I don’t.
  9. My dog is DRAMATIC.
  10. Nothing like bad advice to put the rest of the day into perspective.
  11. Spicy beef patties or nothing at all.
  12. It’s good to be present, if not always available.
  13. Talents come in all shapes and sizes and, occasionally, smells.
  14. How to read the imperfect novel (still learning that one).
  15. Less brains doesn’t mean more heart.
  16. I hate “Actually.”
  17. Odd numbers please me.



Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Books, Change, Communications, Dogs, Food, Hobbies

Idiot. Dog.

I warned him, but he didn’t listen.

“Don’t touch the dog. He doesn’t like it.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I’ll make him like me!” He smiled, his mouth an exhausted rubber band pulled listlessly to both sides of a disingenuous and frankly uninspiring face.

Not exactly a “no means no” kind of guy.

Lou snapped at him twice before he gave up, retreating with a look of pure resentment shot toward me like I hadn’t just warned him, hadn’t told him so. Exactly so.

Of course, it was the dog’s fault, wasn’t it? And because I am responsible for the dog, Lou’s not liking this particular man was also my fault; the dog is still my dog, after all, and it shouldn’t snap at anyone, least of all someone determined to make him like him.

Imagine making something, someone, anyone like you. Being blameless to such fault. Imagine believing in that, as a person.


According to a book I read about filmmaking, an easy way to signal to the audience that a character is a good person is to have them pet a dog.

The dog, of course, has to let them. Has to want to be approached in the first place, to say nothing of the person approaching it.

Now. Imagine that.



1 Comment

Filed under Dogs, People, Politics, Relationships

Stranger Encounters

They happen.

At times and in turns unsolicited, unprovoked, utterly unreal.


1. Flower Market, New Delhi

Random Man: “You there! You are at the flower market and you can’t smile?”


2. Dog Park, High Park, Toronto

Dogwalker [runs up to me and Lou]: “Look at him! Him? He’s beautiful. Lovely bone structure. You’re lucky to have him. Congratulations!”


3. Coffee Time, Kitchener

Woman Steps Through Front Door: “Dang, dang! Y’all got none of them there cheese cussiants, do ya?”


4. Beaches, Toronto

City Garbage Worker [jumps off side of moving truck ]: “Hey! [points to truck driver] He’s Filipino!”


5. Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City

Vendor [referring to Stephen]: “He has such a gentle face!”


6. Beaches, Toronto

Random Man [points to Lou]: “Heinz 57! Heinz 57!”


7. Downtown Kitchener

Random Man [blocks my path, bows]: “Ni hao, ni hao, ni hao!”


8. Calgary, Alberta

Random Man [yelling from driver’s side of parked pick up truck as Stephen and I walk down the street]: “Got him walking on the outside of the sidewalk! Good man you got there!”





Filed under Communications, Dogs, People, Places, Plants, Uncategorized

Dream State

Lou got me up early and it was a relief.

“I’m tired of dreaming,” I told him. “Let’s go out.”

It was a miserable, wet day and the sun had already decided to shun the remainder. That was also fine, also a great relief. Such a pitiless contrast between the dream and waking world was exactly what I needed to ground myself in the here and now. The real world?

I suppose I could describe the dreams; these dreams I’ve been having over the past couple of days (and days). And I do remember them.

But no.

The imagery is still too sharp, the flashes of dream reality too visceral. I feel more than I remember, but that’s more than enough.

Why this? Why now? That is not for me to say.

Let me just say: the subconscious is a lewd, lewd place.

Also: I am so over cowboy hats.



Leave a comment

Filed under Dogs, Dreams, Interruptions, Mind and Body, Pets

Conversations About Dogs With Near Strangers

I had met Shari before, at a seminar, but we did not speak to each other, the class getting much in the way of that.

On our second meeting, waiting in the dim little hallway for the class to begin, we talked about dogs.

Hers is 8 years old, a bulldog/boxer mix with an attitude problem that she’s tried to work with him to, if not remedy (he’s too far gone for that), mitigate. I told her about Lou, our 14 year old dachshund, and even got into the specifics of his many issues and countless idiosyncrasies, and all the things we’ve done to help him along with those.

Strangers can talk to each other about their dogs for days; dogs being a “safe” topic for discussion with people you don’t really know all that well – a way to talk about yourself without having to talk about yourself.

Dogs help us open up.

A confession, then, from Shari: “I know this sounds weird, but I’m already thinking of the day I’ll have to put my dog down. I shouldn’t be, he’s old but not that old. But I can’t seem to help it.”

“I think about that too,” I replied. “It’s not so weird.”

“Well, when I have to, I’ll have to. You know?”

Dogs teach us about responsibly (to think about it, to take it seriously). They help us with our empathy. And they teach us about mortality: the impermanence of things, and what (if anything) we can do about it.

Another confession from Shari: “I’m worried about how my newborn son will get along with my dog. But we’ll just have to figure something out. I am not getting rid of the dog.”

Ah, yes. Of course.

Dogs help us prioritize.


Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Death, Dogs, Mind and Body, People, Philosophy

Dog Days

Louis recently had 14 teeth taken out in a procedure that quickly became a marathon operation, complete with dramatic skips and beats in which he, in his fright and confusion and special doggy frustration, tried to fight his way out; in which his breathing became abnormal (though it stabilized at just the right critical point for the work to continue); in which his teeth, while seemingly normal from the outside (and thus, primed primarily for a cleaning) were actually abhorrently rotten on the inside (hence the transformation of his dental work from standard to complex to troublesome), and in which the resultant financial cost went from the low $$ to the high $$$.

Yet, it was nothing, this being his 4th major procedure (2 back surgeries for herniated discs; 1 for a snapped ligament) in his 14 long years of doggy life. He’s since recovered, as he has 3 times before. He acts as if nothing had happened, though there is less and less of him for anything to happen to as time goes by.

Dog Days

The absurdity of this dog. The absurdity of it all – all of it, our life together.

In a 1972 letter to Jane Vonnegut, Kurt Vonnegut mediates on the nature of death, having perused the copy of Markings, Dag Hammarskjöld’s memoir, that Jane has sent him:

“I open it at random, and I find a lot about dying meaningfully, and about sacrifice and pain and mysterious destinies…Are you really tuned in to this sort of stuff? Should I be? Well – I’ll try, but it’s not my style. I, for one, am glad I didn’t die in Africa, although that opportunity was mine. I still believe that a dog is going to kill me, and it scares me – and it pisses me off” (2012: 192).

There are fates worse than death, just as there are a million ways to die. Vonnegut’s is the closest that comes to mind as being, if not right, if not justified, if not even true in its most tangible sense, than fair.

Harsh, but fair. More than fair.

This dog is going to kill me.




Vonnegut, Kurt. (2011). Letters, ed. Dan Wakefield. Delacorte Press: New York.




1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Books, Death, Dogs, Health, Pets, Philosophy, Relationships

Duck Calling


Duck Ducklings

The questions were unexpected and extraordinary.

“Are you raising ducklings?”

“How are you going to keep a duck in the city??”

“Will that be good for the ducks, especially with the dog being there???”

No mention of the fact that the duckling – at turns named Donald and Daisy and Howard and Daffy; at turns referred to as “it” or “they” – has two heads, or upon closer inspection (but not that close, isn’t the wooden stand a dead giveaway?) are clearly not alive.

All of the sudden, a two-headed duckling living in the city, being raised in my apartment and with my dog around, was as plain as the beaks on their faces. The real issue, the one more vital than the simple, evident fact of their existence, was my terrible and selfish decision to take the duckling home with me.

It was touching, in a way, and also remarkable; this concern for something so small and innocent. People do have a way of getting past the obvious.

I cleared the air (Everyone! These are fake real ducklings. Please stop asking how I am going to raise a duck in the city!), and laughed and laughed.

Soon after, I put the duckling under glass to keep the dust off of them.

And now I sometimes catch myself looking at it, terrified they cannot breathe.

Ducks Under Glass

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Hobbies, Pets

The Kindness of Strangers

I get greetings in the street all the time and this, I’ve long accepted, is not an outcome of anything specific to my being as a person, nor does it have much to do with my being as a person as it pertains to being a person walking in the street as the greetings happen overwhelmingly whenever I’m out walking with Lou.

To be completely honest about it, the greetings are overwhelmingly for Lou with – at most – a few offhand hellos and hi theres for me. I am oddly appreciative of this, since it at least relieves me of that great social burden of Small Talk with Strangers. I get to be less polite; I get away with a not insignificant rebuff of my own.

Nothing or nothing much for me?  Moving right on along!

Tit for tat.

Lou was with me the day at the Farmer’s Market with the encounter with The Man.

The St. Jacobs Farmer’s Market is a well-kept affair, refuge to bleary-eyed suburbanites, their dogs and children alike.  It’s a fine place to take the in-laws, if they’ve never been there before or haven’t been there for a Good Long Time.

It is a quaint but not without a certain flair; quaint, but not unassuming.

A double negative kind of place, with a petting zoo and buggy rides in the summer and year-round kettle corn.

You can get kale there, and baby chickens.


Meat and cheese.  Sorry.  Meats and cheeses.

You know it.

TUBS OF SAUCE? You know, you can get those too.

The Man was seated just outside the food court doors on a decorative, undoubtedly handcrafted bench.  He was clutching a bag of dog treats (you can get those at the Market too!) and scanning the passersby with his big, watery eyes. He saw Lou as we walked by and said hello to Lou, and as he said his hello to Lou, he reached deep into the bag, extracted one brown toasted treat and offered it to Lou, stopping just shy of Lou’s inquisitive doggy nose. It was a fluid, graceful motion, a well-practised almost instinct.


Lou backed away from the Man’s outstretched arm and open hand and retreated to his fallback position behind my legs. We backed away from him, intentions clear.

But the Man was not deterred.

Head up, big, watery eyes set to motion again, scanning, scanning, Lou and Lou’s rejection apparently totally forgotten, it didn’t take The Man long to find them: other dogs, other owners, many of whom were at first rather pleased by the attention and then rather perplexed by the situation.

For the Man, he had dog biscuits, LOTS of dog biscuits (possibly even expensive ones), but no dog.  Neither doggy hide nor doggy hair.




And no words spared for human ears; none so much as wasted.  He addressed the dogs and the dogs alone with man-sized, childish glee – “Hello little boy! Hello big girl! You a good doggy, hmmm?” – big watery eyes lighting up, for instance, when a little brown and white shih tzu pulled violently away from its wary owner and accepted a biscuit with manners that even by dog standards seemed voracious and sloppy.

The dog was happy, the man was happy, the owner, who knows? I was happy Lou refused the biscuit.

Which leads me to wonder.

How many inevitable rejections occurred that day? And for whom?

But for whom?

Looking at it from all sides, I cannot not conclude that that depends on who was really in control after all.

Dogs and all.

It knowingly nose.

The nose knows.


Leave a comment

Filed under Dogs, People, Places

The Cruellest Month

Here is how April came and went.
The weather that day was probably lovely because I at least remember taking Louis down to the beaches before it happened, a pleasant 45-minute jaunt from the house and back.

It was as I was making dinner that I noticed the twitching; little jumps and spasms that ran up and down his legs and caused his dachshund back to bunch up in a kind of inverted “C” and forced his nose to the down to the tile even as he tried to look up at me with his eyes.  Then it passed and there he was, begging for food again.

The next day, the twitching started again.  Then it stopped.  Then there he was, getting up and down and up and down and up and down again and again and again and not being able to settle anywhere because, we later found out, it was painful for him and he was trying to figure Things out in the only way he really could…
The Saddest Place in the World
Toronto.  Home of the V-E-C, an emergency veterinary trauma centre.  With over 200 employees and over 20, 000 patients a year, the VEC is one of the busiest veterinary facilities in the country…

Going to the emergency vet is a lot like needing to buy a used Jeep that you already own from a car salesman you really want to sort of like.  But you can’t because he’s got this kind of power over you – a little condescending, nearly snide, unavoidable – and so your impression of him finally hardens to a mild contempt that you find increasingly difficult to control but surprisingly easy to suppress, considering.

It’s pretty much exactly like that.

We had been transferred to the care of Toronto’s Veterinary Emergency Clinic after two days of guesswork from another vet, who was actually kindhearted and accommodating even in the face of his spectacular and total failure to provide us with a viable diagnosis.  But that’s what referrals are for.

The VEC is a strange, strange place.  I had been there before when Lou had eaten something truly rotten in High Park and had blood coming out where blood must not ever come out.  That was a little over two years ago.

Standing there again in the foyer, the whole place smelling of ammonia and accented with watery-eyed portraits of spaniels and longhaired cats taken by a pretty good photographer, surely.  You can see grown men in tears at the VEC and women pacing outside, smoking cigarettes wedged between rigid fingertips. The first time I was there, at the VEC, I saw a small family by the doors, dressed in their Sunday best, crying silently, the boy clutching a tiny doggy bed.

I noticed they installed an aquarium since the last time, one of those flat, wide-screen tanks with the bright, impossible blue water that hang on the wall and are full of plastic articulated fish – all of it hermetically sealed from the inside out.

One less worry.

The two new vets put in charge of Louis’ care I have dubbed Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon.  Dr. Liz Lemon’s last name was something that sounded like “Lemon”. I can’t remember what his face looked like, but he had one.  It may have been unique, even, or at least I don’t remember him having a face I already know.

Not my Father.  Not the Pope.  Not Tony Soprano or Shaquille O’Neal.

Hence, Dr. Liz Lemon.

“Lizzing is a combination of laughing and whizzing.”

“And I don’t really think that it’s fair for me to be on a jury because I’m a hologram.”

Many people tend to think of crisis professionals as kind of saviours; more than hero-people who get interjected into the trauma at exactly when they need to be there.  In the moment, it’s hard enough to try to understand what’s happening. So in retrospect, maybe – maybe there are saviour-y people among us – saving us from circumstance as only fully trained and appropriately compensated personnel can.

So Dr. So-and-So was maybe not a hero, and maybe he was, but above all else he was a hard-nosed professional.

  • Clipped.
  • To. The. Point.
  • Detail Oriented.

He personality itemized the bill for us, which was, in its way, extremely thoughtful.


Everything on this costs money.

It was clear that the relationship between Dr. So-and-So and Dr. Liz Lemon was one of superior/subordinate, with Dr. Liz Lemon, I imagine, fetching pricey lattes for each of them during every shift even though, come to think of it, he never had a coffee habit before he started at the VEC…

Even heroes have to start somewhere.

Actually, they film a reality show at the VEC called ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre (narrated by the disembodied voice of singer/songwriter Jan Arden).  It’s a lot like the show ER from a few years ago, but with animals as patients instead of people and so much more thoughtful contemplation of indistinct x-rays. Having watched ER Vets: 24/7 Animal Trauma Centre a few times in that dead TV hour between 7:00PM – 8:00PM, I felt as though the voice should have been there during my episode too, setting up procedures and an embedding motives. Moving the plot along.
Four Options That Were Really Three That Was One Half of Everything 
*OPTION 1: It’s a compressed disc, a common aliment of the long-backed dachshund.  If treated immediately, the dog will return to 90% his old self. Pay for this.

*OPTION 2:  It’s meningitis, another genetic propensity of those wonderful dachshunds.   Treat this right now and the dog may survive, after a fashion.  Pay for this.

*OPTION 3:  It’s *OPTION 1 and *OPTION 2.  Pay for both.

*OPTION 4:  It could be one or the other, and treating one will not preclude the other if the other is in fact what is really happening.  Pay for both.

There was also the ***PERM-OPTION***: put the dog down and end it all.

If he had been untreatable and/or incurable pain then, yes, it would have been a considered Option.

My emptied savings account and newfound willingness to dance for money says that it was otherwise and that we, accordingly, chose otherwise.
Happy Birthday(s)
Stephen and I have our birthdays in April.  How about that?
Operation Option 4 (a.k.a. “Operation Disembodied Voice of Singer/Songwriter Jan Arden”)
A day after Option 4 was executed, Dr. Liz Lemon called to say:

“At this point, we feel it’s best for Louis to come home for his recovery instead of continuing his stay with us. He didn’t sleep at all last night. He just sat there…staring at us with his eyes.”

Later, I found out that Lou had quickly earned a reputation as perhaps one of the most difficult dogs the VEC has had to deal with in recent memory.

Good boy!
The Dog Is Leaking 
“…the fact is that dogs put on IVs can leak urine for days after the IV had been removed.  Possibility the leaking is from a urinary tact infection, which we neglected to warn you might happen after the kind of surgery your dog has had but, hey, we’re telling you now.  Just watch it for a while and we’ll do something if it persists.”
No Laundry
We had no laundry.  For the four-to-five days Lou was leaking, we could not do laundry because the plumbing in our building was backed up.  We were also paranoid of leaving the house in case something happened and we needed to go back to the VEC (a $60 round trip by taxi that required both of us to handle Lou, given his condition), so going out to shop for diapers and pee pads and whatever was not an Option.

Our solution?  Milk the dog.  Try to catch the drips before they hit the carpet or very soon after they hit he carpet.  Um, we used a lot of towels, turning them and hand-washing them in the bathtub in a constant cycle of >>> HOLY OH MY FUCK WHAT ELSE???

(what else?)

Our dog needs a towel boy.

They tell us now it tree roots that were blocking the pipes and oh my god!  Right now! Look how many fucks I give.
1 +1 = 0.5 Medication
The following transpired early Monday morning because getting an answer on Sunday evening is all but possible save for the Lord.  

(Lights up:  CINDY is sitting hunched over at the kitchen table, leaning heavily on her hand as her right arm rests on the surface, her other hand jamming an outdated Sony Ericsson “brick” into her ear.  The voice of DR. LIZ LEMON can be heard crackling intermittently from the phone.  From the window in front of CINDY’s tired form we can see that it’s, let say, overcast?)

CINDY:  “Yes.  I’m sorry I didn’t notice it earlier, but it seems Lou only has half of the little pills he needs for the pain.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (a tinge of condescension, nearly snide in his voice): “Right. ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 8 hours for 5 days.  Then give ONE Tramadol HCI (15mg capsule) by mouth every 12 hours for 5 days.  OK?  That’s 25.”

CINDY: (clam, persistent given task at hand):  “O-K.  Yeah.  But he has to take TWO of those a day, so it should be, like, 50.”

DR. LIZ LEMON: (not even slightly mollified):  “Oh. I see.  Well, I’ll write it up and you can just come down here and get it.  I’ll have it waiting at reception.  Don’t worry.  You won’t have to pay.”

CINDY: (who has already paid for the full prescription and realizing that the next three hours will be devoted to crossing the city to pick up the pills and, more importantly, that well-timed witty retorts are not something you can gainfully trade off on in real life):  “Thanks. So.  Much.”
Summer Plans
“Hey!  Aren’t you guys going away in, like, a few weeks?”

“We are no longer going away due to total lack of funds.  Spare change?”

“Huh?  What?  Whyyy?”

“Here is how April came and wen…you know what, man?  Just read the blog.”

“What blog?”

My blog.”

“You have a blog?”


“Is it any good?”
A Jan Arden Voiceover Is Going on Now
After a harrowing few days, full of tears and woe and heart wrenching decisions, Louis Jefferson Phan was finally able to go home. Thanks to the skill and care of Doctor So-and-So and Liz Lemon was there too and because of the well-motivated work of the staff VEC, the future looking bright for the little dog that could.
…In Other Words:
We’re back to being around even now, minus all of the above.




Filed under Dogs, Interruptions