The Tale of Frodo Waggins.

It has been a long few weeks since Junie’s passing. Right after everything happened, I was scheduled to work the American Country Music Awards. There was a production error, so I almost didn’t get to participate, but I did get to enjoy the show and the performances. Among my favorite performances were Jewel, Stevie Wonder, Lady Antebellum, and honestly, the show was presented very well. Texas or not, I never thought I’d see the day where I would grow an appreciation for country music.

My friends have been amazing during this time. Cards, calls, working to get me out of the house…. I had a wonderful post-rehearsal gathering with my show friends before seeing the actual show, and they’ve been inviting me out of the house to keep from dwelling too much on a more silent home. Anna and her husband invited Jen and I to the Laugh Factory at the Tropicana for a night of much-needed humor:

Don't forget to tip your waitress, folks.  Try the veal.

Don’t forget to tip your waitress, folks. Try the veal.

I also got tickets to see Still Life With Iris at the Las Vegas Academy Theater. So I got a little theater culture in of late.

But still… the house… my daily routine, has been so thrown off by Junie’s absence. I’m so used to having a little furry form follow me around that not having it was just too weird. Sophie’s a good dog, but she’d old and a little senile and a bit blind. She’s our “retired” dog. She just enjoys laying out in the sun and treats, but that’s the extent of what she does.

So on a whim, we ended up going to the The Animal Foundation. While the thought of a new dog wasn’t something I was very sure that I was ready for, one dog just isn’t enough. Sophie lost her companion as well, and she spent a lot of time in the backyard snuffling around for Junie.

I decided that I wanted another cairn terrier. I’ve spent my childhood through adult life with the breed, and that’s simply the type of dog I like. I saw one, named Peaches, who looked a lot like Junie. I don’t think she was “other dog friendly”, and I think the kennel scared her. She was friendly to me, but I understand the breed and it’s… “unique” brand of stubbornness. But in any case, we couldn’t see her as she apparently nipped one of the volunteers that day. I at least wanted to pet the dog, so I planned to come back the next day.

And yet, in one of the other cages, we ran across this little face:

The introduction.

The introduction.

The shelter called him “Keno”. He was a terrier… thing of some sort, and very friendly. One of the volunteers told me that he and his companion got dumped off at the shelter, which surprised me, given his gentle temperament. On top of that, the little dog he was brought in with was adopted, leaving him alone without his friend. But I was still set on seeing Peaches. I wanted a cairn, same as always.

And yet….

I couldn’t let it go, this little guy. I thought about him, and wanted to see what he was about, so I hoped he would be there upon my return. Keno or Peaches.

Peaches has apparently nipped another person, and was then rendered “unadoptable”, which meant if someone didn’t take her soon, it wasn’t looking good. But how could someone “see” her if she wasn’t going to be made available? Sophie was brought along, and Peaches snarled and growled at Sophie, scaring her. I shook my head sadly. I couldn’t do anything to help her.

That bothered me….

Keno, however, bounded out immediately when I walked near his cage as if to say “Let’s get the day started!” I looked at him, thinking of his story, and how he had lost his own friend. It couldn’t help but resonate with me.

“Woof!”

Keno looked at me intently, tail wagging, as if to say “Are we going to do this, or what?” So I checked him out. He did great with Sophie, and immediately took to sitting by my side. I sighed. It all seemed so fast, but I realized I wasn’t the one making the choice anymore.

The little guy chose me.

Getting to know this little "Sir".

Getting to know this little “Sir”.

And so, a few snips later (to get him fixed. Sorry), He came to his new home. And I decided to call him Frodo.

Mr. Frodo Waggins.

Already up on that wall.  Why do all my dogs go on this wall?

Already up on that wall. Why do all my dogs go on this wall?

Still, the plight of Peaches wouldn’t leave me alone. I think there’s a good dog under that frightened exterior. I mean, if Sophie can hate me for nearly two years solid before mellowing out and liking me, there’s a chance for anyone.

So I contacted Southwest Cairn Rescue, the place where I adopted Sophie. It’s all still in process, but it’s looking hopeful that they may be able to help Peaches. I may not have been able to adopt both dogs, but at least I could try to save both of them.

Home life with Frodo has been good, but not perfect. He developed a case of canine anorexia (who knew), and didn’t eat for a few days. Whoever heard of a dog not eating? Especially for a few days in a row? And I was so wary of “sick” dogs, I was mobilizing everything to get him better again.

But last night, he ate. And we’re moving slowly, but progressively forward.

I wear bow ties now.  Bow ties are cool.

I wear bow ties now. Bow ties are cool.

So now the “Rule of Two” is back in effect. It’s taking some getting used to, and I still miss Junie terribly, every single day. I didn’t expect to get another dog so soon, but he needed someone. And frankly, I think we needed each other. He’s a happy little guy, and I needed that levity again.

And finally, I picked up Injustice: Gods Among Us this weekend. I normally won’t talk gaming too terribly much on this blog, but since it is a project from my former Midway alumni, family is still family. And frankly, it’s fun beating people senseless while playing as Aquaman.

The Star That Burns Brightest….

I didn’t plan to write any “real time” posts until I finished with all of the archival posts, but life intervened with something that I couldn’t put off.

A week ago, my dog Junie died suddenly.

My best friend.

My best friend.

Junie was the result of a wish that I had made during Christmas of 2006. The wish was simple: I wanted to get a new dog, as it had been years since my last dog (Sparkle) had passed on. I had bought a Christmas ornament, and placed it on my tree as a reminder to keep my promise in the coming year.

A month later, I found this:

Puppy love.

Puppy love.

She was the smallest of the litter with two bad knees and all her brothers and sisters adopted. No one wanted a runt that was crippled, and if someone didn’t take her, she wasn’t going to live. But when I saw her, I knew that we needed each other. Within a few weeks, she was adopted, and became a part of my family’s life. She played on the beaches in San Diego, moved to Las Vegas, where she traded the beaches for mountains and desert, and was a constant companion through Dad’s death, and accidents, and everything else. She was there for the move into the house. She was there through everything, and the little lady grew up:

This past Spring....

This past Spring….

Junie was lively and funny and wanted to be a part of everything. She had spent six years by my side as an extension of myself, an inseparable part of my life. Every movie watched, she begged for popcorn. Every time I walked into the yard, she was one step ahead, guarding her “kingdom” on the high wall in the backyard. And every night, she slept by my side. She stole my shoes and wrestled for playtime.

Nap time.

Nap time.

Junie was a gift. A rare, wonderful gift that was invested in every facet of my life. How was I supposed to know what a week ago would bring.

How was I to know there was something wrong?

How was I to know there was something wrong?

It all came so suddenly. She seemed fine all week, and the weekend before. The Sunday night before, she nibbled popcorn as usual, but seemed a little more fidgety at bedtime, like she just couldn’t get comfortable. She just couldn’t lay down, so I slept on the floor with her. I had planned to get her a checkup at the vet the next day anyway for some superficial bump, but I just had no idea what was coming.

Her last photo.

Her last photo.

Monday, April 1st, she just seemed… off. She seemed confused, and it was like she was trying to tell me something, so I reconfirmed the vet appointment. I couldn’t even wait for the appointment time as she started wandering in circles and bumping into things, drooling heavily. She seemed so lost, and was getting worse every moment. I immediately took her in.

When I normally took her to the vet, she usually gave an earful to the vet and technicians, but she was simply quiet and lethargic. The vet did some tests and told me that her liver levels were very high, she was dehydrated, and she needed to be hospitalized. I held her closely to me before they took her away. I authorized X-rays as part of the testing.

At 4, Jen and I took toys into the vet for Junie’s stay, and the X-ray showed she had something in her stomach that was concerning, but couldn’t/shouldn’t cause the symptoms she was having. All of us had to wait until the next morning to see if any of the chemicals or IVs would work. Junie barely seemed to recognize us and was delirious. We held her again, and spent a restless night waiting.

We got a call the next morning. Junie has suffered an aneurysm, and they put her in an oxygen tank. When we got there, she just laid so still, coughing weakly, her teddy bear held between her front paws. She was unresponsive to my touch, and I held her close in the tank.

The doctor said that we could authorize neurological tests, but at best, all they would offer were answers, and nothing more. Surgery wasn’t an option as she was so weak. I finally had to ask if she was dying. He wouldn’t say the words, but I could see the truth in the doctor’s eyes. I gave the authorization for one final shot of medicine, a last ditch hope to save her life, and then, I would have to make a decision. We let Sophie sniff her in the tank.

I held her again, stroking her face, telling her how much I loved her, and to please keep fighting. She was so weak and raspy. I held her face against mine and thanked her for the life she gave me. I hoped that I had made her happy.

I’ve never had a harder struggle to decide. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t deny her any chance of living she might have, but I also had to contend with her now being brain damaged. I hoped. I hoped against all odds.

Then came the final call. Junie suffered a seizure and was slipping away. The decision I so fought, I knew then that I had to do this for her. To keep her from suffering further. We raced to the vet, and as we made it through the doors….

She was already gone. My little Junie had slipped away and left our world.

I took her body home, and prepared a burial. Sophie cried by her box. Jen and I picked out flowers, and then, the life that had so touched, so saved mine, was gone.

She would have dug up each and every flower.

She would have dug up each and every flower.

We went back to the vet the next day. I had to know what took her life within exactly 24 hours. And it was simply a blood clot that caused everything else. And none of it could have been prevented or prepared for. It brought answers. It brought a sense of closure that I had done nothing wrong, but it could not repair the hole in my heart.

So I left her this:

Forever sitting by.

Forever sitting by.

Junie was a gift in my life, now and forever. She made my life so much better with her humor, loyalty, and love. She gave me an innocent, pure, and uncompromising friendship that I wonder if I can ever match and be in my own life. Such is the tragedy of an animal’s heart. To paraphrase a certain television character: She could spend the rest of her life with me, but I cannot spend the rest of my life with her. The house remains an empty reminder. There is no little body to sleep by my side. My extra limb is gone. The void is deafening.

We found each other out of need, and stayed together out of love. I will always “need” her, but that little dog, once scared, unwanted, and fragile, was given the life she deserved full of happiness, and was told “I love you” up to her very last day. In her short, six year life, she had found her own “gift”, and I was reminded of that this past week. I saved her as much as she saved me.

Where you’ve gone, I cannot follow. Wherever you go now, you will always remain in my arms and heart. And just remember that someone, one day so long ago, wanted you as their own.

Go play among the stars, little Junie. You are loved. Be a star now.

Junie: May 28, 2006 – April 2, 2013